AFC West Breakdown: Week 12

The Bolts are charged up and making their patented late season push while the Chiefs try to remain in first place and the Raiders keep hope alive. Statistically speaking, the Broncos aren’t out of the running just yet, but their lottery-like chances don’t leave much hope. As we embark upon the journey that the late regular season shows us, let me recap week 12 and look forward to week 13.    

Denver Broncos (3-8):

Looking Back: In a week of giving thanks, the Broncos lost twice and made national headlines in the form of Spygate part deux. Since then, owner Pat Bowlen has endorsed Josh McDaniels as head coach for the remainder of the season, but said that nothing is guaranteed for 2011. Looking back on the game itself, the Broncos got off to a quick start, hit neutral in the middle of the game, and couldn’t quite get the comeback win. The Rams were victorious 36-33 under a dark Denver sky that was rather fitting for the Broncos’ season. Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd were once again the standout performers with 347 yards and 3 TDs, and 4 receptions for 76 yards and 2 TDs, respectively. Six losses in their last seven games has this team looking like they’re fishing with the wrong kind of bait.

Looking Forward: The Broncos never look forward to gazing upon the sea of red at Arrowhead. In their final meeting of the season, this game is big for the Chiefs and for McDaniels’ job. Handshake or not, McD has just as much pressure on him as any playoff bound team does. The Broncos can certainly take advantage of the Chiefs’ weak pass defense as they did in week 10. It’s Denver’s run defense that could detonate this team. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones are beasts on the ground, and with the Broncos being 30th in run defense, the Chiefs will look to control the clock and the game on the ground. Andre Goodman and Brian Dawkins (knee) will be on the sidelines, but Robert Ayers’ second week back will help Denver’s pass rush. For Todd Haley, nothing would be more like a stone in the shoe than the Broncos winning in KC.       

Kansas City Chiefs (7-4):

Looking Back: They haven’t lost since playing the Broncos in week 10, so this week’s game is like steak in front of a tiger. The Chiefs put the beat down on Seattle 42-24. Matt Cassel has been getting better week in and week out. He went 22-for-32 for 233 yards and 4 touchdowns. Dwayne Bowe seemed to be living inside Cassel’s arm hauling in 13 catches for 170 yards and 3 TDs. Balls weren’t thrown anywhere over the Dwayne Bowe – he reeled them in movie-like fashion. Jamaal Charles made the highlight reel with 22 catches for 173 yards and 1 TD, and in combination with Jones, the Chiefs controlled the clock 41:03 to 18:57. I bet Pete Carroll was drooling over Cassel on the sidelines (Cassel was Carroll’s backup at USC).   

Looking Forward: With the Chiefs’ defense pretty much taking the week off, they will be ready to go against the Broncos’ offense. All they have to do is find a way to stop Kyle Orton and his reliable receivers, and they’ve pretty much stopped this Broncos team. The Chiefs’ offense shouldn’t have any kind of problem breaking the Broncos down in the air or on the ground. With Dawkins out, that takes away a major defender in the pass and run games as well as a leader on the field. The Chiefs typically beat the Broncos at Arrowhead late in the season. Aside from last season, the Broncos had not won there in December since 1998. Looking forward? Yes, the Chiefs are looking forward to playing this physically and mentally battered team.

Oakland Raiders (5-6):

Looking Back: The Raiders have dropped two straight losing to Miami last week 17-33. The inconsistent quarterback situation has played a role in the Raiders dropping to 5-6. Bruce Gradkowski got the nod last week, but he went 17-for-32 for 252 yards and 1 TD and 2 INTs. Jacoby Ford continues to be a show-stopper. He had 4 catches for 108 yards and 1 TD, and a 101-yard kickoff return for a TD. Other than that, the running game was non-existent and the defense couldn’t get stops. Miami controlled the clock 41:38 to 18:22. It appears that the Steelers and Dolphins have burst the silver and black bubble.            

Looking Forward: Of the Raiders five remaining games, four of them are against teams with a winning record. Up this week is the Chargers in San Diego. At this point in the season, that’s like playing the devil in hell. Bruce Gradkowski is done for the year with a shoulder injury so Cable’s QB indecisiveness is not an issue and Jason Campbell will try to guide this team to a winning record to end the year. Jacoby Ford has been on such a tear all over the field that he reminds me of Darren Sproles and Eddie Royal – the AFC West’s other dual threat speedy receivers. The Raiders have a lot of work ahead of them if they hope to capture the AFC West’s crown.      

San Diego Chargers (6-5):

Looking Back: They’ve won their last four, essentially doing CPR to their season. They made Peyton Manning and his Colts look like rookies picking up a 36-14 road win. Philip Rivers went 19-for-23 for 185 yards, his lest productive game of the season, yet the Chargers handedly won. It was Mike Tolbert (26 carries for 103 yards, 1 TD) and the Bolts defense that kept running up the scoreboard. Two of Manning’s four interceptions were run back for touchdowns, and Nate Kaeding put 18 points up on the board with his foot. That performance was playoff quality and not of the “one and done” kind. This team is nearly at its peak and the question is if they can continue playing their best ball through December and January.

Looking Forward: The Chargers put the welcome mat out for the recently struggling Raiders. This Bolts team could potentially win out with four of their next five games against teams with losing records. The Chargers 3rd ranked rush defense and 2nd ranked pass defense will give the Raiders a JaMarcus Russell-like headache. Unless Jason Campbell and Jacoby Ford suddenly become the Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe of last week, the Raiders don’t stand much of a chance. Either do the other teams on the Chargers’ remaining schedule.  

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Tags: Denver Broncos Dwayne Bowe Jacoby Ford Kansas City Chiefs Matt Cassel Oakland Raiders Philip Rivers San Diego Chargers

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