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The Rest of the West - Week 10

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I think I am going to call this week "I apologize, here is what I'll do about it" week. Yes, there was no Rest of the West last week. I'm sorry about that, but sometimes real life calls and forces writers like me to step away from the computer and do something. That's what I did, but I'm really sorry that I was unable to write a post last week. It's as much a stress reliever for me as it is a weekly project. But that was last week.

This week, I'm bringing you a week 10 edition of The Rest of the West.

During the Broncos' bye week, I was the recipient of a "colorful" email from an enraged Oakland fan. Due to the "color" included in the message and the flack I would get for posting curse words in one of my articles, I'll paraphrase for you.

Hey there buddy,

Why aren't the dandy gentlemen in black and silver ever at the top of the Rest of the West articles? Why must these hardworking fellows always reside respectfully] at the end of your articles? If you would address this issue during the next running of your article, I'd offer you a multitude of gracious thanks.

Thanks bunches, 

Raiders fan

To be honest, I hadn't really thought about the Raiders very much before this week. They're always just the afterthought of the AFC West. You've got the Chiefs, who have been the first team in these articles, every week. The reason being is because of the way they dominated San Diego in week 1 and how they have never vanquished the top spot in the division. The Chargers are the easy choice for second on the list because they're the perennial playoff representative of the AFC West. The Raiders are different. Six or seven years ago, they were a huge division rival and always a team to contend with. The past few years, however, they have just been... well... the Raiders.

Due to the fact that the Raiders are second in the division and are fresh off an overtime win over the Chiefs, I'll reach down into my bucket of good will and do this Raiders fan a favor. I will move them ahead of the Chargers. Fair is fair. 

Despite the grief I have given both teams, the Chiefs and Raiders are running away with the division. I'll be the bigger man, here, and admit that I was wrong about these two teams.

There... are you happy now?

Here are your AFC West standings:

AFC West Standings

Kansas City 5 3 0 183 145
Oakland 5 4 0 235 188
San Diego 4 5 0 239 197
Denver 2 6 0 154 223

(updated 11.8.2010 at 6:12 PM EDT)



The Kansas City Chiefs


Last Week

The Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Oakland Raiders, 13-10 (OT).

The Chiefs have played back to back overtime games. They beat the lowly Buffalo Bills in week 8 by icing the kicker at the very last second. However, when Haley tried the same thing on Sebastian Janikowski, it didn't work out. The Raiders kicked the game winning field goal in overtime to give the Chiefs their 3rd loss of the season.

I'll be honest. I was quite surprised at how the Chiefs couldn't put the Raiders away early. The Raiders were down 10-0 and were being completely dominated, but the Chiefs let them hang around and the Raiders took advantage of it in overtime.


Fumbles, Coaches Challenges and Jay Cutler...

That said, the Chiefs had no business being up 20-17 in the fourth quarter. When the Chiefs punted the ball to Nick Miller, he was hit and lost the football, giving the Chiefs possession in Raiders' territory. The Chiefs scored the co-ahead touchdown to put the score to 20-17. However, the play wasn't just that simple.

Nick Miller was clearly down by contact before the ball was jarred loose. The play would have been overturned, but the Raiders were out of challenges. There could have been a booth review if it was under 2 minutes, but it was right in the middle of the 4th quarter. The play would stand, despite the incorrect call from the referees.

Notice how careful I was not to call it a "terrible call". The reason being because I totally understand why things played out the way they did. To put it simply, it's Jay Cutler's fault. Remember that "fumble" against San Diego in 2008? Ever since that day, officials have been instructed to let the play continue in the event of a close call. 

Unfortunately, we have found the hole in the system. If a coach is not frugal with his coach's challenges and a team can be out of challenges, the game clock reads more than 2 minutes and a close call happens on the field... you could have a mistake. In that case, there are no options. You're left with the call on the field, which was designed by the NFL referees to be incorrect in the first place, based on some play that happened over 2 years ago in the beautiful city of Denver, Colorado.

It's a vicious cycle that was set in motion by former Bronco Jay Cutler,


This Week

The Chiefs will take on the Denver Broncos (2-6) at Mile High Stadium in beautiful Denver, Colorado.

Ah, yes. The Broncos get their 2nd AFC West opponent of the season. The Chiefs are coming off two straight overtime games and the Broncos are finishing up their bye week. If there was ever a time for the Broncos to get things rolling, it is right now. 

Just like the rest of you, I'm waiting for MHR's Upon Further Review in a few days for the full Chiefs vs. Broncos preview, but I'll go ahead and give you a brief summary of what will be pivotal to victory. The biggest matchup has to be the Chiefs running game versus the Broncos defensive front seven. As of late, the Broncos have struggled mightily to stop the run. They are currently 31st in the league when it comes to run defense, ahead of only the Buffalo Bills. There's some good company, right?

