The San Diego Chargers didn't expect to be leading the AFC West at this point in the season. And the Denver Broncos probably didn't expect to be trailing the Chargers in the standings.
But that's where the Broncos are, a game behind the NFL's most positive surprise, as they head to San Diego for Sunday's AFC West showdown.
The Chargers are favored by three points -- the measure of home-field advantage by oddsmakers -- over a team that beat them 23-13 in Week 3. Since then, San Diego has won seven of eight, including its current five-game winning streak.
Despite that, Denver effectively could take the division lead with a win, which would give them a two-game sweep and the tiebreaker over the Chargers.
The Chargers (8-3) were in a similar position in 2002.
"I know what happened two years ago," quarterback Drew Brees says. "We were sitting here at 8-4 thinking, 'Well, if we just win half of our next four games, we're in the playoffs,' and we lose four straight. I don't think that was the attitude to have."
Brees was held in such low esteem after last season that the Chargers got Philip Rivers to be their quarterback of the future. But their quarterback of the past has been playing so well that Rivers has been sitting. Brees, who will be a free agent after the season, has assured himself of a huge paycheck next season.
The Broncos have been erratic, losing last week at home in the snow to Oakland. The Chargers have been consistent, especially on offense, where they are second in the NFL with 29 points per game. Brees is third in passer rating behind Peyton Manning and Daunte Culpepper.
Green Bay (plus 6) at Philadelphia
The Eagles are saying the right things about keeping the momentum going.
They'll do the right thing, too.
Atlanta (plus 1) at Tampa Bay
The Falcons can become the second team to clinch a division. Kicker Jay Taylor, who replaces Martin Gramatica, keeps them waiting one more week.
Dallas (plus 7) at Seattle (Monday night)
Mike Holmgren is comparing his Seahawks to the 1988 49ers, who went from 6-5 to a Super Bowl victory.
Pittsburgh (minus 3) at Jacksonville
The Steelers are due to lose.
New England (minus 8) at Cleveland
Bill Belichick was concerned this week that the Browns scored 48 points. He neglected to say they allowed 58. Maybe that's why offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie is interim coach instead of Dave Campo, his defensive counterpart.
Tennessee (plus 101/2) at Indianapolis
Peyton Manning needs eight TD passes to break Dan Marino's record.
Houston (plus 61/2) at New York Jets
Chad Pennington may or may not return.
We say 'may.'
Cincinnati (plus 61/2) at Baltimore
No 58 points this week.
San Francisco (plus 101/2) at St. Louis
The Rams get to the fast track.
Minnesota (minus 7) at Chicago
Chad Hutchinson is the Bears' fourth QB this season.
Buffalo (minus 31/2) at Miami
Willis McGahee has made Buffalo a lot better.
Carolina (plus 11/2) at New Orleans
Carolina is too banged up to win four straight.
New York Giants (plus 2) at Washington
Eli Manning faces another tough defense.
Arizona (plus 6) at Detroit
John Navarre goes back to Michigan as the third QB to start for the Cardinals.
K.C. (OFF) at Oakland
Kerry Collins is good when protected. He will be this week.
Last week: 4-12 (spread), 11-5 (straight up); Season: 84-89-3 (spread), 116-60 (straight up)