AFC West Breakdown: Week 3
(Kim Constantinesco writes for Predominantly Orange, which is FSB’s Denver Broncos blog. Representing the rest of the AFC West are Arrowhead Addict, Bolt Beat and Just Blog Baby.)
Things are beginning to play out the way I thought they would with Oakland and Kansas City sitting at the bottom of the rankings while Denver and San Diego duke it out for bragging rights. Gloves are on and the bell has rung. From here on out, the most interesting storyline in the AFC West will be the race for #1. In week 3, the Chokeland Raiders punched themselves in the face while the Chiefs made Kevin Kolb look like a hybrid of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady instead of a backup QB. All the Chargers needed was a little Norv nit-picking to get them to pick up some steam. Meanwhile, the Broncos have no recollection of off season drama as they are the only team in the division who has yet to experience a loss.
Denver Broncos (3-0):
Looking Back: It was all defense once again as the Broncos intercepted, sacked, and forced a fumble out of the hands of the raunchy Raiders. Don’t speak of the Orange Crush just yet, but we haven’t seen a defense this good in a long time. We never know who is going to step up defensively because it’s been a different player each week. One thing we do know is Elvis Dumervil is getting to the quarterback. Dr. Doom has 6 sacks in the last 2 games. How’s outside linebacker treating ya? Kyle Orton had another turnover free performance and a 92.1 passer rating. Despite what you may think, he doesn’t necessarily always need to be the go-to guy. As long as our running game picks up what the passing game lacks, the Broncos will survive. Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter provide a deadly combo in the backfield as they combined for 198 yards and 1 TD. Broncos fans can sleep easy now knowing that Al Davis won’t be.
Looking Forward: Bring on the Big D. A true test comes as the Broncos big D tries to stop the Cowboys at Invesco next week. The Cowboys are a beatable team with obvious weak spots on defense. Now is the time for Orton to let it fly as the Cowboys are 32nd in pass defense. Their rush defense is slightly better at 23rd. Defensively for the Broncos, this is the best offense they’ve seen. Their running game is 1st while their passing game is 14th. Marion Barber and Felix Jones are so deadly in the backfield, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this defense can really do. With a Broncos win in week 4, I think they’ll actually start receiving the positive national attention that they deserve.
Looking Back: Rocky Balboa would be disappointed in the underdogs. If there was a time for the Chiefs to beat the Eagles (2-1), week 3 was it. Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook sat out with injuries, but the Eagles still managed to put 34 points on the board. Kevin Kolb threw for 327 yards and 2 TDs while Matt Cassel threw for just 90 yards, but got the team into the endzone twice. The Chiefs missed Dwayne Bowe downfield, and never got their ground game going. Larry Johnson struggled with 19 carries for 38 yards and a fumble. The Chiefs conversion on 3rd downs (0-11) looks like their season win total. The defense didn’t put any pressure on Kolb and their only highlight was a recovered fumble. 420 yards of total offense from the Eagles tells me that another “rebuilding” season is in effect for the Chiefs.
Looking Forward: The Chiefs first win still looks a few weeks off at least. Another game with an NFC East team spells rough times ahead. The Giants (3-0) step into Arrowhead to try to remain undefeated. Eli and Co. are on a roll despite not having any big name receivers. Their defense shut out the Bucs last week and stands 4th overall on defense with a #1 ranking in pass defense. Here’s an introduction to a different New York team that Matt Cassel will never forget. If Dwayne Bowe is not ready to go, Cassel could have a JaMarcus Russell-like performance where his QB rating doesn’t reach the 50.0 mark. Eli is capable of exploiting the Chiefs’ weak pass defense and now that the Giants rushing attack flipped the “on” switch, they’ve got a more balanced offense. Are there any calls for Herm yet?
Looking Back: I thought California was always supposed to be sunny. Forecasters are talking about a large gray cloud that hangs over the Oakland Raiders’ facility. There’s a sinking air in the atmosphere producing a chance of showers in Loserville. That sinking air is their QB situation. JaMarcus Russell has QB ratings of 47.6, 46.0, and 22.6 in his first 3 games this season. The endzone draught continues to taunt the Raiders and they rank 32nd in pass offense. Against Denver, the Raiders had 137 yards of total offense with 95 of those yards coming on the ground. I would be chanting the name of Bruce Gradkowski or Charlie Frye right about now. Their front four that was supposed to be strong allowed the Broncos 215 yards on the ground. Richard Seymour had better get use to losing sometime soon or request a trade back to New England.
Looking Forward: There isn’t too much to look forward to as the Raiders head into Houston before they hit the tough part of their schedule. The Texans have the same record as the Raiders, but for some reason, I sense more hope coming from south Texas than from Cali. Matt Schaub can be deadly in the air as can Steve Slaton on the ground. Andre Johnson is a threat downfield, but other than that, there isn’t too much to talk about. If Russell is ever going to find his groove, he has the chance to do it against the Texans since they rank 31st in total defense. Darren McFadden will look to get his game going against their 32nd rank rush defense. Getting back to .500 will be key for the Raiders to stay in the AFC West race.
Looking Back: The Chargers are hot on the heels of the Broncos and picking up some momentum with a win in week 3 against the Dolphins. Philip Rivers (18-33, 303 yds., 1 rushing TD) had a big game and helped make up for LaDanian Tomlinson’s absence. Vincent Jackson was his main target with 5 receptions for 120 yards. Darren Sproles couldn’t get it going on the ground as he averaged just 2.3 yards per carry. San Diego’s defense stood their ground, and had 1 INT. I’m not sure if Norv Turner is quite happy with his team’s performance, but there is such a thing as peaking too early. Last year, this team hit full stride at the end of the regular season, and with the help of the Broncos, got themselves into the playoffs and past the first round.
Looking Forward: It’s on to Pittsburgh (1-2) where the Chargers will face the returning Super Bowl champions. They are also going up against a team that took a tough loss in week 3 to the Bengals. Don’t let the Steelers’ record fool you. This is going to be a very tough game for the Chargers. The Steelers rank 5th in passing, and 6th in rush defense. LT would be a nice addition should he heal in enough time to suit up. Lucky for the Chargers, Troy Polamalu is out with a knee injury. I would’ve loved to seen him take it to Rivers. After Pittsburgh, the team has their bye week and then they introduce themselves to the other three AFC West teams. A win next week would be huge.