Just because the AFC West stinks doesn’t mean there can’t be a dramatic ending to the season. The Broncos and Chargers are the ones keeping it interesting while the Raiders and the Chiefs prepare for major changes in their personnel department. The beginning of the season predicted great things from these teams. With a division that consists of Darren McFadden, Philip Rivers, Brandon Marshall, and Larry Johnson, one would think that all of these teams had a chance to win at least half of their games. Instead wins were hard to come by, and just when you thought someone was on track to pull off a string of wins, they blew a game in dramatic fashion. That was the story of the AFC West this season, and here is the story from last week:
Denver Broncos (8-7):
Looking Back: The Broncos started strong offensively and defensively jumping out to a 13-0 lead by the beginning of the second quarter. However, they lost the game despite 532 yards of total offense to the Bills’ 275 yards. There are no excuses for this loss. They led the Bills in time of possession, and the offense gave the defense enough of a breather to compose themselves for the next series. The problem was the Broncos once again could not convert in the red zone. They scored twice despite making six trips inside the 20 yard line. Overall, the Broncos want to forget the last two games.
Looking Forward: It comes down to this. A playoff team will be decided as the Broncos face the Chargers in San Diego. This entire season could be extended or it could be put into the record books for all to look back on in disgust. The Broncos special teams unit has got to get it together. From field goal kicking to punting to coverage, the Broncos have got to contain the Chargers already suped up offense starting before the first possession. The Broncos have never felt what it’s like to be anything but #1 in the AFC West this season. You think they want to end it in 2nd place? Should that happen, they will have a very rough off season.
Looking Back: It was a tug of war between the Chiefs and Dolphins. The frigid weather didn’t stop these offenses from racking up the points (69 combined). However, it was the Chiefs that saw the losers circle as they hung their heads after yet another loss. Even Carl Peterson’s departure couldn’t will this team to a win. Tyler Thigpen had 320 yards and 2 TDs, but he also threw 3 INTs. Larry Johnson had over 100 yards rushing and a touchdown, but the defense just could not make up for the offense’s mistakes. If the Dolphins didn’t have such a great day offensively, the Chiefs would have won.
Looking Forward: It really is a meaningless game as the Chiefs go into Cincinnati next week. Two horrible teams will face off to try to get their 3rd win of the season. The Bengals actually beat the Browns last week, but momentum is a funny thing when it comes to horrible teams: It can swing you backwards harder and faster than forwards. I expect the Chiefs to win the final game of their season as Herm Edwards will try to make a case for keeping his job. Cough cough. Tony Gonzalez will probably take his final bow as a Chief, and walk off the field thinking “if only we could have done this all season.”
Looking Back: I really didn’t expect the Raiders to beat the Texans. In fact, I lost a lot of points in my football pool because of them. JaMarcus Russell actually resembled an NFL quarterback with 236 yards, 2 TDs, and no INTs. Justin Fargas had a big day on the ground with 22 carries for 93 yards, and the defense had a couple of sacks and an INT. The Texans aren’t the Titans or anything, but they did well against a talented team. Johnnie Lee Higgins broke free on a punt return to score a TD, and he caught another one from Russell.
Looking Forward: Oakland goes into Tampa Bay next week for what will likely be their last lost of the year. Tom Cable will try to finish strong, but the chances of the Raiders beating the Bucs are slim to none. Tampa Bay is coming off a hard loss to the Chargers, and their defense is 7th in the league. For a team that once went through a big scoring drought, the Raiders will find it difficult to get into the red zone, much less score. If Al Davis is looking forward to anything, it is probably this game because it puts the final nail in the Raiders 08′ season.
Looking Back: The Chargers did it. They knew they had to win in order to keep their post season dreams alive. They did their part, and the Broncos did their part to make the final regular season match up one that will feature Cutler and Rivers taking jabs at each other. Everyone thought that the Chargers were the team to beat this season until they went 2-3 in their first five games. After that point, they strung together a three game losing streak before winning their last three to remain in contention for King of the AFC West.
Looking Forward: The Chargers have the home crowd to root them on into the playoffs. Who would’ve thought? The team will look to expose the Broncos pitiful defense in the air and on the ground. This is the kind of team that can pound the ball with Tomlinson and then throw downfield to one of their many talented receivers or tight ends. The week will be full talk about the heated blood between Rivers and Cutler which should get the game moved to a primetime spot on T.V. One thing is certain: Whichever team wins will most likely be bounced in the first round.