Brandon Stokley (14) congratulates wide receiver Eric Decker (87) on his second touchdown of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals. (Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE)

AFC West Breakdown: Week 9

The AFC West went 2-2 last week with the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers walking away with wins. The Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders continue to be the armpit of the division. Let’s take a look at the week that was and what’s to come.

Denver Broncos (5-3):

Looking Back: By the start of the fourth quarter, the Cincinnati Bengals took a 20-17 lead in what was expected to be an easy Broncos victory. Then Peyton Manning connected with Joel Dreessen for a 1-yard score and then Eric Decker for a 4-yard touchdown to give the Broncos the 31-23 win. Two third quarter interceptions by play-maker Terence Newman on back-to-back drives stalled the Broncos’ offense. The team’s defense did enough, however, to take Andy Dalton out of the game. Von Miller had three sacks while Elvis Dumervil and Danny Trevathan each added one. Throw in Wesley Woodyard’s 14 tackles, and a Champ Bailey interception, and the team’s defense gave the offense a chance to regroup. Not only that, but Trindon Holliday had a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It was a complete team effort once again, proving that the Broncos are making steps in the right direction to go on a deep playoff run.

Looking Forward: The Broncos take to the road again to play John Fox’s former team, the Carolina Panthers (2-6). The Panthers were on a five game losing streak before they beat the Washington Redskins last week. Cam Newton is the nucleus of the Panthers, but he’s struggled in his second season. He has just 6 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. He’s averaging 43.4 yards per game on the ground which is better than DeAngelo Williams’ 30.9 yards per game and Jonathan Stewart’s 39.2 yards per game. This team shows that putting all the weight on one guy’s shoulders is no way to get the job done.

Kansas City Chiefs (1-7): 

Looking Back: The Chiefs are considered the worst team in football by many, and for good reason. They’ve lost five in a row with their latest loss coming on Thursday night to the Chargers. The 31-13 beat down puts Romeo Crennel’s job in jeopardy, and highlights the clogged workings of the Chiefs’ offense. Matt Cassel went 19-for-29 for 181 yards and 1 interception and 1 fumble. The once dominant Jamaal Charles had just 39 yards on 12 carries. Four turnovers against a Philip Rivers run offense is hard for a team to come back from. Things go from bad to worse in Kansas City where the most exciting part of a Chiefs’ football game is the tailgate food.

Looking Forward: It’s a bad time to have two games on national television on back-to-back weeks. The Chiefs travel to Pittsburgh for a Monday night game against the 5-3 Pittsburgh Steelers. To say the target is already on the back is an understatement. The Chiefs are a blind man trying to navigate New York City rush hour traffic. The Steelers seem to have gotten their act together after winning three in a row. Their defense is always capable of making plays, so expect the turnover-plauged Chiefs to be playing from behind early on.

Oakland Raiders (3-5):

Looking Back: It doesn’t make sense to describe an Oakland Raiders vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  game as a shootout, but it was just that. The Raiders fell to the Bucs 42-32 in front of a highly entertained Bay area crowd. Carson Palmer threw the ball an astounding 61 times. He had 414 yards and 4 touchdowns, but he also had 3 interceptions. The Raiders couldn’t find a way to stop rookie running sensation Doug Martin who had 251 yards on 25 carries and 4 touchdowns. The Raiders were down by 18 points in the fourth quarter, but cut that deficit to three points with 3:51 left in the game. Then Martin marched in for his last touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run. The fans got their money, but didn’t get their win.

Looking Forward: Coming up the Raiders pack their bags to play the 6-2 Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have won their last five of six games, and are certainly going strong despite some devastating injuries to their starters. The offense is balanced on both sides of the ball, and while they’re not the dominant defense they were last year, they have 9 interceptions on the season. The Ravens haven’t been able to get to opposing quarterbacks, and they’re 28th against the rush and 22nd against the pass. Still, the Ravens are a more strongly built team than the Raiders.

San Diego Chargers (4-4):

Looking Back: The pressure is off of Norv Turner for at least another week. It was an easy win for the Chargers as Rivers threw his first touchdown within the first five minutes of the game, and went on to go 18-for-20 for 220 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. It was just the sixth time in NFL history that a quarterback had a 90% or better completion percentage. The effective passing game was balanced out by Ryan Mathews averaging 5.2 per carry and Ronnie Brown 6.3 per carry. After losing three in a row, this was a must win for the Bolts.

Looking Forward: It’s on to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week in Florida. The Chargers are 4th against the rush, but Doug Martin has been performing on a different level. On the other side, the Bucs are 1st in defending the rush, but 32nd against the pass. Rivers could easily take advantage of this weak secondary, and he’ll need to in order to get the win. While this isn’t a big primetime game, it’s an intriguing matchup that could give the Chargers their fourth loss in five games.

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