The rest of the NFL can make a very fine living off of the AFC West. With a combined record of 9-10, the AFC West if the worst division in the AFC. The last team to make it to the Super Bowl from the division was the 2002 Raiders. The last team to win it? The 1998 Broncos. No other division has gone without a Super Bowl appearance as long as the AFC West has despite having some strong teams enter the playoffs. The doom and gloom surrounds the division, but there’s certainly no lack of talent or a lack substantial home field advantage. Walk into any locker room and ask players/coaches for a list of the top 5 most difficult stadiums to play in and Arrowhead, the Black Hole, and Mile High will likely be mentioned. It’s a storied division with much history. That’s why the division needs to be broken down every week, so let’s dive in and look back on week 5.
Denver Broncos (2-3):
Looking Back: The Broncos slipped back to below .500 with a 31-17 loss to the Ravens. “Charm City” certainly hasn’t been charming for the Broncos in the last two years. Josh McDaniels and his team have flown back to Denver with two sour tasting losses in their mouths rather than the sweet remnants of the Baltimore crab cake. The Ravens opened up with a 17-0 lead until just before halftime when Kyle Orton connected with Brandon Lloyd for a 42-yard touchdown. The Broncos weren’t able to get anything going after halftime and the Ravens let their running game continue to dominate and chew the clock. The Ravens finished with 233 yards on the ground and four rushing touchdowns.
Looking Forward: Because of the physicality of the two previous games, the Broncos will host the New York Jets (4-1) with five defensive players in street clothes. Included on that list are three starters – Brian Dawkins (knee), Andre Goodman (thigh), and Robert Ayers (broken foot). The Jets are on a tear, winning four straight games with their last win against the Vikings on Monday night. The only team to beat them thus far is the Baltimore Ravens. In their past four wins, the Jets have put up at least 28 points per game. The way to beat this team is to stop them defensively, not keep pace with their fully charged offense. As the Broncos look to the week ahead, the Broncos must remember that the only thing that overcomes bad luck is hard work.
Kansas City Chiefs (3-1):
Looking Back: Did the bye week disrupt the Chiefs’ momentum? The ’72 Miami Dolphins once again have nothing to worry about. The Chiefs perfect season is no longer up for grabs. The Indianapolis Colts struggled offensively, but their defense made sure that the Chiefs didn’t see the endzone at all. The 19-9 loss has been blamed on the Chiefs inability to balance their strong running game with a passing game. Matt Cassel went 16-29 for 156 yards and could be seen throwing Somewhere Over Dwayne Bowe. Jamaal Charles led both teams in rushing with 16 carries for 87 yards, but the team went 1-10 on third down. In the end, it was the Colts who kept drives alive and ate up the clock.
Looking Forward: Another road trip takes the Chiefs down south to Houston to visit the 3-2 Texans. “Space City” is pumped about this Texans team. They’re ranked 6th on offense and 5th in rush defense, but their pass defense is ranked last in the league. That may be just the right recipe to get Matt Cassel’s arm firing on all cylinders. The Chiefs have the speed, quickness, and size to take advantage of the Texans flailing secondary. They’ve also got the steady rushing attack to battle the Texans’ stout rush defense. Much of the Chiefs’ success will rest in the arm of Cassel and on the defense’s ability to halt Andre Johnson and the #1 rusher in the league, Arian Foster.
Oakland Raiders (2-3):
Looking Back: Whether or not the officiating was bad, the Raiders came out on top in the “Cali Dual.” The Oakland crowd had good reason to come to life as the Raiders beat the Chargers 35-27. That was the Raiders first win in 13 games against the Chargers. The Raiders capitalized on the Chargers’ critical errors and scored twice in the final three and a half minutes of the game. Bruce Gradkowski who was competing for 3rd string QB just last year hurt his shoulder and was replaced by the initial starter this season, Jason Campbell. Campbell did just enough (13-18 for 159 yards, 1 TD) to balance Michael Bush’s running attack (24 carries for 104 yards and 1 TD) and keep pace with the offensively gifted Chargers. The Raiders’ special teams and defense hoisted the team’s ‘W’ in the air by making big plays down the stretch.
Looking Forward: The Raiders just have to travel across the bridge to face the 0-5 San Francisco 49ers. It should be interesting to see if the stadium will be filled with more black than red. The 49ers are ranked 23rd on offense and 17th on defense, and simply can’t compose themselves down the stretch to pull out wins. The blame in San Fran has been falling on the shoulders of QB Alex Smith. However, Mike Singletary is in the hot seat as well. The “Battle of the Bay” is more about rivalry and location than it is about two great football teams battling it out for “Best in the Bay.” One thing is certain, however; The team who wins has only won the battle, not the war.
San Diego Chargers (2-3):
Looking Back: With the Chargers taking an unexpected loss, the team continues to struggle at the beginning of every season. Will there come a time when the team can’t regroup and pick it up in November and December? Only time will tell and Father Norv will continue to take the tomatoes thrown up on his stage. The Chargers turned the ball over three times against the Raiders and couldn’t put together one final drive in an attempt to win the game. All the Chargers needed was a field goal, but then a penalty and a fumble returned for a TD put the game in Oakland’s corner. Philip Rivers finished with 431 yards on 27-42 passing and 2 TDs, but he couldn’t hold his head high after the game. The sky is blue, the grass is green, Brett Favre is old, and the Chargers can’t string together wins in September/October. Some things are just a given.
Looking Forward: The Chargers are clearly West Coast, but they will travel along the yellow brick road to the Gateway of the West. The Saint Louis Rams (2-3) have spruced up their team and already have a better season going than their 1-15 ’09 campaign. Their first two losses of the season came by a combined 6 points. They could very well be 4-1 right now, so there’s no sense in the Chargers hanging their coats outside to dry because the storm clouds are rolling in over St. Louis. When the will is there, the Rams can score and defend. In their two wins, they’re averaging 25 points per game while holding their opponents to 9.5 points per game. What was once a ‘W’ in the books for the visiting team in St. Louis is now looking more like a ‘?’
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