It appeared that no one really wanted to win the AFC West. The two teams in a position to make post season play lost while the teams at the bottom of the division finally showed some life. Let’s take a look at what happened and what’s to come.
Denver Broncos (8-8):
Looking Back: The Broncos snuck into the playoffs after losing their last three games. (Stay classy, San Diego!) Their most recent loss came at the hands of the Chiefs in Kyle Orton’s return to Denver. It was a defensive battle as the Chiefs escaped from Denver with a 7-3 victory. The Broncos ground game shined brightly with Willis McGahee rushing for 145 yards on 28 carries, but the team’s air game looked like it took off without a wing. Tim Tebow went 6-for-22 for 60 yards, and had 2 turnovers. The Broncos had a final chance at the end to pull off yet another Mile High Miracle, but the drive ended with the game clock running out and Tebow throwing an interception on fourth down.
Looking Forward: The Broncos host the 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. MST. Ironically, the last playoff game that the Broncos played in, they lost to the Steelers in the AFC Championship in 2005. The Steelers have one of the top ranked defenses in the league, and their pass defense is especially strong. The Broncos are going to have to score on defense and/or special teams to pull this one off.
Kansas City Chiefs (7-9):
Looking Back: For a team hampered by injuries to star players, they ended things on a positive note. Kyle Orton came back to Denver and went a modest 15-for-29 passing for 180 yards. While he didn’t have any touchdowns, he didn’t turn the ball over either. The Chiefs only points of the game came from a Dexter McCluster 21-yard TD run. He finished the day with 12 carries for 61 yards. The Chiefs played a great defensive game, bumping Denver’s receivers off their routes and making Tebow perceive extremely small windows to throw in to.
Looking Forward: The Chiefs definitely look forward to next season when Matt Cassel, Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles, and Tony Moeaki come back from season ending injuries. Had these guys not gone down, they could have easily won the division.
Oakland Raiders (8-8):
Looking Back: The Raiders finished at .500 just like the Broncos, but Denver owned the tiebreaker and San Diego played the role of heartbreaker. The Raiders fell to the Bolts 38-26. Carson Palmer went 28-for-43 for 417 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT, but the Raiders couldn’t stop the Bolts offensively. Philip Rivers passed for 3 TDs and Mike Tolbert ran for another. Michael Bush had 66 yards on 19 carries.
Looking Forward: The team will hire a general manager to fill the void from when Al Davis passed away in October. The team will likely make a change at defensive coordinator and switch up their scheme. Don’t expect the Raiders to create big waves in this year’s draft. They traded away their first round pick to acquire Carson Palmer. Right now they just have picks in the fifth and sixth rounds.
San Diego Chargers (8-8):
Looking Back: San Diego once again ended their season on a strong note, winning four of their last five, but it wasn’t enough to push them into the playoffs this year. In their final game, the offense stepped up and so did special teams. Richard Goodman returned a kickoff 105 yards for a TD. The Bolts looked like a different team, putting big hits on the Raiders and holding strong even after a goal-line interception.
Looking Forward: The best thing that could happen to the other three teams in the AFC West is if the Chargers bring Norv Turner back for another season. Turner has two years left on his contract and wants to return, and Philip Rivers doesn’t want any other coach. The team may get rid of GM A.J. Smith in the off season.