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Chiefs are a work in progress, but 8-8 isn't out of the question

Throughout the 2010 NFL season, SI.com's Nick Zaccardi will work with Jerome Bettis to get the six-time Pro Bowl running back's observations about the latest happenings in the league. Bettis retired from the NFL in 2006 after a 13-year career.

• Don't get too excited about the Chiefs. I still think they're a work in progress. Look, they won because of a special teams touchdown, a long run from Jamaal Charles and San Diego turnovers. Offensively, they still have a ways to go. The weather at Arrowhead was a factor, but at the end of the day they just didn't look that great. They're going to be better than last year, but probably just an 8-8 football team.

Don't get me wrong. I think their offense could one day be very explosive. I'm looking forward to seeing how Charlie Weis is going to use Dexter McCluster. Seeing how dynamic he was on that 94-yard punt return, you have to wonder how they're going to get this young guy the ball when they also have Charles, Thomas Jones and Dwayne Bowe as prime targets. The only question is if Matt Cassel can play well. We still haven't seen the Patriots' Cassel since he arrived in Kansas City.

As for the AFC West, it's still San Diego's division to lose. But Monday gave us a glimpse that they're not runaway favorites. The other three teams are getting closer, even Oakland. A key for the Chargers' hopes is rookie running back Ryan Mathews. He ran well in his debut (despite the 3.9 yards per carry), but he's got to protect the ball better in traffic. Many times rookies have to learn the hard way, and that fumble certainly cost his team.

They definitely miss Vincent Jackson as a deep threat. When you look at that game, they didn't go vertical down the field an awful lot until late in the game, when Antonio Gates was being blanketed by two and three defenders. Philip Rivers hit Legedu Naanee a few times, but usually they go for more home runs when Vincent Jackson is in there. I didn't see a lot of that Monday night.

• Repeat after me: Mark Sanchez is a second-year quarterback. I think there was an illusion that Sanchez was more than a second-year QB, but, like the Chargers and Mathews, Jets nation received a harsh lesson Monday. Sanchez is just not ready to be handed a football team and win game after game. You can tell that Joe Flacco, in his third year, is a little bit more developed.

One positive for the Jets is LaDainian Tomlinson. I've been very, very vocal about L.T. going into the season. He's not finished yet, and he proved that with 11 carries for 62 yards against a stout defense. People down on L.T. didn't realize that the Chargers offensive line wasn't very good last year. This year, he has a reinvigorated team, a pretty decent line, and you're seeing the results. I expect L.T. to assume control of the Jets running attack moving forward.

• We already have quarterback controversies. My eye is on two places in particular: Carolina and Philadelphia. I was critical of the Panthers in my preseason column. Obviously, they're really hoping to get production out of Matt Moore, but if they don't, they won't be afraid to pull the trigger very early and get Jimmy Clausen in there. Moore's concussion may speed up the switch. John Fox is clearly on the hot seat.

Kevin Kolb definitely has a longer leash. Because of Andy Reid's decision to let Donovan McNabb go, Kolb shouldn't lose his starting job if forced to miss games with his concussion. Still, Michael Vick can seize this as an opportunity to show what he can do. If he can go out and shine, then it's much easier for Reid to make a change down the line. Keep an eye on this situation.

• I was wrong about the Steelers, and Mike Tomlin was right. Last week, I felt Charlie Batch deserved to start. When I think about it in retrospect, I think it was the right decision to start Dennis Dixon. The upside for Dixon is tremendous. You already know what you have in Batch. For Dixon, he has the potential to be really, really good. This is a great opportunity to see how dynamic Dixon can be. I understand the decision now. Tomlin always has the fail-safe to go back to in Batch if things go bad. I stand corrected, Steelers fans.

The Steelers still won playing Steeler football. They're going to win with great defensive effort, and they're going to win with a solid running game, especially without Big Ben. That's what pulled them through. You saw the impact of Troy Polamalu in crunch time. You saw Rashard Mendenhall pound the ball all game and finally break through in overtime. You saw everything in that football game that you expect to see from a Steelers team, and they pulled it out.

• Don't overreact to the Bengals' loss to the Patriots. We saw plenty of surprising results and performances in the first week, but that's just it. It's one week. Just one loss. Cincinnati fell down pretty quick and turned the ball over a couple times, but I don't think people should throw them away and say this is the same old Cincinnati Bengals football team. They'll settle in and be better than they showed Sunday.

T.O. and Chad Ochocinco combined to catch 19 passes for 212 yards. That partnership is developing well. You see the effort is there. The question is, will it be enough for them to win consistently? That's going to be a big question.

The Patriots opened up a 21-point lead at the half and won comfortably. The Cedric Benson fumble, the Carson Palmer interception, those were stupid plays. I can understand a great play to turn a game, like DeAngelo Hall on Sunday night in the Washington-Dallas game. In Cincinnati's case, the Bengals lost because they played poorly, not necessarily because the Patriots played so well.

A few more quick thoughts ...

• It wasn't surprising at all to see the Jaguars fill their stadium for the first time since 2007 because of an opposing player. Tim Tebow is a legend in that part of the country. As for the Jags, Jacksonville has really run its course as an NFL town. That's clearly a team that should think about relocation.

• I'm calling out the policy -- and sticking up for referees -- after Calvin Johnson's overruled touchdown. Yes, the right call was made, but officials need to be allowed to interpret situations like that without being strapped to specific wording of rules. Give the refs a little more leeway and let them do their jobs.

• NFL players made a very important statement before several games with a show of solidarity as we head toward a possible lockout. Historically, the owners have always banked on the fact that the players would not be united if a lockout occurred. Some would get scared and cross the picket line, so to say, during a strike. It's still very early in the process, but everybody should know now that the players are very committed to what's at stake. They're geared up for a fight, if it comes to that.

• Take a second to applaud Tony Gonzalez for his 1,000th career catch. Best tight end of all time? Perhaps. Hall of Famer? Without a doubt.

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