By Dave Thomas
While the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs take Sunday off to lick their wounds from San Diego's 31-13 victory this past Thursday evening in Southern California, a pair of AFC West rivals will see gridiron action.
Broncos Ride Momentum
In Cincinnati, the surging Denver Broncos look to hold onto a one-game lead over the Chargers and Oakland Raiders (going into this week), while the aforementioned Raiders look to pull even with at least the Chargers, as they host Tampa Bay.
In the early game, the Broncos face a Cincinnati squad that has fallen on hard times as of late, having dropped three straight. With the always tough Baltimore Ravens, along with a surging Pittsburgh squad, the Bengals have little room for error at the halfway point of the season.
Denver (4-3), which manhandled New Orleans at home last Sunday evening, goes into the contest knowing that QB Peyton Manning has never lost to the Bengals in his time with Indianapolis.
After a bit of a struggle out of the gates with his new team, Manning has been on fire in recent weeks, accounting for an NFL-best 127.9 QB passer rating, including 12 TD's and just one interception in his last four games. The Broncos are one of just three teams (New England, Houston) in the AFC that have scored more than 200 points (204) this season.
Manning's most memorable game to date in a Denver uniform was his Oct. 15 contest in San Diego, where he directed the Broncos to a 35-24 win over the Chargers, with Denver having trailed 24-0 at one point.
While the game is in Cincinnati (3-4), the Broncos enter the contest as a 3.5 point favorite, and should emerge victorious.
Raiders Go In Search Of Third Straight Victory
Meantime, the Raiders get ready for Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Bucs in Northern California in one of the late (EST) afternoon games.
Oakland, which defeated rival Kansas City 26-16 on the road last Sunday, pulled even with San Diego in the standings after the Chargers fell at Cleveland. With an Oakland win Sunday and a Denver loss, there could be a three-way logjam in the division at 4-4.
First things first, Oakland (3-4) must step it up against a team that is a tad better than the Raiders' last two opponents (Jaguars, Chiefs). While the Buccaneers also sit at 3-4, they can present different problems for Carson Palmer and Co.
Tampa Bay, which has never beaten the Raiders in Northern California, offers one of the best run defenses in the NFL, holding the opposition to 85.1 yards per game.
Given that statistic, Oakland running back Darren McFadden, who rushed for a season-high 114 yards last week in the win at Arrowhead Stadium, will need to equal that number or do better to give the Raiders a shot to win.
While the Chargers sit home and await their visit to Tampa Bay next Sunday, it is safe to say that they will be temporary Bengal and Buccaneer fans for approximately six hours.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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