AFC West Report: Denver Delivers a Blow

With the overtime win in Dallas the Denver Broncos strengthen their grip on first place and now the rest of the divisions must win just to keep pace. The Broncos win 27-24 in Dallas where the Cowboys never got the ball, and now the home stretch looks like a turkey shoot with just five games remaining and a 2.5 game lead over the Chiefs and Chargers.

John Lynch looked like he knew what was going to happen when he walked off the field after the overtime coin toss with a smirk on his face. A vote of confidence for the Denver Broncos (9-2) offense after winning the flip and just three plays later the game was over.

Ron Dayne comes through in the clutch for the Broncos to cap off one of the more memorable Thanksgiving football moments the NFL has seen in sometime. Dyane's 55-yard run on the overtime's first possession set up Jason Elam's 24-yard field goal field goal just 1:21 into the "sudden death" period.

It didn't come easy for the Broncos as the Cowboys looked to be going for a late lead but Billy Cundiff missed a 34-yard field goal half way through the fourth quarter. The Broncos faced a long field for most of the afternoon while losing the time of possession battle. Jake Plummer and Mike Anderson both had turnovers but in the end they found the way to win.

Dayne touched the ball just seven time for 98 yards and his first touchdown as a Bronco on a 16-yard run 6:20 left in the third quarter. Dayne got the call when Tatum Bell was made inactive for the game with a bruised sternum. Mike Anderson went just 11 for 31. Dayne and Anderson both had two catches.

Jake Plummer passed for 162 yards and a touchdown. The connection was a 20-yard pass to Rod Smith late in the first half. The all around good effort by the defense including Champ Bailey's 65-yard interception for a touchdown, was all the Broncos needed for the win in Texas Stadium. Denver can start picking off the competition for the AFC West title next Sunday when they go to Kansas City.

For the Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) their uphill battle isn't going to be easy. This week the New England Patriots (6-4) who like the Broncos are eager to put away their division. The two teams have traditionally played close games with each other. It will be up to Larry Johnson to try to penetrate arguably the NFL's best front seven.

Trent Green has to know that the Patriots have been susceptible to the pass and he'll need to play an outstanding game through the air for the Chiefs to beat the defending Super Bowl Champions. The Patriots have battled through injuries and several weeks of the media dooming their title reign. In essence this will be the Patriots opportunity to take a commanding lead in their division and a statement game to the rest of the AFC.

For the Chiefs they can't afford a loss. Not winning at home on Sunday will mean a three game deficit and the chance to eliminate any thoughts of the division title next week when they play the Broncos.

Tom Brady and the Patriots offense will test the Chiefs defense. Brady leads the National Football League in passing with 2782 yards while carrying the Patriots burdens upon his shoulders. Running Back Heath Evans, a converted full back, has stepped in with overpowering runs after Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk were sidelined with injuries.

The Chiefs will also have to overcome an emotional and motivated Patriots team. Bill Belichick did not tell his team of the death of his father Steve Belichick late Saturday before the Patriots 24-17 win over the New Orleans Saints last Sunday. It was after the game the team found out. On Wednesday the Patriots practiced without their coach who went to Annapolis, MD for the funeral where his dad was once a Navy football assistant for 33 years. The Patriots would love nothing better than to win this game for their coach and his family.

Game time at Arrowhead Stadium is at noon.

For the San Diego Chargers (6-4) the scenario is the same. They have to win. Just a dozen points from being undefeated, a loss to Washington (5-5) would distance any hopes of a division crown. This game is Marty Schottenheimer's chance to show up former boss Daniel Snyder. Snyder fired Schottenheimer in favor of Steve Spurrier after "Marty ball" won the Redskins last five games that season.

The big question for the Chargers is the game time availability of Antonio Gates. Gates injured his foot in last Sunday's annihilation of the Buffalo Bills. Gates will be an important target for Drew Brees against a Redskins defense that ranks 12th in the league.

Fed Ex Field is a loud stadium to play in and the Redskins are right in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt.

The Chargers know the Redskins running back well. Clinton Portis was traded to the Redskins for Champ Bailey. The San Diego defense will have to continue to step up and win this game for the Chargers. The Raiders won last week by shutting down Mark Brunell by holding him to 151 yards and forcing Portis to fumble twice. The recipe should be much the same by San Diego.

This will be a good case for LaDainian Tomlinson to make a case for himself as the leagues Most Valuable Player at an east coast venue. Tomlinson should be well rested after taking much of the second half off in last weeks win. On offense if LaDainian Tomlinson will win the game for the Chargers if he's given the ball enough. The four Charger losses can be attributed to not getting the ball in his hands.

Nate Kaeding is 14 of 15 on the year kicking field goals. Kick-off at Fed Ex Field will be at 1:00 EST.

The Oakland Raiders (4-6) may have dug a hole that they won't be able to get out of even if they run the table. Regardless they have to keep their hopes alive by winning this Sunday when they host the Miami Dolphins (3-7).

The Dolphins come in to their second consecutive road game and suffered a 22-0 loss last week at Cleveland. The Dolphins defense is looking very average of late and Kerry Collins, Joey Porter and a healthier Randy Moss will look to take advantage. The Dolphins offense isn't fairing much better with hardly a contribution at quarterback.

The Raiders need a win or their season may be over for good as they still trail the wild card leaders by three games. Warren Sapp will be out for the game on what has been an improved Raiders defense. Kick-of fin Oakland is set for 1:05 PST. San Diego and Kansas City trail the wild card leading Steelers and Jaguars by one game.

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