Has there really been a changing of the guards, a turning of the tides, a flip of the coin in the AFC West? For the first time in years, the Broncos and Chargers are sitting at the bottom of the standings while the Chiefs and Raiders rule the roost. The season is still long from over, but the Broncos and the Chargers have yet to wake from the dead and pull out a string of wins. Those years of constant rebuilding may finally be paying off for the Chiefs and the Raiders. Once the jokes of the division/league, these teams are now bruisers that can pull off a win any week of the season. Let’s take a look at what happened in week 7 and what will happen in week 8 as far as the AFC West is concerned.
Denver Broncos (2-5):
Looking Back: If you’re a Broncos fan and looking back on the Fiasco at Invesco, I’d suggest heavily sedating yourself. The 59-14 loss to the Raiders was the worst loss in years. No one came to play except for punter, Britton Colquitt, who came out seven times to punt. The Broncos gave up 329 yards rushing including four touchdowns by Darren McFadden, and allowed the Raiders to hold on to the ball for nearly 39 minutes. Three losses in a row have exposed Denver’s weak points more than another season has exposed Brett Favre’s age. The Broncos continue to not be able to run the ball, nor can they stop the run. Thus, the disparity in ball possession existed against the Raiders. The Broncos are still last in the league in rushing and ranked 25th in stopping the run.
Looking Forward: Maybe a trip to foreign soil will help the Broncos pick up a win before their bye week. The Broncos will arrive in London on Friday to take on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. What a game the NFL gave the folks overseas, huh? A 2-5 team taking on a 1-6 team. The 49ers have been one of the biggest surprises of the year. They were expected to take their division by storm with all of the individual talent that they have, but their lone win comes against Oakland. They haven’t been able to win the close games. Four of their six losses have been lost by three points or less. Again, the Broncos will need to shutdown a very good tight end in Vernon Davis. Alex Smith will not play, and instead of opting for David Carr, the 49ers will start Troy Smith under center. This is one the Broncos desperately need.
Kansas City Chiefs (4-2):
Looking Back: The game between the Chiefs and the Jaguars was actually close until there was five minutes left in the third quarter. At that point, Derrick Johnson intercepted backup QB, Todd Bouman, and took it to the house. That was the catalyst for a 21-0 Chiefs run to finish off the game. In the past, a game that close could have gone either way, but now, the Chiefs are showing that they can dominate late in the game. Matt Cassel did enough to balance the offense going 13-for-18 for 193 yards and 2 TDs. Those two touchdowns were caught by Dwayne Bowe who added 81 receiving yards to the stat sheet. Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles were typical – Jones with 20 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD, and Charles with 15 carries for 71 yards and 1 TD. That win stopped their two-game skid and helped boost confidence that they’re not just a fluke team.
Looking Forward: The Chiefs enter a relatively easy portion of their schedule. Their next four opponents don’t have a winning record. Next up is Buffalo who is the only team without a win this year. This should be money in the bank as they play the Bills in Kansas City and won’t appear to have any trouble stopping their 28th ranked offense or running through their 32nd ranked run defense. To all fantasy owners out there – keep Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles on the field. They will feast on the ground. The Chiefs can really open up a lead at the top of the division so long as they take care of business.
Oakland Raiders (3-4):
Looking Back: The Raiders took off running and finished the race sprinting. They opened up a 21-0 lead in the first six minutes of the game and blew that open to a 38-0 lead mid way through the second quarter. The Raiders had the Broncos looking like the last kid picked for dodgeball on the playground – dejected and rejected. Richard Seymour said after the game that they knew if they could get off to a fast start, the Broncos didn’t have it in them to fight back. All it took was a couple of good defensive plays to force turnovers and then a steady and physical running game to keep the ball in their corner. McFadden had 196 all purpose yards and Jason Campbell did just enough to keep the Raiders in constant scoring position. Al Davis and Tom Cable left Denver with big smiles and a piece of the Mile High City’s heart.
Looking Forward: The Raiders host a 4-2 Seattle team that doesn’t really excel in anything except for rush defense. Their 2nd ranked rush defense could force Jason Campbell to step up even more if they’re able to stop McFadden up the middle. The Seahawks are coming off two big wins against Chicago and Arizona, so if the Raiders triple threat – Campbell, McFadden, and Zach Miller - is on, Seattle could have a lot of trouble stopping them. The Raiders secondary will be able to stop leading receivers, Mike Williams and John Carlson. Matt Hasselbeck is the 8th most sacked QB in the league, so Tommy Kelly and Kamerion Wimberly can really take advantage of that. This game won’t be a walk in the park, but if they carry any momentum over from Denver, they could move back to .500.
San Diego Chargers (2-5):
Looking Back: There’s one sound that rings in the ears of Chargers fans. It’s the sound of the ball hitting the right upright with 23 seconds left to play. San Diego kicker, Kris Brown, tried to force overtime with a 50-yard field goal. Instead, the Patriots escaped with a 23-20 win in San Diego. The Bolts did nothing to help their cause, turning the ball over four times, and failing to score a touchdown until there was seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Philip Rivers went 34-for-50 for 336 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT, but could not convert deep in Patriots’ territory. The Chargers are off to their worst start in four years, and have a lot of ground to make up to catch the Chiefs.
Looking Forward: The Chargers host another difficult opponent at home this week. The Tennessee Titans (5-2) are coming in with three wins in a row, their most recent win coming against the 4-2 Eagles. Those ridiculous turnovers will need to stop as the Titans have the 3rd best defense in the league, and they’re the #1 in sacks. The offensive line will need to pick it up with Philip Rivers being the 2nd most sacked QB in the league, just behind Jay Cutler. The Titans’ QB situation is a question mark, but their running game hasn’t been at all this season. The Chargers’ 4th ranked rush defense will challenge Chris Johnson, but it’s their offense that has got to step up and keep the ball on lockdown for this team to start winning.
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