The Preseason is halfway through. Can you believe that? We're just a few weeks away from the beginning of the NFL Regular season. I think it's time we start looking at the AFC West division to see if we can prognosticate, a bit, about what is going to happen when the regular season comes.
Let's start with the Oakland Raiders, who played the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night.
I didn't see anything that scared me, as a Broncos fan. Carson Palmer looks jittery behind a porous offensive line. Although their offense is more than capable of moving the ball, penalties, turnovers and redzone issues caused the Raiders to score only 11 points in the first half against the Cardinals, a team that could not stop the Chiefs or Saints starters in their previous preseason games. The Raiders gave up an interception that was nearly returned for a touchdown and fumbled twice, recovering only one of the fumbles. Darren McFadden looked dangerous, however, as one of the bright spots of the offense. He broke free behind the left guard for a 22 yard rumble on their first possession, but was later stuffed on the goal line for first and second down, later in the possession. They look like the same old Raiders, to be honest.
The Raiders defense looked almost as bad as the offense. The Raiders did play well for the first few snaps, stuffing a couple of runs. Once Kevin Kolb got rolling and balanced out the playcalling, however, the Cardinals marched right down the field for a touchdown. Their next possession, the Cardinals began at the Arizona 5 yard line because the returner brought the ball out of the back of the endzone on the kickoff. After sacking Kevin Kolb for a safety in the first quarter, allowed another 17 points before halftime.
Since this is preseason and the starters don't play the entire game, there's really an adjusted score. Carson Palmer played the entire first half before relinquishing the role to Matt Leinart, who was later injured after being struck in the face by Ricky Lumpkin.
San Diego Chargers
In their last game, a 28-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, Shareece Wright's electrifying 73-yard interception return set up Jackie Battle's go-ahead, 2-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst went 7/12, 122 yds and two touchdowns as the Chargers' increased their record to 2-0 after Week 2 of the preseason.
They overcame three turnovers, including two Interceptions by Philip Rivers, to rally from a 10-0 deficit. The Bolts have five turnovers in the preseason.
Rivers is 16/20, 146 yards, 1 TD, 3 Int, and 2 Sacks in the preseason and is largely responsible for the Chargers inconsistencies with their starters. But two major injuries haven't helped. Starting Running Back Ryan Mathews suffered a brolen clavicle on his first carry of the preseason. He won't play until Week 3 of the regular season at the very least. No. 3 Receiver Vincent Brown, who is probably their best Wide Out with 6 catches for 112 yds and 2 TD's so far, broke his left ankle on Saturday night and may require surgery. The good news is that Antonio Gates is as healthy as he has been in 3 years.
Robert Meacham and Eddie Royal don't scare me as big threats. Royal has averaged 526 yards and 2 TD's per year. Meacham, 378 yards and almost 4 TD's per season. THAT is supposed to make up for the loss of Vincent Jackson? If you say so A.J.
Behind Mathews they have journeymen Jackie Battle, Ronnie Brown and Jacob Hester, but San Diego better hope that Le'Ron McClain will prove that letting Mike Tolbert go wasn't a mistake.
On Friday, the Chargers travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are 1-1 in the preseason after beating the Cardinals in the first week and losing in St. Louis to the Rams 17-31 last Saturday. It wasn't their best effort for sure and coach Romeo Crennel ripped his team over a sloppy game that included four turnovers (three lost fumbles).
One thing is for sure, the Chiefs are leading the league in retiring Offensive Linmen in Training Camp. Tony Ugoh, Ray Willis (Ugoh's alleged replacement) and former Bronco Casey Weigmann all hung up their cleats in the last month or so. That's okay though. Kansas City signed stud RT Eric Winston to play next to RG Jon Asamoah and they have T Branden Albert and G Ryan Lilja on the left side. They will try and fill the void at Center with 3rd year man Rodney Hudson. Behind that, there are two 2nd year guys and 6-2, 320 lb. Rookie Cam Holland.
The Chiefs have suffered by the Groin injury bug lately. DB Travis Daniels, LB Gary Sheffield, DB De'Quan Menzie and WR Junior Hemingway have all succumbed to it. RB Cyrus Gray has been out with a hamstring injury and CB Brandon Flowers has been MIA with a bruised heel, so don't think it's only been the Broncos having the pu;;ed muscles. Blame that one on the new CBA's relaxed offseason program limitations.
This team should be the favorite to win the AFC West. To be sure, they are better on paper than the last three preseason Super Bowl favorites, the San Diego Chargers. They have the personnel to run the ball very well and a defense that is set up to defend the pass very well. They will be a tough nemesis this season for the Broncos.
The Chiefs will play the Seattle Seahawks at home on Friday and we will see how well Seattle QB Russell Wilson does against them.