Matt Cassel (7) is hit by San Diego Chargers linebacker Larry English (52) while passing in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. (Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE)
The AFC West is really two different divisions a quarter of the way through the season. There’s the bottom half which includes the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders who really sit in the armpit of the league. Then there’s the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos who will likely be the ones to battle it out for the top spot at the end of the season. Let’s take a look at what happened in week four and what’s to come in week five.
Denver Broncos (2-2):
Looking Back: The Broncos clawed their way back to .500 after a very difficult start to the schedule. They beat the Raiders 37-6 in a game that was blown wide open in the third quarter. Peyton Manning lit up the Raiders’ 26th ranked pass defense for 338 yards on 30-for-38 passing and three touchdowns. Willis McGahee chipped in another 100+ yard day on the ground and the 32nd of his career. The Broncos’ defense didn’t give up any touchdowns or second half points to the Raiders, and they limited Darren McFadden to just 34 yards on 13 carries. Even special teams contributed in a big way with David Bruton deflecting a Shane Lechler punt to give the Broncos’ offense the ball on the Raiders’ 18 yard line. This was the most complete game the Broncos put together, and it also makes them 1-0 in division play which is the most important part.
Looking Forward: Playing the Raiders at that point in the schedule really helped. It helped get the team’s overall confidence up before heading out on the road to play the New England Patriots. The Pats are coming off of a 52-28 win and a 31-point fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills. Like the Broncos, the Patriots are 2-2 and finding their stride now. It may be Broncos vs. Patriots, but the rest of the league looks at this as Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. Manning is 4-7 against the Patriots all-time. You have to think that Bill Belichick spends his off seasons watching tape of Manning somewhere inside a beach house. The Broncos were blown out of the playoff waters when they traveled to Gillette last January. Don’t expect the same thing to happen in this meeting between two bulls.
Kansas City Chiefs (1-3):
Looking Back: The Chiefs are simply laughable at this point. Do they really think that their backups can’t play better than Matt Cassel? In the Chiefs’ 37-20 loss to the Chargers, Cassel went 24-for-42 (57.1%) for 251 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Throw in an additional three turnovers from the running game, and that’s how the Chiefs showed up in week four. Jamaal Charles had 92 yards on the ground and a touchdown, but he contributed two of those fumbles. Dwayne Bowe was the only shining star for the Chiefs as he had seven receptions for 108 yards and a score. Back to the drawing board for Romeo Crennel. Is Brady Quinn the Chiefs version of Tim Tebow?
Looking Forward: It certainly doesn’t get any easier for the Chiefs as they host the Baltimore Ravens (3-1) in week five. Baltimore comes in after beating the Cleveland Browns. Joe Flacco is widely considered a top 5 quarterback now. He’s third in passing yards and he’s got his team playing great ball right now. That spells trouble for the Chiefs’ 31st ranked defense. Ray Rice is a nice compliment to the offense as he’s averaging 79.3 yards per game. Back to the drawing board for Romeo Crennel. Is Brady Quinn the Chiefs version of Tim Tebow?
Oakland Raiders (1-3):
Looking Back: The Raiders were missing some starters from their secondary and that’s how Manning easily dissected them. Carson Palmer went 19-for-34 for 202 yards without a touchdown or an interception. The Raiders went 1-for-12 on third down and simply looked defeated even before the third quarter began. Dennis Allen returned to where he coached last year only to be embarrassed by his new team’s effort. He had to be drooling over the Broncos defense while in town.
Looking Forward: It’s not good to head into the bye with a loss or a 1-3 record, but that’s where the Raiders sit. The road gets harder after the break as they travel to Atlanta to take on the 4-0 Falcons.
San Diego Chargers (3-1):
Looking Back: Philip Rivers went 18-for-23 for 209 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. Jackie Battle had 15 carries for 39 yards and a score as he split time with Ryan Mathews who had 61 yards on 14 carries. The Chargers came up with five first half turnovers and never looked back. The Chargers are 8-2 in their last 10 games against the Chiefs.
Looking Forward: The Chargers take on the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night football in New Orleans at the wrong time. The Saints are 0-4 and absolutely starving for a win. There’s no way they want to be embarrassed on national T.V. The Saints have lost their four games by an average of 5.0 points. They lost to the Green Bay Packers by just one point last week. Throw in the fact that Drew Brees always wants to play well against his former team, and you have a sure to be hard-fought battle for the Chargers.