The State of the AFC West Teams

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At present, the Kansas City Chiefs are 1-4, and in a tie break scenario would be the worst team in the AFC West.  And things are getting worse.

Rumors are swirling that KC is in talks with several teams to trade TE Gonzales.  This would garner a pick that may help the Chiefs long term, but can't help them this year.  To make matters worse, RB Larry Johnson is now facing assault charges, which would be the third assault charge against him.  Regardless of how the case turns out, the NFL must be wondering what possess a young milionaire to hang out in bars and clubs at all hours of the evening to begin with.  Putting one's self in such an environment just invites trouble.

As if that isn't enough, the undefeated Titans come to KC this week. 

The Chiefs have scored 65 points this year, making them the second to worst offense in the NFL (the Rams have only 62 points).  They have been outscored by 66 points so far this year (the third worst in the NFL).

Having traded a star DE during the reloading season, and with talks pending on Gonzales, this is a front office that has given up on this year and is looking to the future.  Their sole win (against Denver) shouldn't affect the Broncos too much, as Denver is far from being threatened by KC for a playoff shot.

KC is a team doing the right things to build towards a future, but the interim period will be a tough pill for fans to swallow.

More on the AFC West below the fold...

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Coming in as the third worst team in the AFC West, the Oakland Raiders seem primed to stay near the bottom of the League for years to come.  Owner Al Davis is even wearing out his fan base, many of whom are tiring of his eccentricities.  For several years Oakland fans have been relegated to bragging about distant history, and the problem starts at the top.  More and more fans at SABP have come forward expressing outrage at Davis.

Head Coach Lane Kiffen was not allowed to choose the players he needed, nor to reject the ones he thought wouldn't work in his program.  Instead, Al Davis spends money hand over fist for whatever looks the flashiest, regardless of the fit.  In the same fits of delusional paranoia that defines his litigious nature (suing at the drop of a hat), Al also seemed to spread rumors about his young coach to try and force him to leave.  As he did with Mike Shanahan, Al failed to live up to his financial obligations to pay the contract.  Now Al is stuck with his offensive line coach trying to run the team.  Does anybody expect any reasonably intelligent coach to accept an offer in Oakland at this point?

While SD fans worry about their team moving, there is also talk about Davis moving the franchise too.  Is there any hope for the franchise's future?  Not likely.  Al's wife is said to be the heir to the Raiders.

The Raiders host the Jets this week, and open as 3 pt. underdogs.

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The San Diego Chargers started off rough this season, but have climbed to within a game of Denver.  Denver owns the tie break, but only if Denver can beat SD again in December.  Their conference record is better than Denver's.

While LT and Gates seem to be wearing down this year, SD leads the entire League in points (178), has the third most TDs, and is second in the AFC in net points.

Make no mistake.  SD is the single greatest threat to Denver reaching the post season this year, either as a contender or as a wild card.  If Denver fans aren't watching a Denver game, they need to watch the Chargers.  It was at about this time last year that Denver started to plunge after winning several close games, and SD went from a terrible start to a deep playoff run.  Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself.

This week, SD goes to BUF for a very tough road game.

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The Broncos are the most interesting team in the division.  They have the best record in the AFC West, are ranked 9th in the League (NFL tie break rules) and 4th in the AFC.  They also have scored the second most points in the AFC.  But their net points for the season are ony 12, thanks to turnovers and questionable play on defense.

The team is very young, but performing well.  Despite a rookie at LT, and a player in his first year as a starter at RT, the Broncos have given up only one sack for the year (plus a statistical sack).  The team shows improvements at most positions, with Pittman racking up the team's first 100 yard rushing game by an individual this year, the defense making more crucial stops, and coverage teams allowing fewer big plays.  The kicker and punter have been extraordinary (with Prater leading the League with perfect kicks at 50+ yards).

Fans are well pleased with rookie WR Royal, as well as (young) veteran Marshall, who is on pace to be a household name in the near future.

But the playcalling has been confusing.  Denver hasn't been establishing the run,  allowing opposing defenses to catch their breath.  This prevents strong runs late in the game when Denver should be protecting leads by pounding the ball.  (Runners don't get better, defenses just wear down).  Denver is also playing a stretch offense, which doesn't work when your young QB still plays favorites passing the ball (and doesn't yet look off his throws).  Cutler will be a pro bowler sooner than later, but he plays best when playing the scheme employed against TB's vaunted Tampa-2.  Take what the defense gives you, and don't always go for the big play.

The pass rush has been poor for the defense, with an awful lot of three man rushes.  Combining the lack of a rush with a strong safety in the box, and Denver's pro bowl caliber corners look suddenly all too human.

The team is better than last year's team.  It is also improving, as a young team should.  But growing pains are to be expected this year.

The question for Denver is, can the youth movement learn quickly enough to put together a strong second half of the season?  After what is expected to be a tricky game in NE, Denver gets a much needed bye.

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