It’s obvious who the top two teams are in the AFC West, but Oakland and Kansas City nearly stunned their opponents in an attempt to avoid a fourth place standing at the end of 10 weeks. It’s been a long 10 weeks for the AFC West and the next 7 should prove to be just as exciting, or demoralizing based on which team you look at. With an injury bug plaguing one team, and an ownership virus plaguing another, the story lines are comparable to a junior high school sleepover. Who’s got cooties? Apparently, DeAngelo Hall does. Who went home sick with mono? Most of the Broncos running backs. Who will dance with Jimmy? Who will dance their way into a playoff spot? Let’s take a look at it:
Denver Broncos (5-4):
Looking Back: Jay Cutler made Eddie Royal look like T.O., Jerry Rice, and Ed McCaffrey combined. Dude was on fire and he makes Chad Johnson look like a fool. With 6 catches for 164 yards, 1 TD, and 3 kick returns for 72 yards, you have to ask yourself where the guy’s battery pack is located. Endorsement deals from Energizer should start to roll in any day now. Cutler threw for 447 yards and only 1 INT which helped propel the Broncos to victory. Without Boss Bailey, D.J. Williams, and Nate Webster in the game, the defense made a nice stand against Brady Quinn and the Browns in the fourth quarter. Ryan Torain did great in his first career NFL start with 12 rushes for 68 yards and a TD, but his season came to an end after tearing his ACL. The Broncos needed that win to stay atop the division, and it didn’t look like they would find a way to do it when they were down 21-13 at the end of the third. Rattle off 21 fourth quarter points, and you can beat almost anyone.
Looking Forward: Can the momentum continue? It’s got to if the Broncos are going to beat the Falcons (6-3) in the dirty south. Atlanta comes in after a two TD win over New Orleans. The young QB they have in Matt Ryan has the potential to make the struggling Broncos defense look about as good as an 80-year old man on oxygen climbing a flight of stairs puffing away on a cigarette. The Broncos will have their hands full with Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White on offense as well as Lawyer Milloy, Erik Coleman, and John Abraham on defense. Should the Broncos beat the Falcons this week, the city of Denver will have to forgive their team for the Patriots loss. Not the Chiefs loss. Just the Pats loss.
Looking Back: The young Chiefs almost did it. They almost beat the Chargers in San Diego. 1 point separated the 2nd place team from the fourth place team. Tyler Thigpen is coming along nicely as he threw for 266 yards and 3 TDs. Brodie Croyle is now just a figment in the minds of Chiefs’ fans. Tony Gonzales put on a hall of fame performance with 10 catches for 113 yards and 2 TDs. I felt bad seeing his face after that loss. I wonder if he was excited to go for the win on a two point conversion instead of kicking a field goal and tying the game. The defense had two picks, and with the way the unit was playing, the safer beat would have been to win it in overtime instead of putting all your eggs in one basket play. Herm Edwards has now got a three game losing streak going and as far as “playing to win the game” goes, I’ll believe an Edwards’ coached team plays to win the game when pigs fly. Someone better tell Edwards that just because it worked for Mike Shanahan doesn’t mean it’s going to work for him.
Looking Forward: The Chiefs play an angry New Orleans Saints (4-5) team next week. They are coming off a loss to divisional rival, Atlanta, and Drew Brees wants to torch the Chiefs’ defense. Brees had 422 yards last week, 2 TDs, but also 3 INTs. This Chiefs’ defense will need to continue to ride the successful wave that they started against the Chargers. The Saints are currently the #1 ranked offense in the league, but their defense leaves something to be desired. Reggie Bush may be out, but Jeremy Shockey is back to work, so the defense will undoubtedly have their hands full. At this point in the season, the Chiefs goal is to improve the young players that they have, but also not drop down too far in the draft.
Looking Back: This is one of my favorite teams to write about. They throw games away at the drop of a hat and the moves Al Davis makes, make Super Bowl commercials comparable to watching paint dry. The Raiders still found a way to lose despite Jake Delhomme throwing 4 INTs and 1 TD. I wonder how many picks he would’ve thrown if DeAngelo Hall was still there. The endzone has become a foreign concept to this team as they went scoreless in week 9 and then managed two field goals against the Panthers. It’s been 9 quarters since the team got 6 on the board in one play. The only glimmer of light for this JaMarcus Russell-less offense was Justin Fargas as he ran 22 times for 89 yards. Forget about a win. This team desperately needs a touchdown to keep the city alive.
Looking Forward: The Raiders are probably happy to know that they are leaving Oakland to travel to Miami. Are they looking forward to the game? Probably not. The Dolphins (5-4) have won games against the Pats, Bills, and Chargers thus far, and they’ve got a three game winning streak going. The Raiders final nail in the Al Davis coffin may come in the form of a Chad Pennington/Ronnie Brown led wildcat offense. Their defense is 11th in the league, and they’ve got Joey Porter giving QBs the business all year long. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of next week, the Raiders have failed to find the endzone for 13 consecutive quarters.
Looking Back: Super Bowl predictions were tossed out the window when the Pats lost Tom Brady and when the Chargers lost the first two games of their season. The Chargers barely pulled the win out against the Chiefs. It took a swatted down two point conversion attempt to do it. Philip Rivers had 316 passing yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs while Ladanian Tomlinson had 22 rushes for 78 yards. There’s no question LT has lost a step. The receivers put on a nice well rounded performance, but by Chargers standards, the game should have never been that close. San Diego’s defense had just 1 sack, no forced fumbles, and no INTs. I guess the defense came up big when it absolutely needed to. A one play stop secured the victory and kept them in the playoff hunt.
Looking Forward: After a rough week back following the bye, the team goes into Pittsburgh to face the hard-nosed Steelers (6-3). Philip Rivers has got to limit his turnovers against the #3 ranked defense in the league. If they play like they did against the Chiefs, defeat is nearly guaranteed. The Steelers defense has won most of the games for them, but the combination of Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward is nothing to take lightly. Mewelde Moore has also been doing a great job as Willie Parker’s replacement. The Chargers will need something to light the fire under their asses because nothing has done it so far this season. Who knows. Maybe a close game against the Chiefs got the spark going.