Two games in the AFC West came down to three points, while another simply shocked the NFL world. The AFC West was action packed, so let’s take a look at the week that was and let’s see what’s to come.
Denver Broncos (1-2):
Looking Back: There was no calamity by the Cumberland this year. The Tennessee Titans came back to beat the Broncos 17-14. The Broncos had a four point lead until there was 4:24 left in the game. The Broncos’ decision to go for the 11-point lead on fourth-and-goal backfired when they failed to cross the goal line and the Titans charged 95 yards for the game winning score. The defense held the Titans to 38 rushing yards and made Chris Johnson look like a rag doll. It was Matt Hasselbeck who brought his ‘A’ game despite losing Kenny Britt to a season-ending knee injury in the first half. The team from a Mile High flew back home with a day-late, yard-short mentality.
Looking Forward: Despite the loss, the Broncos have to be traveling to Green Bay with a lot of confidence. Their play has improved from week to week, and they put up a helluva fight against a Tennessee team that is top-notch defensively. The defending Super Bowl champion Packers are as strong as last year, sitting 3-0 after beating the Saints, the Panthers, and the Bears. The Packers are ranked 5th in points, and their rush defense is ranked No. 1. If the Broncos are going to score, it’s going to have to be in the hands of Kyle Orton as he picks apart the Packers 31st ranked pass defense. A win here would inject life back into the Broncos organization and set the sail on what could be a comeback season.
Kansas City Chiefs (0-3):
Looking Back: The Chiefs nearly had what looked to be an impossible win. The Chiefs were marching down the field, almost in field goal range, down 20-17 to the Chargers. However, Matt Cassel wound up and threw one right into the waiting hands of Eric Weddle with 55 seconds remaining. Just like that the injury-plauged Chiefs are aboard a sinking ship without any life preservers. Dexter McCluster showed a Jamaal Charles-like average with 5.0 yards per carry, but he only touched the ball 9 times. Thomas Jones had 31 yards on 14 carries. Matt Cassel went 17-for-24 for 176 yards and 2 TDs, but his interception deflated the balloon and any chance of the Chiefs winning the game.
Looking Forward: The Minnesota Vikings and the Chiefs are in the same 0-3 boat. It may appear to be a good thing for the Chiefs to be playing a winless team, but just like them, the Vikings are more hungry for a win than Cookie Monster is after some herb. Jared Allen always gets his defense up for this one and will put a lot of pressure on Cassel. Without Charles, the Chiefs will have their work cut out for them against a very strong rush defense. Getting the ground game going is key since Cassel folds when he’s under too much pressure.
Oakland Raiders (2-1):
Looking Back: Tied for first place in the division, the Raiders can credit their strong start to an even stronger rushing attack. Darren McFadden makes fantasy players giddy. He leads the league in rushing and he carried the Raiders to a sweet victory over the visiting New York Jets when he racked up 171 yards and 2 touchdowns in 19 carries. It didn’t matter that the Jets had possession for nearly 7 more minutes than the Raiders. The Raiders got to Mark Sanchez four times and held the Jets to 7 second half points. The Raiders kept their afterburners on by scoring 17 second half points. The big names of the game (Burress, Revis, Ryan) didn’t even make the Broadway marquee because a New York State of Mind became a McFadden State of Mind on Sunday.
Looking Forward: The AFC east continues on the black-bricked road to Oakland. The New England Patriots are the guests this time, and they showed that they are human after a heart-breaking loss to the Buffalo Bills in week 3. (FYI – the Bills snapped a 15-game losing streak to the Pats). Tom Brady threw four interceptions and the Pats defense showed their vulnerability by giving up 24 points in the second half. New England’s bread and butter is clearly their offense, so expect a steady dose of Darren McFadden in the beginning. Then the Raiders will test the Pats’ No. 32 ranked pass defense after a few big long runs.
San Diego Chargers (2-1):
Looking Back: The Chargers almost gave it away to the Chiefs in the end. They thought that they could end the game on 4th-and-1, but Philip Rivers was stopped and the Chiefs got one more chance to either tie the game or win it. Thanks to $40 million dollar man Eric Weddle, the Bolts could leave the locker room triumphant. Philip Rivers made some key errors and had a hard time in general going 24-for-38 passing for 266 yards and 2 interceptions. Ryan Mathews put the big points on the board with 98 yards on 21 carries and 2 TDs. The Chargers are off to a strong start, trying to show that they can come out of the gates fast rather than play catch up in November and December.
Looking Forward: The Chargers host a struggling Miami Dolphins team that has yet to get a win this season. Head coach Tony Sparano is on the hot seat. In fact, I heard that he’s sitting right next to LeBron, Wade, and Bosh in Miami. This should be an easy win for the Chargers, but the Dolphins are itching for a win. Miami has a terrible pass defense, so Rivers should be able to connect with his top-notch receivers plenty of times. The Dolphins’ strength is in their rushing game, so that will be the main focus in practice this week for the Chargers. Crowding the box to stop Daniel Thomas who is averaging 101.0 yards per game will be the game plan.