Three of the four AFC West teams had a bye, but let’s see what happened during their off week and what’s to come.
Denver Broncos (1-4):
Looking Back: The Broncos’ off week was rather eventful. Tim Tebow was named the team’s starting quarterback and last year’s league leading receiver, Brandon lloyd, was traded to the St. Louis Rams. The bye gave Champ Bailey a chance to rest his ailing hamstring and the only player that didn’t return to practice on Monday was Brian Dawkins (head/neck).
Looking Forward: The Broncos travel to Miami for what will essentially feel like a home game. There will be enough Tim Tebow fanatics out there with Sunday being the University of Florida’s football alumni appreciation day. The Dolphins are 0-5 and have just five days to prepare for the Broncos after playing a Monday Night game against the Jets. The Broncos on the other hand have had 2 weeks to prepare for the Dolphins. This is a very winnable game that can kick the Broncos second half of the season onto the right track.
Kansas City Chiefs (2-3):
Looking Back: After losing their first three games, the Chiefs headed into the bye week going in the right direction. They won two in a row, albeit to the Vikings and Colts. Over the bye week, the Chiefs had to essentially steer their large red ship away from an iceberg. They are ranked 32nd on defense, allowing 30.0 points per game, and their offense is averaging just 15.4 points per game. There was talk that if the Chiefs didn’t beat the Colts, Scott Pioli would fire head coach Todd Haley.
Looking Forward: The Chiefs roll into Oakland to take on a dangerous Raiders team. Jason Campbell is out, but that doesn’t mean that Darren McFadden won’t run all over the Chiefs’ 21st ranked run defense. The Chiefs are -5 in the turnover differential while the Raiders are +2. If Matt Cassel doesn’t do more than just keep the Chiefs afloat, all hope is lost for this season. The team can’t rely on Jamaal Charles so Cassel has got to be the go-to man instead of the man that chokes in the clutch.
Oakland Raiders (4-2):
Looking Back: The Raiders had an emotional 24-17 home win against the Cleveland Browns in week 6. It was the team’s first home game since they lost owner Al Davis. It was also their first time winning consecutive games this season. Jason Campbell is out indefinitely with a broken collar bone, but Kyle Boller took over and went 8-of-14 for 100 yards. Darren McFadden lead the way in rushing with 20 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown. However, it was the Raiders special teams that secured the victory. Jacoby Ford had a 101-yard kick return and Shane Lechler threw a touchdown pass to Kevin Boss on a fake field goal. Al Davis was smiling from up above as his team just won again, baby.
Looking Forward: The Raiders could make it three and a row before their bye week if they take out the Chiefs. The Raiders will need to look past the fact that they are without their starting QB and lean on McFadden more heavily. When the Chiefs turn the ball over, it’s difficult for them to recover. If the Raiders mediocre defense can force turnovers and control the clock with the run, then this one should be all Oakland.
San Diego Chargers (4-1):
Looking Back: The bye week for the Chargers was focused on improving their blitz package. Normally the Chargers are in the top tier of the league in terms of sacks. This year they are ranked 28th in quarterback take downs. Most teams have been running the ball against the Chargers 17th ranked run defense, so the opportunity to pressure the QB isn’t there as much. The Chargers also worked on taking care of the ball. They are -5 in turnover differential with Philip Rivers having an unusually high number of interceptions (7 INTs in 5 games). The Chargers have won their last three games, so let’s see if the bye week has killed any momentum.
Looking Forward: The Chargers will hop on a long flight to take on the 3-3 New York Jets. The Jets are coming off of a Monday Night win against the Dolphins, and have little time to prepare for the Chargers. The Chargers, however, have had two week to prepare for Rex Ryan and his feisty Jets team. Ryan Mathews will need to get the Chargers’ ground game going against the Jets’ 28th ranked rush defense. If there were ever a time for Rivers to clean up his passing game, this would be it. Darrelle Revis sits in the Jets secondary waiting for an errant pass like a Lion waits in the bush for an injured deer. Even though the Jets are 3-3, they are a more dangerous team than their record indicates.