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Friday, November 20, 2009
Final Word: AFC West

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 11:

Shawne Merriman
You can bet Shawne Merriman will have the Chargers fired up for the rematch with Denver.
Will the Broncos be frisky this time around? The last time the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers met (Oct. 19 in San Diego), the Broncos insulted the Chargers by holding a team huddle near the Chargers’ pregame warm-ups. The Chargers took offense and there was a pushing-and-shoving match. The Broncos proceeded to beat the Chargers, 34-23. After the game, many San Diego players expressed displeasure with the Broncos’ antics. San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman said he’d see the Broncos again and make them aware of their disrespectful actions. On Sunday, the two teams meet with the division lead on the line. Will Denver try similar pregame antics after losing three straight games?

Are the Broncos going to copy the 2003 Vikings? I covered the 2003 Minnesota Vikings. They are known for being the only team to start 6-0 and not make the playoffs. Minnesota finished 9-7. After starting 6-0, they lost four straight. The Broncos are in danger of suffering the same fate. The Broncos are 6-3 after losing three straight games and a 3.5-game lead over the Chargers in the past four weeks. These type of nosedives just don’t happen often. Denver is the 12th team since 2001 to start 6-0. Nine of the other 11 teams finished 13-3 or better, one finished 12-4 and then there were the Vikings. If Denver loses to San Diego, it could be on its way to feeling Minnesota’s pain.

Charles and Chambers need to pick up the pace: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles and wide receiver Chris Chambers need to pick up the slack for the loss of Dwayne Bowe. The team’s top receiver will start serving a four-game NFL suspension this week for using performance-enhancing substances. The Chiefs’ offense was starting to look decent with Charles coming off a 100-yard rushing game and Chambers playing well. Charles is taking over for the released Larry Johnson at tailback and Chambers and Bowe showed signs of being a nice receiving tandem. For the next month, starting Sunday at home against Pittsburgh, Charles and Chambers are going to have to help quarterback Matt Cassel.

How would Ochocinco fit in with the Raiders? For much of last year, Cincinnati receiver Chad Ochocinco wanted to be traded. There was speculation that Oakland would pursue Ochocinco. He fit the team's profile. He was talented, high profile, controversial and an impact player. But the Bengals stuck with Ochocinco and eventually everything worked out. The Bengals are 7-2 and Ochocinco is productive and happy. The Raiders still need an impact receiver. Yet, Oakland will have to deal with Ochocinco on Sunday as a Bengal. I’m sure Oakland wishes it would have found a way to make Ochocinco a Raider.

The Chargers are using a cornerback rotation: For the past two games, San Diego has been using cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie, Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason in a rotation. The team has moved safety Steve Gregory into the nickel spot because they like his physical play. This move gets Cason, a talented playmaker, on the field. Denver uses several receivers, so this system could help San Diego on Sunday.