The Broncos are running away with the AFC West crown. I don’t want to jump ahead too much, but last night’s win against the Chargers may have just solidified a playoff spot. With many more winnable games to come, the Broncos have already jumped out to a 3.5 game lead over the Chargers. So called experts are eating their words, and the rest of the AFC West is left in the dust. The Raiders and Chiefs pulled out wins, but those were unexpected and both teams probably won’t see another win until they face eachother. That’s life in the AFC West, and here’s another breakdown six weeks in.
Denver Broncos (6-0):
Looking Back: The Broncos showed the Chargers that they’re a completely different team than last year. They came through on both sides of the ball, not to mention on special teams as well. Fast Eddie and the defense kept the Broncos in the game until the offense got its groove on. Eddie Royal had punt return and kick return touchdowns in the first half, and I don’t think a single hand touched him on either play. The Broncos didn’t get their first offensive touchdown until late in the third quarter. Kyle Orton was nearly perfect once again going 20-29 for 229 yards and 2 TDs. His main target was Tony Scheffler who had 6 catches for 101 yards and 1 TD. The Broncos had over 100 yards rushing between three players, but the real story was the defense putting pressure on Philip Rivers. He was sacked 5 times, and forced into erratic throws in the second half of the game. The Broncos have not allowed their opponents to score a single point in the fourth quarter since week 1. The Chargers fumbled the ball 4 times recovering all but 1. I would have to split the game ball between 4 players. Elvis Dumervil (2 sacks, 1 forced fumble), D.J. Williams (1 sack, 1 forced fumbled), Royal and Scheffler took their games to another level. Without them, the Broncos would be looking at 5-1 instead of 6-0.
Looking Forward: The bye week. I almost hate for the momentum to be put on hold. It will be nice for bodies to rest and repair, but this team has such a special thing going right now that it’s going to be extremely tough to return from a break and go into Baltimore in week 8. Baltimore has a great rush defense, and surprisingly, their offense is playing better than their defense this year. I’m sure Josh McDaniels will take the full two weeks to prepare, and the Broncos will come out looking fresh again.
Looking Back: The Chiefs got their first win of the season and performed a Super Bowl-esque celebration by dumping Gatorade on new head coach, Todd Haley. They beat the laughable Redskins who after the game, removed offensive play calling rights from head coach, Jim Zorn. Why he’s still the head coach, I don’t know. Back to the Chiefs. Kicker Ryan Succop, a.k.a. Mr. Irrelevant, nailed 4 field goals to secure a 14-6 win. The Chiefs’ offense never got in the endzone, but Matt Cassel didn’t turn the ball over and he helped Dwayne Bowe to 6 catches for 109 yards. Statistically speaking, the Chiefs and Skins’ delivered similar numbers except in the time of possession category. The Chiefs had the ball for 37 minutes. When you hold the ball that long, the game should go your way.
Looking Forward: The Chiefs will host the San Diego Chargers next week. As the Chargers continue their push to knock the Broncos out of first place, this game is not going to be an easy one for them. This isn’t a game that the Chiefs can turn into a soccer match like they did against the Raiders. The Chargers can score in a hurry and consistently put points on the board throughout the game. They’ve got so many options downfield, that the Chiefs’ 25th ranked pass defense won’t be able to stop them. If the Chiefs are going to have any kind of success, Larry Johnson will need to step his game up, and the Chiefs will need to dominate the clock again by rushing for first downs. The Chargers are a vulnerable team that could be gobbled up by the sea of red at Arrowhead.
Looking Back: The Raiders enlisted the help of a pigeon to defeat the Eagles. That’s just foul fowl! I honestly didn’t think the Raiders would win another game this year, let alone beat a competitive NFC East team led by Donovan McNabb. JaMarcus Russell finally resembled an NFL QB by throwing a touchdown pass to Zach Miller ( 6 catches, 139 yards). He also threw 2 INTs, but those are somewhat overlooked when your team wins. Justin Fargas had 87 yards on 23 carries, and the Raiders proved that they could out rush and out pass another NFL team. The Raiders defense sacked McNabb 6 times and forced his offense to go 2-14 on third down conversions. A little life was injected into the veins of Raider fans, and Al Davis and his QB are off the hot seat for at least another week.
Looking Forward: The New York Jets visit Oakland in a battle of young QBs. After a strong start, the Jets (3-3) are struggling right now. Mark Sanchez has learned that life in the NFL is not all glitz and glamour. Consecutive losses allows fans and the New York media to get down on you. The Jets have a great pass defense (8th), but a lousy rush defense (21st). That’s not a good sign for Russell and his receivers. Meanwhile, Richard Seymour and his group will have quite the task ahead with the Jets 2nd ranked rushing attack. They held the Eagles to 67 rushing yards, but Thomas Jones is one of the best backs in the league right now. I see the Jets going into Oakland to crush any kind of hope Raiders fans have left for this season.
Looking Back: It wasn’t the kind of outcome they were expecting, but they put up a good fight against the Broncos. Despite all the pressure, Philip Rivers still went 20-33 for 274 yards and 1 TD. That’s a good game for most QBs in the league, but for Rivers, it’s subpar. LaDanian Tomlinson was silenced into 18 carries for 70 yards, and Antonio Gates led the team in receiving with 5 catches for 70 yards. The most electrifying moment for the Chargers came when Darren Sproles returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown. He figured he had to accompany Eddie Royal in his act. The Chargers sacked Orton just once, and couldn’t find a way to stop the Broncos well balanced offense in the second half. San Diego isn’t so sunny these days as all initial expectations about this team have been thrown into the ocean.
Looking Forward: As the Broncos kick their legs up, the Chargers head east into Arrowhead. It should be a good matchup with both teams struggling of late. Either team has a good shot at winning depending on which teams show up to play. The Chargers are ranked 27th in rush defense and 13th in pass defense. Their defensive line isn’t that strong, so if the Chiefs favor the run, the Chargers could have a difficult time stopping Johnson. This is a must win game for Norv Turner.