Without a doubt every team in the division is looking to "just" take care of their business later today. There is also little doubt that the top teams in the AFC West will be doing some scoreboard watching from out the corner of their eye. Crazier things have happened in the National Football this time of the year so as important as it is for the Chiefs to win in Dallas, it's equally important that the Broncos and Chargers don't have a letdown Sunday afternoon.
Surely Head Coach Dick Vermeil isn't the biggest fan of having to stand across the opposing sideline from Bill Parcells, whose Dallas Cowboys (7-5) have lost two games in a row and are fighting for their playoff lives. The Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) need this one just as bad. The Chiefs trail the Broncos by a game in the division and are right in the midst of the wild card chase.
The Chiefs game plan should be just the same as it has been the last three games in which they have not lost. Get the ball to Larry Johnson and let him use that 5.0 average per run to set up Trent Green and the pass offense that has come to life. Johnson has rushed for 1108 yards after running torrent through opposing defenses with 11 touchdowns on the season. In the last five-game he has rushed for over 100 yards tying a Chiefs record. Breaking that record could mean a win on Sunday.
Trent Green is playing the best football he has all season and seems to be coming at the right team for the surging Chiefs. Green has a quarterback rating of 111.9 during the last three wins. Also in that stretch he has six touchdowns and 796 yards passing.
The defense is coming around as well. Although the pass defense still ranks 30th in the NFL, the run defense ranks fifth and that might easily be enough to stop the Cowboys already abysmal rush offense. Julius Jones and Marion Barber III have not been able to accumulate anything on the ground lately for Dallas. Expect the Chiefs defense to blitz Drew Bledsoe all day. The immobile Bledsoe can be shut down if the pressure can get to him from the Chiefs front seven.
Two players from each defense are listed as questionable. Carlos Hall and Jerome Woods from the Chiefs and Aaron Glenn and Anthony Henry for the Cowboys all are nursing injuries. The two teams haven't met since 1998 where the Chiefs won at home 20-17. Kick-off is set for 3:15 CST in Texas Stadium.
The last thing the Denver Broncos (9-3) want to do is lose the Baltimore Ravens (4-8) who they traditionally have had their problems with. The problems for Denver usually lied on the road in Baltimore, this time the game will be at home. Denver comes off just their third loss of the season and the Chargers and Chiefs are trailing in their rear view mirrors.
The Ravens who have been battered with injuries have been played hard despite their problems. Last week they beat the Texans 16-15 at home. Kyle Boller is fighting to get another chance to play in Baltimore next year; albeit under a new head coach.
Look for Mike Shanahan to run the ball a lot and get Jake Plummer back into the situation of just having to manage the game. The Ravens have the 7th best defense in the league but are only 13th against the run. A variety of Denver running backs who rank 2nd best overall in rushing should get a lot of carries against Baltimore. Ray Lewis is out for the season so the Broncos won't have to worry about him.
On defense the Broncos should get plenty of action up front. Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor will test the Broncos stern defensive front. Lewis is one of the leagues biggest disappointments this year with just 322 yards on the ground. He'll have to do better than that if the Ravens want to win their first road game with six previous tries. Still he's capable of dominating a game and the Broncos hope that doesn't happen on Sunday.
Kicker Jason Elam has a good shot at getting eight points on Sunday. That would make him the first player in the history of the NFL to have thirteen seasons of scoring 100 or more points. Kick-off at Invesco Field is set for 2:05 MST.
The San Diego Chargers (8-4) will have to deal with a feisty Miami Dolphins (5-7) team that still has a slight chance of winning their division. Last week the Dolphins overcame a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter against the Bills to win the game in the final seconds 24-23.
San Diego can't look past Miami with the huge game against the Colts next weekend in Indianapolis. The Chargers are coming off a solid performance last week winning over Oakland. The Chargers have the 6th best offense and the 12th ranked defense. Miami comes in 15th on offense and 22nd on defense.
LaDainian Tomlinson bruised his chest last week and is listed as questionable after sitting out practice up until Friday. Tomlinson thinks he could have practiced this week but sat out for precautionary reasons. Shawne Merriman also sat out after having pins removed from his broken wrist. He will play but offensive lineman Roman Oben will have to sit with his foot injury.
The Dolphins haven't won three straight games since late in 2003. The last time these two teams met was a home game for San Diego in 2003 but played in Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona because of wild fires. The Dolphins won the game 26-10.
The San Diego defense will have to worry about three players. First they must shut down Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown on the ground, but then they need to shut down Chris Chambers who quietly has become one of the best receivers in the NFL. Kick-off in San Diego is at 1:15 PST at Qualcomm Stadium.
The Oakland Raiders (4-8) will start Marques Tuiasosopo against the New York Jets (2-10) on Sunday. Norv Turner benched Kerry Collins looking to spark his squad and make a run at a .500 record. Collins is third in the NFL in passing with over 3000 yards but that apparently is not good enough for Turner. Collins is ahead of Payton Manning and trails Tom Brady and Carson Palmer with 3118 yards through the air.
It will also be a homecoming for LaMont Jordan who left the Jets via free agency last season. Jordan has 1337 combined rushing and receiving yards and 156 yards on the ground will get him over 1000 yards for the season, by far a career best. Randy Moss can't seem to find the football anywhere on his side of the field. This is a good opportunity for Turner to pull the reigns off of Tuiasosopo and try to hit Moss deep.
This match-up has a lost a lot of it's luster from their meaningful games earlier in this century. Kick-off is set for 1:00 EST in the Meadowlands.
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