AFC West Report: Draw Your Weapons

The division is ready to kick-off another season. As it always is, the AFC West should be guns-a-blazing, and why not? This has been one of the more entertaining divisions over the years.

Head coach Mike Shanahan will hope the "Bells" are ringing this Sunday in St. Louis when the Denver Broncos head to the Edward Jones Dome for a 12:00 CST kick-off against the Rams. Shanahan has yet to name a starter between rookie free agent Mike Bell and veteran Tatum Bell, but both should receive steady playing time.

For the Broncos, it will just be good to get back onto the field considering their last game was in the AFC Championship game at home against the Steelers. Denver will hope that this away opener doesn't compare to the drubbing they took against Miami a year ago.

The bar is set pretty high for the Broncos this year. The only way to improve on last season is to reach the Super Bowl and win it.

If Jake Plummer falters in any way after a career performance last year, then the doubters will speak out. It won't be long until Jay Cutler's name will get tossed into the mix if the media and the fans have anything to say about it, which they undoubtedly will.

The Rams will look to feature Stephen Jackson in their offense under new head coach Scott Linehan. Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce are still with the Rams as is quarterback Marc Bulger, but it will be Jackson that will be the featured player.

Courtney Brown is listed as questionable on the injury report. Besides that, the Broncos are healthy. That includes Javon Walker, coming off a knee injury. The Rams have no injuries to report.

The Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the quieter teams in the NFL preseason and now we'll see what Herman Edwards has really been up to when the Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium at 12:00 CST on Sunday.

Just nine months ago the Chiefs destroyed the Bengals, 37-3. Larry Johnson rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns on the afternoon. Although it was a nice way to end the season, Carson Palmer did sit a good portion of the game because the Bengals were already on their way to the playoffs.

For Trent Green, the window may be beginning to close just a little bit, as he is becoming one of the elder statesmen in the NFL. Green will have success as far as his wide receivers and Tony Gonzalez can take him. If Green can get a little bit more out of them this year, then that could potentially net the Chiefs a couple more wins and that would improve on their 10-6 record form last year, meaning a playoff berth.

Game planning against the Bengals offense won't be easy for what should be an improved Kansas City defense. The Bengals field a dangerous trio of receivers, and Palmer's huge arm should have the Chiefs' defense scattered all over Arrowhead on Sunday. It may be Larry Johnson all day long for Edwards, who may attempt to manipulate the clock in his favor and keep the Bengals off the field.

The forecast for Sunday has temperatures in the high 70's with sunshine and a slight chance of showers. It would be absolutely shocking if game ending up being low-scoring. For Cincinnati, Antonio Chatman is out with a groin injury while T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deltha O'neal and David Pollack are all questionable. Kansas City has only tackle Kevin Sampson listed as probable.

The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders will finalize the week one card on Monday night with a late kick-off on the east coast and 7:15 PST. This will be the first action for LaDainian Tomlinson, who sat out the entire preseason for the Chargers. Marty Scottenheimer wouldn't have it any other way. He'd rather have his superstar running back well rested for the season opener.

The Chargers come into the game as a slight favorite and it will be the official debut for Philip Rivers as the new starter. His first test will come against a beleaguered Raiders defense that has question marks for this season and was pushed around for a good portion of last season. The Chargers swept the series last year and have taken five in a row, not losing to the Raiders since December 28, 2003.

For Tomlinson, a game against the Raiders is salivating. In ten games against Oakland, Tomlinson has 1,215 yards and 11 total touchdowns.

The Chargers defense will look to feast on what usually proves to be a treacherous combo in a season opener: a new head coach, a new quarterback and a new offensive system. This should be a good test for a revamped Chargers secondary that was less than spectacular last year. Shawne Merriman will look to lock onto LaMont Jordan and pressure Aaron Brooks. If the Charger defense has success it shouldn't take much for the offense to take control of the game.

For new head coach Art Shell the game plan will be simple. Look for LaMont Jordan to pound away at San Diego's defense. If Jordan can find some running lanes Brooks should have opportunities to hit Randy Moss deep.

The Chargers are a field goal favorite and temperatures are expected to be around 60 degrees with clear conditions on Monday night. For San Diego, tight end Aaron Shea is doubtful with a back injury while Leander Jordan and Ryan Krause are both questionable. For Oakland, Jake Grove and John Madsen are both doubtful and Lance Johnstone is questionable for the game.

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