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Friday, November 5, 2010
Key AFC West players listed are doubtful

By Bill Williamson

Three of the better players in the AFC West are doubtful to play in Week 9. All of their absences would be felt greatly by their teams.

Oakland is preparing for its biggest game since 2002 with star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and standout tight end Zach Miller being listed as doubtful to play against first-place Kansas City. Also, San Diego star tight end Antonio Gates is doubtful to play at Houston.

Asomugha and Miller would be big losses for Oakland against the Chiefs. Neither player practiced all week. Asomugha has an ankle injury and Miller has a foot problem.

Asomugha is widely considered one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson, who is coming off a concussion, will get more playing time if Asomugha doesn’t play.

Kansas City has the No. 1 running attack in the NFL and relies on the run. However, if Asomugha doesn’t play, expect Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel to challenge Oakland’s cornerbacks more than he would if Asomugha were healthy. Miller is a favorite target in Oakland and a top third-down weapon.

San Diego’s passing game will be a mess if Gates can’t play. He has plantar fasciitis on one foot and an injured toe on the other, and didn’t practice all week. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers will be without his top four receivers, and if Gates – Rivers’ favorite target – doesn’t play, Rivers will be in a lurch. Backup tight ends Randy McMichael and Kris Wilson and receiver Patrick Crayton will the have to carry the receiving load along with running back Darren Sproles.

Rivers has thrown for 2,649 yards this season, which is more than any quarterback in NFL history after eight games. He might be challenged like he has never been before this week. Oakland and San Diego have a bye in Week 10, so these three players will get a chance to heal next week.

Meanwhile, Kansas City guard Ryan Lilja (hand) and receiver/returner/rusher Dexter McCluster (ankle) are both questionable to face Oakland.