AFC West Report: Must Win For The Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs must protect home field and hold serve in the division this Sunday at Arrowhead. A loss to the San Diego Chargers will put them in a position that they likely won't be able to recover from. Denver has an intriguing road test in Cleveland and the Raiders look to get their first win when they host the Arizona Cardinals.

The game between the San Diego Chargers (4-1) and the Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium looks to be the biggest game in the division so far in 2006. For Herman Edwards and the Chiefs, their season comes to a crossroads. They will either fight for a victory that will keep them in the midst of the division race, or they will lose and fall three full games behind the division leader.

Nothing went right for the Chiefs in Pittsburgh last weekend. That is no secret. The Steelers were overdue for a win and the Chiefs happened to travel to Pittsburgh at just the wrong time. It's a loss that the Chiefs must forget quickly. Looking back at the game won't do any good, as the team must completely focus on the task at hand this weekend.

Trent Green is out, still suffering from post-concussion symptoms. He isn't expected to return until the Rams game on November 5th. That will mean plenty of carries for Larry Johnson against a San Diego defense that prides itself against the run. With little success running against the Steelers last week, the Chiefs may have to spread the field against the Chargers, but that's up to a coaching staff that has been oft-maligned thus far. Kansas City's rush offense ranks 25th while the Chargers field the third-best run defense.

On defense, the Chiefs dropped from third to 11th overall after surrendering 45 points to the Steelers. They must rebound against a Chargers team that leads the league in scoring. Make no mistake about it, the Chargers are coming in firing on all cylinders, and the Chiefs defense must rise up and hassle Philip Rivers.

San Diego must continue to do what they have been doing. Marty Schottenheimer has opened it up the last two weeks against the Steelers and 49ers and Rivers has now thrown for 1,064 yards with seven touchdowns and only two interceptions. His 100.6 quarterback rating is second behind Donovan McNabb. Kansas City's veteran secondary should provide a tough test for Rivers, but could open it up for the running game.

LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner provide a two-headed monster out of the backfield that has combined for 684 yards so far on the season. Tomlinson is coming off a four-touchdown game against the 49ers.

Kick-off is set for 12:00 CST in Kansas City with temperatures around 50 degrees with partly cloudy skies.

The Denver Broncos (4-1) will travel to Cleveland to face the Browns (1-4) in a late afternoon kickoff on Sunday afternoon. The Broncos are coming off a second consecutive 13-3 home win and have allowed only one touchdown and just 37 total points all year. Denver's defense has played well, but Denver's offense has to pick up their game.

Jake Plummer may be the perfect definition of a game manager. He is not winning games in last minute drives and he hasn't been forced to carry the weight of the team on his shoulders. At the same time, he is not losing games, either. Eventually, Plummer will have to find his a game. He has just 775 passing yards and a 63.1 quarterback rating. That meager production will hurt the Broncos if it continues. The Broncos will face a comparable defensive team with offensive capabilities sometime down the road, and that will be their downfall.

Tatum Bell should get the bulk of the load on Sunday against a Browns defense that ranks 27th against the run. Bell has clearly made the statement that he is the Broncos number one option at running back this year, with 470 yards rushing at 4.7 yards per carry. Mike Bell, who was the starter in preseason, has gotten fewer carries as of late.

The Broncos defense will likely dominate again this week against a Browns offense that ranks 31st in the NFL in total offense. Quarterback Charlie Frye has thrown nine interceptions against just five touchdowns this year. Champ Bailey has consecutive games with an interception for the Broncos. The Browns have a minus nine-turnover ratio.

This is a game that Denver should win and virtually has to win. The way that their offense is playing, they have to put wins in the bank right now because their offense can't be counted on when they play teams like the Colts and Chargers. A win will get the Broncos to 5-1, and that is as about as good of a start as Mike Shanahan could have hoped for.

Temperatures in Cleveland should be around 55 degrees with mostly cloudy skies when the two teams kick it off at 4:05 EST.

The Oakland Raiders (0-5) let the trade deadline pass without moving Jerry Porter or Randy Moss. They look to turn around their season against the hapless Arizona Cardinals (1-4). The Raiders trail every team in the NFL in just about every major offensive category. They are last in total offense and are -9 in takeaway/giveaway ratio. This year is the first time since 1964 that the Raiders gone winless in their first five games. They have now lost 11 games in a row dating back to 2005.

Andrew Walter has a 43.4 quarterback rating with two touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season in the absence of Aaron Brooks. This will be Walter's third straight start and the Raiders are averaging just ten points a game. Three times so far this year they have scored six points or less.

On a positive note, Oakland's defense is improving steadily. They rank eighth overall, snuggled between Jacksonville and Pittsburgh. They face Matt Leinart, coming off a fabulous game on Monday night against the Bears. The Raiders chose to pass on Leinart in last year's draft. That produces an interesting subplot between Leinart and Walter and who will be the better quarterback on Sunday afternoon and in the future.

Temperatures at McAfee Stadium should be around 70 degrees with partly sunny skies when kick-off takes place at 1:15 PST.

Update: The Quest for 7,000

AFC West running backs have combined for 1,825 yards through five games. That puts them on pace for 5,840 yards by season's end.

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