AFC West Report: Denver Travels To Foxboro

The New England Patriots will have revenge on their minds after losing to the Denver Broncos in the divisional playoff round last January. The rest of the division will be taking the weekend off, which will be especially good for Kansas City and Oakland.

The Denver Broncos will take their 9-6 win last week over the Chiefs, but they will have to play a lot better in New England if they want to win for the second week in a row. Jake Plummer is taking much of the heat for their recent play, as he most always certainly will, living in the shadow of John Elway. Plummer leads only Andrew Walter and former Raiders outcast Kerry Collins in quarterback rating. His 38.6 rating is comprised of 140 yards passing a game with no touchdowns and four interceptions.

Mike Shanahan is sticking by Plummer's side during the quarterback's struggles. Without Shanahan, Plummer might not have any supporters at all. Shanahan claims the entire team is accountable for their recent play that didn't go over too well with the crowd at the home opener last week.

Sunday should belong to Tatum and Mike Bell once again as Shanahan seems to be getting his tandem a steady amount of carries. The Broncos rank fourth in the NFL in rushing. Denver will need to keep that up against a Patriots team who likes to run the ball and control the clock themselves.

Denver's 15th-ranked defense should get a test in the form of a rejuvenated Corey Dillon and rookie running back Laurence Maroney. The pair has combined for 304 yards on the season. Denver will need to stop both of them if they want to have any shot at winning, a tough task since they will still have to worry about Tom Brady and a passing game that is eager to prove the critics wrong. There would be no better place to do so than on national television in front of the entire league. Brady is 1-4 in his career against Denver.

For the Broncos, running back Cedric Cobbs is out and defensive end Courtney Brown is doubtful with a knee injury. New England lists strong safety Artrell Hawkins, wide receiver Chad Jackson, and offensive tackle Nick Kazcur as questionable. Temperatures at kickoff will hover around 60 degrees with mostly cloudy skies.

The rest of the division has a bye, but the San Diego Chargers probably wish they were on the playing field this weekend. The Chargers made easy work of the Raiders in week one and the Titans in week two. The Chargers practiced twice this week and look to fine tune themselves for the stretch run. The Chargers are in Baltimore for week four in what could be a matchup of the two best defenses in football.

The Kansas City Chiefs will accept their bye week gladly for the sake of Trent Green's health. There is still no definitive word on the veteran's return, which many had hoped would be two weeks from this Sunday. Until then it will be Larry Johnson and the NFL's ninth-ranked defense that will carry the team. The Chiefs will host San Francisco a week from Sunday.

The Oakland Raiders will use their bye week to figure out if Andrew Walter will take over as the starting quarterback. Aaron Brooks has not won over the Oakland fans and now that Walter officially has seen action for a good portion of a football game, the Raiders may choose to start him. Art Shell may also look to make some moves on the offensive line, giving rookie Kevin Boothe a chance. The Raiders are last in the NFL in offense and have yet to score a touchdown this season. The Raiders will host Cleveland in week four.

Update: The Quest for 7,000

The Quest for 7,000 isn't quite a failure just yet, but I will say I am not very optimistic. Larry Johnson, LaMont Jordan, LaDainian Tomlinson and the Bell boys in Denver have combined for 625 yards after two weeks. That puts them on pace for 5,000 yards on the dot. That's well short of the 7,000 yards I thought was possible at the beginning of the preseason, and 1,000 yards short of the 6,000 yards I thought was a very reasonable number.

If I throw in Michael Turner's 175 yards, then we are in business. My downfall has been the Chargers playing so well against bad teams. They have had the luxury of sitting Tomlinson on the bench. Turner has thrived in Tomlinson's second-half absences. My wild card, LaMont Jordan, has been miserable with 55 yards on the ground at 1.9 yards-per-carry. A good portion of his lack of success can be blamed on the offense as a whole.

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