The Chiefs are 1st in the NFL in rushing offense (yards per game, to eliminate the advantage of the bye week). If the Broncos can slow down the Chiefs running game, they will stand a great chance of winning. However, that is a very big "if". It will help that the Broncos are bringing back Wesley Woodyard, Perrish Cox, Darcel McBath and Kevin Vickerson. It will need to be all hands on deck for the Broncos to have success on Sunday.


My Take on the Chiefs

They are in a much better situation than I ever could have imagined, leading the division past the midway point of the season. However, I still think they're playing above their heads. They aren't as good as their record shows. Their running game is good, but if they play a team that can slow it down then the Chiefs cannot operate. Their defense feeds off of the offense being able to run the football and playing with a lead. Their secondary is young and commits deadly penalties on a regular basis. Their run defense is pretty good, but Darren McFadden and the Raiders ran for 112 yards on 26 carries (4.3 yards per carry).

The other problem I see with them is their second half play. For whatever reason, they just get complacent near the end of the game. The Raiders were down 10-0 at halftime and the furthest they were able to drive up the field was to the KC 47 yard line. The other drives ended at the Oakland 24, 46, 17, 17, 16, 20 and 20 yard lines. Yeah, it was that bad in the first half. However, the Chiefs allowed 23 points en route to an overtime loss. 

I think that the Chiefs can expect more games like this. Starting early is great, but if you can't finish then you can't win.


The Oakland Raiders


Last Week

The Raiders beat the Kansas City Chiefs 23-20 (OT).

It was an ugly win, but as the famous football cliché states, "a win is a win". It shocks me that the Raiders are 5-4. I did not expect that, at all. Even more shocking is their undefeated division record (3-0). They control their own destiny, at this point, and can make the playoffs pretty easily with a few more division wins... especially if they can beat the Chiefs in the season finale.

I described the win a bit in the Chiefs recap, but I do have something I need to get off of my chest. 

This Week

The Oakland Raiders have a bye.

My Take on the Raiders

I was wrong. The Raiders are over .500 and I am sincerely distraught about it. They aren't supposed to be good, anymore. Where in the world did they come from? Three weeks ago, I was putting the nails in their coffin. Now, they look like they have a sincere opportunity to win the division.

I am as shocked as you are that I just wrote that last sentence... excuse me while I go shower.


The San Diego Chargers


Last week

The San Diego Chargers beat the Houston Texans, 29-23.

The Texans had their opportunities, but they squandered those chances. The attribute that makes the Chargers the Chargers is the inability to finish strong. They are great at starting slow, coming on near the middle and fading late. Notice how general my previous sentence was. I wrote it that way because it seems to be their modus operandi in the past few seasons and , on a more microscopic level, it's the way that they have played most of their games this season.

Look at their game against Kansas City in week 1. They got behind early, mostly because of special teams blunders and their inability to stop the run. In the middle of the game, they started to put the pieces together but they couldn't make the 2 or 3 plays necessary at the end of the game to give them the win. 

Next, let's think back to their game against Oakland. 2 early special teams mistakes gave Oakland the lead in the first quarter. San Diego started to reel them back in as the game drew on but a Philip Rivers sack/fumble gave the Raiders a defensive touchdown to seal the win.

Even in this game against Houston, they allowed the Texans to crawl back into the game. The Texans had the ball at the end of the game and then Matt Schaub threw an interception in the red zone that all but ended the game. It wasn't just a missed read or a bad pass that led to the interception, it was a bobbled pass by Andre Johnson. The ball was thrown right into Johnson's hands, but as he went to pull the ball to his body, the ball slipped out and bounced off of his knee into the waiting arms of Paul Oliver.

The Texans were driving and appeared to have the momentum on their side. They were poised to score. Unfortunately, a bobbled pass cost them. But hey, that's football. Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way.

For whatever reason, fortune favors the San Diego Chargers.


This Week

The San Diego Chargers have a bye.



My Take on the Chargers

From what I've seen, thus far, I think that the Chargers will start their surge. Okay, I admit... that was bad.

Seriously, though, nothing I can see indicates that the Chargers are worse off than they were last year. They do have tons of injuries on the defensive side of the ball but their shell remains the same. Good passing game, average running game, bad special teams, decent defense, etc. 

They should win most of their games, but mistakes keep costing them. Despite their ill-timed turnovers and horrible special teams blunders, they have been able to pull out victories, lately, on the arm of Philip Rivers. As much as I hate to say it, I think that things are going to continue to trend in that direction. They'll win a bunch of games before the year is over and crumble at the end of the season, per usual. 


There was your weekly look at the rest of the AFC West... examining the Raiders' good attributes so that you don't have to. 

Go Broncos!