AFC West Breakdown: Week 10


The Broncos and the Chargers haven’t booked their vacations yet. There’s an attempted comeback in the works in Denver and in San Diego. With all teams in the division being mediocre by league standards, the playoff race will certainly heat up during the last two months of the season. Let’s see who turns those lemons into lemonade (or lemoncello depending on your preference). Before jumping too far ahead, let’s look back at the week that was and look forward to week 11.   

Denver Broncos (3-6):

Looking Back: Memo to owner Pat Bowlen: If you dress them in orange, they come to play. They nearly knocked off the Jets in their Predominantly Orange uniforms, and they did knock the mountain air out of the Chiefs on Sunday. A 20-point victory was such a contrast to their last 45-point home loss to the Raiders that this Jekyll and Hyde team has everyone wondering which team will show up to play on Sundays. It was 35-0 before one could eat a fistful of stadium peanuts. The big plays came from Denver’s run defense and offensive line. Both sides of the ball were the backbone to individual success. The O-line protected Kyle Orton so well that he went untouched in a 22-for-34, 296 yards, and 4 TD performance. Brandon Lloyd once again led the team in receiving with 6 catches for 90 yards and 2 TDs. Knowshon Moreno was aided by the re-established offensive line when he got his first career 100-yard+ rushing performance. He had 22 carries for 106 yards. The endzone started to look like a disco party with four different Broncos dancing after a touchdown score. Not to be outdone, Denver’s defense held the Chiefs’ No. 1 ranked rushing attack to 51 yards. It was an all-around team effort that finally started at the opening kickoff.            

Looking Forward: The Broncos travel to San Diego for their only Monday Night Football appearance of the year. With the Chargers having one extra week to prepare for the Broncos, this is going to be a tough matchup. In addition to their great offense, the Chargers also have a defense this year. Their pass defense is ranked 3rd in the league while their rush defense is ranked 4th. There’s no doubt that the Chargers will get their points. As long as Philip Rivers is under center, that’s written in stone. They’re averaging 26.6 points per game while Denver’s defense is allowing 28.0 points per game. A lot of pressure will be on the Broncos offense to keep pace, and as we all know, that has to start in the first quarter. As Ovid once said, “A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace”.    

Kansas City Chiefs (5-4):

Looking Back: They’re creeping back to the .500 mark with two consecutive losses to AFC West rivals. The game started out as the Mile High Massacre, but then turned into a more respectable 20-point loss after Matt Cassel had a career day in the air. Jamaal Charles (14 carries for 41 yards) and Thomas Jones (4 carries for 3 yards) weren’t able to penetrate Denver’s 3-4, so the game was put in the hands of Cassel. He went 33-for-53 for 469 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 fumble. His main man was Dwayne Bowe who had 13 catches for 186 yards, 2 TDs. The muffed game plan and handshake reflects poorly on Todd Haley. He wasn’t able to adjust his team quickly enough at the outset to enable a late-game comeback. It was already too late well before halftime. After a strong 5-2 start, the Chiefs are giving up the throne in quick fashion. Even if they right the ship, those two division losses could come back to bite them in their red rear end.     

Looking Forward: The Chiefs will host the Arizona Cardinals in an attempt to avoid the strike out. This appears to be an easy win as they put the welcome mat out for a 3-6 team that has lost their last four games. The Cardinals are struggling on offense and on defense. If there’s a bread and butter for Arizona, I would have to say it would be their 75-degree weather this time of year. Offensively, they’re ranked 29th in rushing and 30th in passing. Defensively, they’re ranked 28th in rushing and 27th in passing. This should be the kind of game that can help the Chiefs get back on track.

Oakland Raiders (5-4):

Looking Back: They’ve got something going down by the Bay as the Raiders won three straight going into their bye week. Because of the Chiefs’ loss to Denver, and the Raiders beating the Chiefs in week 9, the Raiders are now in first place in the AFC West. We haven’t seen a sentence like that since Al Davis had hair, right?           

Looking Forward: In the frame of mind “go with what got you there,” the Raiders have named Jason Campbell their starting QB on Sunday when they play the Steelers (6-3). Campbell helped guide the Raiders to those three consecutive wins when Bruce Gradkowski got hurt. Now that Gradkowski is capable of playing again, Tom Cable has declared Campbell the starter because he’s been playing Mmmmm mmmm good. The Raiders will be blinded by those “terrible towels” in Pittsburgh since the Steelers have been playing so well this season. They have the No. 1 ranked rushing defense in the league, so that could take the ball out of Darren McFadden’s hands and force Campbell to put up more than average numbers.      

San Diego Chargers (4-5):

Looking Back: The Chargers seem to be on their typical November run after winning their last two against the Titans and the Texans. Moving away from the AFC South and away from their bye week has them well rested and full of confidence for a 4-5 team. With injuries on the mend, they’ve got a real shot at taking the division by Pacific storm once again.

Looking Forward: The Chargers love when the Broncos come to town. They have fond memories of Jay Cutler throwing a fit on the sideline and Philip Rivers torching the defense. Denver is coming off of a high after crushing the Chiefs at Invesco, so this would potentially be the right breeding ground for a Chargers win. Their passing offense is ranked No. 1 while their rushing game creeps up the charts week after week. Defensively, they come up big by putting pressure on the QB. They are ranked 4th in sacks this year with 27 total. The Chargers’ worst enemy is their own special teams’ unit. Their coverage team has given up 4 TDs and they’ve allowed five punts to be blocked. Mentally, the Chargers are capable of digging themselves a hole only to wait and see if Rivers can pull them out as the time winds down.

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