The coaches of the AFC West should take a page out of Coach Boone’s book. In Remember the Titans, Coach Boone said “we will be perfect in every aspect of the game. You drop a pass, you run a mile. You miss a blocking assignment, you run a mile. You fumble the football, and I will break my foot off in your John Brown hind parts and then you will run a mile.” Players from the AFC West may just become world class marathoners this summer if coaches instill discipline like Coach Boone. The AFC West is one of the worst divisions in the league because the players from this division are not held accountable for their mistakes. Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers were turning the ball over numerous times per game in the middle of the season. The Chiefs’ defense cannot stop fourth quarter offensive drives, and the Raiders hold onto the football as well as Brittany Spears held on to her marriage. Bottom line is these teams need work in the off-season. They need coaches who are willing to push these talented players to the brink of mental and physical exhaustion in order to get the most out of them. This division saw two wins this week only because it had to. It was a divisional match-up between the teams as the Chargers won in Oakland to keep their playoff hopes alive (barely), and the Broncos got revenge on the Chiefs to maintain a comfortable lead in the AFC West.
Denver Broncos (8-5):
Looking Back: Chiefs fans could put their brooms away because dreams of sweeping the Broncos got flushed down the toilet in the fourth quarter of week 14. What a difference 10 weeks has made for the Broncos. When they faced the Chiefs in week 4, they lost 33-19, gave up 213 yards on the ground, and turned the ball over 5 times. In week 14, the Broncos gave up just 89 yards on the ground, turned the ball over once, and controlled the clock. They had possession of the ball for close to 37 minutes. Brandon Marshall showed up to play with 91 receiving yards and 2 TDs, while Jay Cutler was 32-40 passing with 286 yards and 2 TDs. The only downside to the game was Peyton Hillis was lost for the season after straining his hamstring. Fans can forget about that loss in September after Sunday’s victory.
Looking Forward: The Broncos go into Carolina next week to try to do what the rest of the AFC West could not do: Beat the Panthers. Carolina is undefeated at home this season and the Broncos have won three in a row on the road. It should be a great match-up. The Broncos offense will take on the Panthers 7th ranked defense. Lately, the Broncos have done a good job of holding onto the football, but with Hillis out of the game, the Broncos may need to rely on a much more pass heavy offense. That’s when turnovers have occurred for this team in the past because Cutler tries to do too much by forcing the ball into Marshall or one of his other big targets. It’s a good thing the Broncos defense is getting healthy because the Panthers have both a strong ground game and air game. This is not an easy win for the Broncos, but then again, when have they had an easy win this season?
Looking Back: We all know what happens when there are too many Chiefs and not enough Indians, right? Chaos ensues. The Chiefs actually put up a hell of a fight in Denver, but lost it in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs had the opportunity to send the game into overtime, but Tyler Thigpen fell 1-yard short on fourth down. I would have gone for it too considering no one should put a game in the hands of the Chiefs’ defense. Tony Gonzalez had another great game with 5 catches for 73 yards and 1 TD. Dwayne Bowe had 7 catches for 96 yards, but Larry Johnson (11 carries, 36 yards) didn’t have the kind of game he had in week 4. In fact, Thigpen rushed for more yards (6 carries, 34 yards) than Johnson. The Chiefs had a 17-7 lead in the second quarter, but let the Broncos take the game back from them. The drought at Invesco Field continues for the Chiefs. Going 0-8 since the stadium was built probably makes Pat Bowlen want to buy Arrowhead and re-name it.
Looking Forward: The Chiefs return home to host the Chargers. The last time these two teams met, the Chargers won by just 1 point. Thigpen had a monster game with 3 TDs while Philip Rivers threw for 316 yards, but had 2 INTs. This game is no joke as the Chargers will be working to keep their playoff dreams alive. The Chiefs have little chance of stopping Rivers’ offense. The Chiefs are too young and inexperienced to put a hold on LaDanian Tomlinson, Antontio Gates, Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers, etc. There are a few things that the Chiefs need to be cautious of against the Chargers: 1. Turnovers, 2. The Chargers’ air game, and 3. Their own coach’s decision making.
Looking Back: JaMarcus Russell looks like a little boy lost in a construction site. Danger surrounds him every game, and week 14 was no different. He threw 2 INTs and lost a fumble before spraining his ankle. He left the game beat up, both physically and emotionally. Too bad for him he can’t just be a lifelong student. I imagine Russell tells his friends, ”Ahh, those were the good days, when I won games, when I was as invincible as O.J. Simpson Michael Jordan in his prime.” The Raiders played as bad as everyone expects them to. They put 7 up on the board, made Tomlinson look like his former self, and made Raiders’ fans who took the trip to San Diego wish that they had stayed home to watch Nick at Nite. The Raiders reached double digit losses for the 6th consecutive year, and I think Al Davis may get something slipped into his drink fairly soon.
Looking Forward: What can make things better? Why a trip to New England of course! The Patriots will roll out the red carpet for the Raiders because they know this is a team that they should be able to beat very easily. The Patriots (8-5) are battling it out with the Jets for first place in the AFC East, so expect them to bring everything they’ve got. The X-rays on JaMarcus Russell’s ankle were negative, so he may be playing in New England which probably gets Jerod Mayo, Tedy Bruschi, and Richard Seymour more fired up than a little kid on Christmas morning. Tom Cable wants to win the next three games to save face, while Al Davis probably wants to lose all three to get a better draft pick.
Looking Back: The Chargers snapped their 3 game losing streak by beating Oakland like a boxer pounds on a punching bag. Philip Rivers had a complete game with 214 yards and 3 TDs. The offense was on a roll, and Tomlinson looked like he had legs that were 3 years younger than what they actually are. He finished with 25 carries for 91 yards and 1 TD. Vincent Jackson had a big day with 148 yards and a TD catch, and Darren Sproles finished with 2 TD receptions. I guess anyone can look that competent against the Raiders. Ahem, well almost anyone. It’s been quite the year for a team who many experts predicted would be going to the Super Bowl. This team has lost too many close games to count, and now they need to rely on a lot of luck to make it into the post season.
Looking Forward: The Chargers will have had a lot of time to rest before playing the Chiefs. Does that mean L.T.’s legs will stiffen up or will he be able to put a large dent into the Chiefs 31st ranked run defense? I’m guessing L.T. and the rest of the running game will take advantage of the Chiefs young defense. Then, Philip Rivers will let balls fly against the Chiefs 29th ranked pass defense. If there’s one thing these teams have in common it’s that they both know how to lose close games in the final minutes. When the Chargers-Chiefs game is all said and done, the real challenge will begin for the Chargers. First, a game in Tampa Bay, and then a final game against Denver.