The Broncos came out of their bye week with a vengeance, serving up a delicious 49-29 beat down to the Chiefs.
It was a great day. Sunday was quite eventful for the AFC West, despite the Raiders and Chargers sitting at home on the couch during their bye week. The only team in the division that was able to win was the Denver Broncos but on a less enticing note, the Raiders were able to take the division lead for the first time since 2002, edging out the Chiefs with the head-to-head tiebreaker. They didn't even play and they still take the division lead. Not a bad deal, if you're a Raiders fan.
Here are your current AFC West Standings:
The Oakland Raiders
The Raiders had a bye.
The Oakland Raiders will play the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
This should be a tough game for the AFC West division leader. The Steelers are strong across the board, possessing the number 1 ranked rushing defense. The Oakland Raiders have made their money in the running game, though, being second in the league in rushing yardage. Something's gotta give...
The game will likely be determined on the ground. If the Raiders can find a way to run the ball against the Steelers, they could come out of Pittsburgh with a big win and be that much closer to a division title. If they can't... well... uh.... they'll probably come away with bruised egos and a broken heart.
May Troy Polamalu rise up and use the power of Head and Shoulders shampoo to defeat the Raiders. Mr. Polamalu, if you're reading this, imagine that the Raiders are dandruff. You hate dandruff.
Okay, I'm done with that part. Let's move on, shall we?
My Take on the Raiders
The Raiders are, like I said before, the division leader for the first time since 2002. It is very hard to say that, though, because my inclination as a decent and respectable human being is to despise the Raiders. Although, I try to be as respectful as I can, so I'll give the Raiders credit. They are 3-0 in the division. The worst they can do is drop the rest of their division games and split each series. That's the worst case scenario for the Raiders.
Best case scenario, for them, is to keep doing what they are doing. Just before the bye week, they had won 3 straight games. Pittsburgh is going to be very tough, but if the Raiders can maintain the momentum that they had leading up to the bye, this could be a very dangerous team heading down the stretch.
The Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Denver Broncos, 49-29.
It was a foregone conclusion at the end of the first quarter. If you tuned in a bit late, I am willing to fill you in on what you missed with just four words.
The Broncos were unstoppable.
In the first four possessions, the Broncos scored 4 touchdowns. Their fifth possession ended in a missed field goal at the end of the half.... of course, if you wanted to count the Jason Hunter fumble recovery for a touchdown as a possession, then you should mark the fumble recovery as the fifth possession and the missed field goal as the sixth. Let's not make things more complicated than we have to, though.
The Broncos were forced to punt for the first time with 3:44 left in the third quarter. So, it took almost 3/4 of the game before the Broncos were stopped by the Kansas City defense. If you're a chiefs fan, that can't make you feel very good, especially when your offense starts the game with 2 punts and a missed field goal. By the time the Chiefs scored their first point, they were down 35-0. You can't get in that deep of a hole and expect to win the game.
Now that I've berated the Chiefs, it's time to point out a few things that they did well. Don't worry, the list isn't very long.
First of all, I have to tip my hat to Matt Cassel. I've been pretty rough on the guy for quite a while but, frankly, he deserved it. On Sunday, he played very well after the first quarter. Against the Broncos prevent defense, he was able to amass 468 yards and 4 TDs. It's worth repeating that he was throwing against a prevent defense on most snaps but I still have to tip my hat. Throwing almost 500 yards and 4 TDs in 3 quarters is very impressive. More impressive is Kyle Orton throwing 3 TDs in 1 quarter... but I digress...
Dwayne Bowe also gets an honorable mention. He snagged 13 receptions for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns. Not bad, considering he was matched up on Champ Bailey for much of the day. He could have been knocking on Brandon Marshall's doorstep (with 20 receptions) if he would have been able to grab more than 1 reception in the first quarter when the game mattered... but again, I digress...
The Chiefs will take on the Arizona Cardinals (3-6) at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
After starting the season 3-2, the Cardinals have lost 4 straight, including an overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings just two weeks ago. I'd love to sugarcoat it, but I don't see a way to. The Cardinals aren't very good. They are ranked 30th in passing yards, 29th in rushing yards, 27th in passing defense, and 28th in rushing defense. The two stats that matter (points scored and points allowed) aren't very encouraging, either. They rank 23rd and 32nd, respectively.
The Cardinals can only win with big plays on special teams and by forcing turnovers, something that they have shown the ability to do on a consistent basis. They are the only team in the NFL with 2 kickoff return touchdowns. The Cardinals are also tied for 9th in interceptions with 10 and tied for 13th in fumble recoveries with 5.
The Cardinals will need all the help they can get to earn a victory on the road this week.
My Take on the Chiefs
I'm a broken record.... the Chiefs are who we thought they were. After starting the season with an incredibly emotional victory over the Chargers and a surprising 5-2 start, they find themselves second in the division with a 1-2 divisional record. This divisional record includes a 49-29 beat down this week on the road against the Broncos.
This can't be a comfortable position for the Chiefs to be in. They had a solid lead in the division standings and have let it slip through their fingers in just two short weeks. Now, they are facing a true fight for the division title with the Raiders, Chargers and Broncos all vying for the top spot.
It's a long way to January and nothing has been decided, yet.
With that said, I believe that the Chiefs are not a playoff team.
I'll say it again... the Chiefs are not a playoff team. They are far too inconsistent on offense to be considered anything but mediocre, at best. Despite being ranked 1st in rushing yards, they are ranked 26th in third down conversions. I've said it since the first ever ROTW. The Chiefs struggle on third downs and it will hurt them. That's the money down. You can't be average on third downs and expect to win. Furthermore, you can't be below average on third downs and expect to win close ball games. If they do happen to make the playoffs, don't expect to see them for very long in January.
The San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers had a bye.
The San Diego Chargers will play the Denver Broncos (3-6) at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on Monday Night football.
I am exhausted by all of those prepositions...
The Broncos are fresh off a divisional win against the Chiefs. The Chargers are fresh off of week-long nap. Will the Broncos continue to roll or will the Chargers finally get that late-season breath of fresh air and dominate every opponent from here until the first week in January?
Time will tell. Either way, this is a huge game for both teams. It will be the first meeting of the Chargers and Broncos in 2010 and both teams are essentially fighting for their playoff lives. If either team wants to steal away the division title, they need to win this game.
I'm just glad I don't have to pick the winner of this game for the MHR Staff Pick'em contest. I hate picking Chargers games because they're so unpredictable. They should win every game. They have the talent to do so... but they just don't. They don't. I don't know why, but they don't.
Okay, I lied. I do know why they don't win every game. They lack discipline. They turn the ball over. They are terrible on special teams. If the Broncos can capitalize on all of those three things and play like they did against the Chiefs, they will win on Monday Night Football. If they don't, the Chargers are going to ride the arm of Philip Rivers all the way to victory.
My Take on the Chargers
I have always been the kind of guy that needs things proven to me. You developed a new process that can solve world hunger by burning seven blades of grass and pouring the ashes on a magic tree? You better show me, face to face. You claim that 2+2 = 4? I better see the steps that show me how you got there.
The Chargers are kind of like that. Every year they pour it on at the end of the season and not a team in the NFL can beat them. However, this year (like every other year), I want to see it play out before I become a believer. I don't think that they are the Chargers of old but it's hard to discount them, at this juncture, too. For now, I'll just claim to be a "skeptical believer" in the Chargers.
There was your weekly look at the rest of the AFC West... The Broncos are only 7 wins away from a 10-6 record.