Chargers not playing that old trap game
The old trap game.
Forget it, the San Diego Chargers say.
They won’t be paying more attention to next Thursday night’s matchup with the Broncos than they will be to Sunday’s game against Kansas City.
Should the Chargers (5-1) get by the Chiefs (2-3), they’ll bring the AFC West lead into Denver, not to mention the conference’s best record.
“It’s going to be a tough, tough division game,” cornerback Brandon Flowers said of Kansas City. “Every team can be dangerous in this league, as you saw last week.”
He referred to San Diego’s 31-28 squeaker over winless Oakland.
“A record doesn’t matter,” Flowers added. “I played on a Kansas City team and we were 4-12, but we felt like we had athletes and the skill level to play anybody. That was one of the years we beat Green Bay when they were undefeated.”
Kansas City comes off a bye, which makes it even more of a threat: coach Andy Reid is 13-2 in the game following a week off.
“I’ve been asked that question a little bit. I don’t know the reason why we’ve had success,” said Reid, who got those victories with the Eagles. “I was involved with some pretty good football teams and that’s how it works. The schedule, all those things go into that. We’re not focused on that, either.”
Also Sunday, it’s San Francisco at Denver, Carolina at Green Bay, Cincinnati at Indianapolis, the New York Giants at Dallas, Arizona at Oakland, Seattle at St. Louis, Atlanta at Baltimore, Miami at Chicago, New Orleans at Detroit, Cleveland at Jacksonville, Tennessee at Washington, and Minnesota at Buffalo.
The action began Thursday night when New England (5-2) beat the New York Jets 27-25. Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns in a sixth straight loss for New York after an opening win.
On Monday night, it’s Houston at Pittsburgh.
Off this week are Philadelphia (5-1) and Tampa Bay (1-5).
San Francisco (4-2) at Denver (4-1)
The 49ers and Broncos meet for the first time since a London game nearly four years ago, when neither team was the powerhouse it has become. Now it is a potential Super Bowl preview.
Peyton Manning needs three TD passes to break Brett Favre’s mark (508). He’s averaging three a game this season.
“It’s not something we talk about as an offense,” said tight end Julius Thomas, who already has nine TD catches. “Peyton doesn’t talk about it. We just keep playing football.”
The Niners started 1-2, but have begun to play some impressive football, too. They understand the chore ahead in trying to stop Manning.
“Whenever he takes the field, he’s just great all the time and that speaks volumes for the player that he is and continues to be,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Just keeps doing it and doing it and doing it. Great. Great with a capital ‘G’ at the highest level.”
Carolina (3-2-1) at Green Bay (4-2)
Coming off the first tie in team history, the Panthers are showing a better passing offense than anticipated. Cam Newton looks healthy and strong and has found a comfort zone with tight end Greg Olson and rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin, who leads rookies with 416 yards receiving.
The defense hasn’t been as stout as expected, though, and that never bodes well when facing Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field. Rodgers’ 111.2 passer rating in October tops quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts since 2008, when Rodgers became a starter.
Cincinnati (3-1-1) at Indianapolis (4-2)
The Bengals are reeling and the Colts are rolling.
Cincinnati comes off a blowout loss at New England and then a tie — yes, one of those — against Carolina. The Bengals stuck by kicker Mike Nugent, who has been streaky this year and missed a 36-yarder at the end of overtime last week.
Andrew Luck leads the league with 1,987 yards passing and 17 touchdowns. T.Y. Hilton comes off a career game with 223 yards on nine catches.
New York Giants (3-3) at Dallas (5-1)
Eli Manning won his first four starts at AT&T Stadium, including the first regular-season game in the building in 2009, before losing in 2013. But the Giants come in without their two top offensive options sidelined with knee injuries: WR Victor Cruz, out for the season, and RB Rashad Jennings.
New York must find a way to shut down DeMarco Murray, who could break Jim Brown’s mark of six 100-yard rushing games to start a season. Murray leads the NFL with 785 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
“There’s no emergence, he’s been a heck of a football player for all of the years that I’ve been around watching him,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
Arizona (4-1) at Oakland (0-5)
Carson Palmer came to the Cardinals from the Raiders and has performed well for Arizona. He has not been picked off all season; actually, no Arizona QB has been.
