The AFC West was full of surprises this week as the Chiefs stunned the Broncos in Kansas City and the Raiders were actually within reach of beating the Chargers. It was a week full of story lines as the two best QB’s in the division combined to throw four interceptions, an old running back returned to his old form, a team broke a twelve game losing streak, and one team blew their lead in the fourth quarter (again). I’m convinced that anything can happen in the AFC West. It’s a crap shoot as to who will win divisional match-ups, and which team will decide to take a mini-vacation. It’s still early in the season, and if the Mets managed to avoid the playoffs again, then I’m sure your AFC West team still has a chance.
Denver Broncos (3-1):
Looking Back: Do we really have to look back? The point is their luck ran out, their offense inevitably had a bad game, and the defense still can’t stop anything but a pack of grandma’s running for a 3-yard gain. It didn’t matter that Jay Cutler threw for 361 yards. He only completed 29 of 49 passes for 1 TD, 2 INTs. In comparison, Brett Favre had 289 yards and 6 TDs. The Jets won. The Broncos didn’t. Three of the Broncos most productive guys on offense (Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal) combined for 4 turnovers, and the defense only had one sack. The Broncos allowed Chiefs’ running back Larry Johnson to rush for 198 yards and 2 TDs. All of these factors played a significant role in the Broncos first loss of the season. They thought that going on the road would be a good thing, something to help them focus and correct their problems. All it did was chalk up a mark in the “L” column, and make Broncos’ fans start worrying about the mental state of this young team.
Looking Forward: The Broncos return home for a game against a very tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. Brian Griese is probably about as excited to return to Denver as a child having his first cavity filled at the dentist. The Bucs are coming off of a very emotional win as their kicker, Matt Bryant, just lost his infant son four days before the team’s last victory. They come to Denver with the same record as the Broncos with wins over some decent teams (Atlanta, Chicago, Green Bay). Tampa Bay ranks within the top ten defenses in the league, so the Broncos had better get their offensive act up to Broadway standards again. If the Broncos can completely overhaul their defense in the next week, then they’ve got a shot at winning the game, but if they are going to continue to let opponents score 30+ points per game, forget about the playoffs, and start scouting defensive players to pick up in the draft.
Kansas City Chiefs (1-3):
Looking Back: The Chiefs must have talked to the Miami Dolphins last week after they stunned New England because the Chiefs came into the game with the right mindset. It appears that they found their answer at QB for now. They went back to Damon Huard (21-28, 160 yards, 1 TD), and it paid dividends for them. He didn’t have the most impressive game, but they got the win, and Herm Edwards gets to keep his job for now. Larry Johnson was like a little kid on Christmas, and Derrick Johnson was like a bear raiding a large campsite with 5 tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception. I’m sure that Jay Cutler was having nightmares about him last night. The Broncos had nearly 70 more total yards than the Chiefs, but the Chiefs managed to keep them out of the endzone, and that was the difference maker. That put an end to their 12-game losing streak and it makes them the best team in Missouri. There’s a reason to crack open a cold one!
Looking Forward: They head east next week to play the Carolina Panthers (3-1). A boost in confidence may help keep the game close, but the Panthers should come out victorious in this one. Jake Delhomme is a good QB, but sometimes he can let his emotions get the best of him. Earlier this season, he was sacked five times and had three forced fumbles against the Vikings. If the Chiefs can frustrate Delhomme like they did Cutler, then they’ve got a shot at winning. Major questions will come up over the next couple of weeks as to who will finish the season as the Chiefs QB. Will it be Huard if he continues to play well, or will Brodie Croyle get his job back when he returns from injury? Either way, I’m sure the Chiefs don’t want to fall to far down in the draft. After all, they’re not playoff contenders this year.
Oakland Raiders (1-3):
Looking Back: You know you’re a Raiders fan when: 1. You automatically wonder how much your team lost by before reading the Monday morning paper, 2. You get more excited about the fact that you might be able to meet Alyssa Milano this Saturday (check Raiders.com for more information, guys) than you do about a Raiders TD, and 3. You already have an Al Davis skeleton hanging outside your front door for Halloween. The Raiders had a two score lead going into the fourth quarter against the Chargers, and lost the game by ten points. Remember, they also blew a fourth quarter lead to the Bills in week 3. Darren McFadden carried the ball 7 times for just 20 yards, and JaMarcus Russell completed 22 of 37 passes for 277 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. I don’t see any silver linings in the dark clouds surrounding Oakland.
Looking Forward: It’s perfect timing for the bye week. The Raiders still have time to salvage their season, and the way Al Davis’ cotton-balled mind works, he will probably drop-kick Lane Kiffin out the door. Correction, he’ll make John Herrera do it. The team considers Kiffin to be a distraction right now with all the media attention that he’s absorbing. If Al Davis would make a definitive decision about the state of Kiffin’s job, then who knows, maybe the Raiders might be able to concentrate on the game (gasp!), and string together a couple of wins.
San Diego Chargers (2-2):
Looking Back: The Chargers are fighting their way back to the top of the division, tooth and nail. They had a big comeback win over a deflated Raiders team even though Philip Rivers was as graceful as Warren Sapp was on Dancing with the Stars. Actually, Sapp was more graceful. Rivers should be on the AFC West Wall of Shame this week (along with Cutler) as he completed 14 for 25 passes for 180 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs. It’s a good thing that Ladanian Tomlinson had a fabulous performance with 20 carries for 106 yards and 2 TDs. Darren Sproles had another big return late in the game when he got the ball to the 35 to set up a field-goal enabling the Chargers to take the lead. This win helps make up for the two close games that they lost against the Panthers and the Broncos earlier this season. This team could easily be 4-0 right now.
Looking Forward: San Diego goes into Miami (1-2) next week, and they will probably still see celebration banners congratulating the team for upsetting the Patriots. Miami is coming off of their bye week well rested and full of confidence. This is a team that the Chargers need to be wary of. They’re hungry for more success. Ronnie Brown is a threat on the ground and Chad Pennington is a threat in the air, but both their offense and defense rank in the middle of the league. The Chargers should be able to take full advantage of their strengths if the focus is there and they bring in some of the momentum from week 4′s win. Like a hungry lion, San Diego is out for the kill. They don’t care who gets in the way. They want to chew them up, spit them out, and move on to the next team.