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Pick your poison, Chiefs. Want to have LaDainian Tomlinson run the ball down your throat or let Philip Rivers fling it around with his envious accuracy? The past two teams were burnt trying to load up against the run; Rivers proved he's much more than a novice behind center. A peak at the Chiefs reveals a shaky run defense and a dynamite pass defense. So while Rivers was the star last week ---- although Tomlinson rushed for four TDs ---- look for old-school coach Marty Schottenheimer to lean on his running game. Antonio Gates usually shines when Tony Gonzalez is on the other sideline; expect a big day from him. Rivers, while riding a hot streak, has to handle the secondary with care as it's loaded with big-play players in CBs Ty Law and Patrick Surtain.
Chargers on defense (Edge to Chargers)
The run defense, which was No. 1, slipped to No. 3 this week and is in a sour mood. The key here is stopping Larry Johnson, and the Chargers will stack the line in doing just that. If Johnson can be kept under wraps ---- tougher, though, with run-stopping DE Igor Olshansky (knee) missing ---- the Chargers can set their GPS toward the pocket and QB Damon Huard. The Chiefs' line isn't what it once was along the edges, meaning Shaun Phillips (an AFC-high six sacks) and Shawne Merriman (5 1/2 sacks) will attack Huard with gusto. A good pairing here is Gonzalez going against SS Terrence Kiel. But it all revolves around Johnson ---- the last man to gash the Chargers' run defense for 100-plus yards.
Special teams (Edge to Chargers)
The coverage teams have a supreme test in the Chiefs' Dante Hall. He should be back to full speed after missing the previous game because of a hip injury. Hall hops on returns to the tune of 23.2 yards on kickoffs and 12.8 on punts (second in league); he has a touchdown on a 60-yard punt return. The coverage teams have been fine on punts ---- thanks to Mike Scifres' work ---- but the kickoff return coverage still comes with a deep breath. The Chargers' legs get the nod ---- K Nate Kaeding has nearly been perfect ----but Chiefs P Dustin Colquitt is having a solid year.
What to expect (Edge to Chargers)
Careful men, as many an NFL trap has been set on favored teams going on the road in a divisional contest. Especially with the Chiefs being red-faced about going toes up against the Steelers. The Chargers are well aware of the land mines at Arrowhead Stadium, where they have left unhappy in nine of their past 11 visits. Last year, their playoff dreams were punctured on a gray day here, which matched the Chargers' mood. Coach Marty Schottenheimer would love showing his old fans what his new team has ---- an explosive offense and a dynamite defense. But don't let the Chiefs hang around because they aren't terrible and their rabid fans demand nothing but an all-out effort.
IMO this is a statement game for the Chargers. Everybody has been sucking our dongs all week. We have a chance to put the Chiefs away despite all the crap they are talking. Our defense better come out strong and knock some people out. I'm nervous; I'm always nervous no matter who we play.