The Cardinals also have a find at placekicker: rookie Chandler Catanzaro has made all 14 field goals.
At least the Raiders, who have lost 11 straight and seek to avoid starting 0-6 for the first time since losing their first 13 in 1962, might have found a quarterback. Derek Carr became the sixth rookie since 2000 with four TD passes in a game last week against San Diego.
Seattle (3-2) at St. Louis (1-4)
The Seahawks are feeling mighty ornery following a home loss to the Cowboys and just might take it out on the Rams. They do that quite a bit, having won 16 of 18 in the series, and with the Rams showing no pass rush (one sack), Russell Wilson could have a big bounce-back game.
Injury-ravaged St. Louis is 0-3 at home and inexperienced quarterback Austin Davis has a real challenge against Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary. Davis has thrown four interceptions and saw three returned for TDs.
Atlanta (2-4) at Baltimore (4-2)
The Falcons are a mess on defense, ranked 31st, and Baltimore’s offense has come alive. Atlanta’s vaunted wideouts, Julio Jones and Roddy White, are struggling, while the Ravens’ Steve Smith Sr. and Torrey Smith have been sensational of late.
For the Falcons to break their three-game slide, they probably need Jones and White to have an impact against an opponent that has yielded only nine TDs all season.
Miami (2-3) at Chicago (3-3)
With starting RB Knowshon Moreno out for the season, Miami needs Lamar Miller to step up as a regular. He’s already averaging 5.2 yards a carry, but now has the weight of the running game on his shoulders.
Chicago has looked much better away from Soldier Field; it was upended by the Bills and Packers in its only two home games. If Jay Cutler is careful with the ball, the Bears have a shot; they are 3-0 in games he was not picked off, and he has thrown two interceptions in each of their three losses.
Matt Forte tops the NFL with 46 receptions and is third in total yards from scrimmage (399 rushing, 376 receiving).
New Orleans (2-3) at Detroit (4-2)
Drew Brees is 4-0 against Detroit, including a home playoff victory. He has a 133.8 passer rating in those games, with 14 TDs and one pick.
He’ll be challenged big time by the Lions, who rank first overall in defense and in pass defense and have 20 sacks.
The Saints also have only two takeaways this season, fewest in the NFL, while Detroit has nine, including seven interceptions.
Lions RB Reggie Bush plays his first game against the team he helped win a Super Bowl.
Houston (3-3) at Pittsburgh (3-3), Monday night
Houston entered Week 7 tied with the Patriots for the NFL lead with 14 takeaways and the Steelers had just six. But Pittsburgh is 8-0 at Heinz Field in Monday night games.
Steelers WR Antonio Brown has caught at least five passes for 50 yards in 22 straight games, an NFL record, and top the league with eight receptions of 25 yards or more. Pittsburgh needs the long ball because it is 31st in red zone touchdown percentage.
Cleveland (3-2) at Jacksonville (0-6)
Browns QB Brian Hoyer looks like a contender for Comeback Player of the Year. Showing no signs of the knee problems that cut short his 2013 season, he’s also had a solid running game to rely on. After scoring four TDs rushing in 2013, the Browns lead the NFL with eight. It’s a three-pronged rushing attack of veteran Ben Tate and rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell.
Jacksonville is the fourth team in NFL history to lose its first six games in consecutive seasons.
Tennessee (2-4) at Washington (1-5)
Opponents control the ball well against Tennessee, which has yielded 151 first downs, the most in the league. If the Titans can get their offense on track — they hope to have starting QB Jake Locker back from a thumb injury — they might be able to change time-of-possession woes.
The Redskins’ skid is at four. Kirk Cousins’ eight INTs lead the league and Washington is minus-9 in turnover differential, as bad as anyone.
Minnesota (2-4) at Buffalo (3-3)
Minnesota’s passing game has shut down and ranks 30th, without a TD pass for 19 quarters. Top pick Teddy Bridgewater strives to change that in his first road start.
Buffalo’s run game has stagnated, quite a surprise with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller on hand. But the switch to QB Kyle Orton has boosted the air attack, and Orton has thrown for 607 yards in two starts.
The Vikings have trouble in pass protection and Buffalo already has 19 sacks.
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