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AFC West Opponents Review - Week 1

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The Kansas City Chiefs welcomed the Atlanta Falcons into Arrowhead on Sunday morning and the San Diego Chargers drove their sweet team minivans up the interstate into Oakland where they played in primetime on Monday Night Football.

As far as national coverage is concerned, the AFC West had a pretty decent showing this week, with three of their four teams playing in primetime and now that the dust of week one has settled and those of us that watched our beloved fantasy football teams tank week one, it's time to take a quick look at the results of the Broncos' opponents that stand in the way of our second consecutive division crown.

Atlanta Falcons (40) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (24)

Far be it from me to give credit where credit is due to our division rivals but I've thought from the beginning of this football season that the Kansas City Chiefs have put themselves together a nice little roster. However, the lack of star players like Tamba Hali and Brandon Flowers seemed to take its toll and the Falcons pounded the Chiefs at their own home.

Right from the get go Matt Ryan and Julio Jones single handedly took over this game offensively for the Falcons, leading viewers like myself to become irate with rage as I watched my fantasy week go down the tubes. Even Tony Gonzalez caught a touchdown pass to a standing ovation from his old home crowd.

Bottom line, the Falcons had a really good day in Kansas City offensively and the Broncos will have a lot of game planning to do in preparation for them on Monday.

Offensively, the Chiefs looked strong in the first half and I can see some immediate matchup concerns for the Denver Broncos. Moeaki came out with a few nice catches and Hillis is still running strong but Dexter McCluster, working as a slot receiver, could wreak havoc on our linebackers if we can't shore up the middle of the field. After watching the film again, McCluster was the standout to me and a name that will generally go unnoticed until he busts one for 35.

Jamaal Charles did what Jamaal Charles is known to do but I was surprised at how under-utilized he was this game. Perhaps the Chiefs are simply trying to ease him back in. Still, on just 16 attempts Charles ran for 87 yards including one 46 yard burst that left the Falcons defensive line in the dust. With the run defense still suspect, the Broncos will have to find a way to contain Charles before he finds daylight. Perhaps the best way to do that is to focus on Cassell.

Cassell had an extremely up and down game, looking very solid in drives during the first half but when they fell behind and the pressure came Cassell quickly lost his composure and the bad decisions began pouring out. It looks like Cassell gets tunnel-vision at times and he took some hits from his blindside I'm not sure he felt coming. The Broncos' blitz packeges should have a field day with Cassell.

Defensively the Chiefs were missing half of their starting secondary and it showed. Their zone coverage left gaps that Matt Ryan exploited with ease. Without Hali the Chiefs pass rush was anemic and I would simply love to see what the no-huddle Manning offense could do to it. Shred I believe is the appropriate verb.

The AFC West gets another shot at the Falcons when the Broncos head to the Georgia Dome for next week's Monday night showdown.

San Diego Chargers (22) vs. Oakland Raiders (14)

Before I light into both these teams let me just say there could not have been a worse game scheduled in that late Monday night time slot. Boomer and Trent Dilfer, while I'm sure have a future as a tennis duo, struggled mightily to keep this snooze fest alive. I distinctly cannot remember large portions of the third and almost entire fourth quarter... and I literally just re-watched the film 15 minutes ago.

That said, divisional games are critical for Bronco fans to pay attention to. If our ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl we've got to get to the top of our division first. If the Chargers and/or the Raiders spend their entire season playing anything like what we saw on Monday I'd say that the general feeling of encouragement around Broncos Country is absolutely valid.

Let's start with the Raiders.


Has Dennis Allen always looked so constipated? While I liked Allen well enough here in Denver, his move to head coach of the Oakland Raiders already looks a little baffling. Does he command the necessary respect with that team? There was one moment in particular where a Raider player committed a penalty and literally brushed off a look-at-me-I'm-really-upset-like-no-I'm-super-upset-hey-why-are-your-walking-away Dennis Allen. It would have taken Tom Cable three seconds to put that guy on IR where he could join Cable's accountant and camp counselor.

The Raiders still committed too many senseless penalties and watched as an injury to their longsnapper nearly killed their All-Pro kicker and ultimately sunk their chances at beating the Chargers late. Can someone please tell me why your center, who makes a living blocking and snapping the football can't also snap the ball a few feet farther to a punter? I get that a backup longsnapper on the team might be considered a waste of a roster spot but for fun I went outside and snapped a ball into my neighbor's BMW. Sure, my aim may have been a bit off but there wasn't any of this two-hop to the shortstop method. Raider fans had a right to boo last night. It was a trainwreck over and over again.

Offensively Carson Palmer still looks like the most over-valued QB in recent memory. The man can still sling the ball but his attempts to pass it deep downfield were under-impressive. It could be that he still doesn't have a great rapport with his receivers but at this point the time is up. Raiders have speed and it's not good when that speed can't separate.

Darren McFadden did everything he could to keep his team in the game but there's only so much one guy can do and the Raiders have to be concerned that if McFadden is expected to carry his team like this every game there is simply zero chance he can stay healthy. McFadden has always been a problem for the Broncos, as he puts up MVP numbers every game, so he is were their focus needs to be in the future.

Defensively the Raiders were a combination of messy and dominant. The Chargers were just scraping by until the Raiders MVP, their longnsapper, went down. After that, it was merely a matter of consistently getting the ball at the Raiders 40, having the Raider's hold them to very few yards and then kicking a field goal. I have to give some credit to the Raiders defense for consistently making stands in their own territory and forcing the Chargers to kick field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. Seymour is still a beast. Their penalties will ultimately doom them.


While Trent Dilfer was gushing about the Chargers expectations to win this division, the Chargers simultaneously put up a stinker in a game that was all but given to them. Philip Rivers had some fantastic passes, like he is known to do from time to time, but only scoring one touchdown when you are given the ball in prime field position time and time again? Completely unacceptable.

River's missed a few less than easy but professionally expected throws in the first half and when it became apparent the Raiders were unable to get a punt off they simply took to the ground and settled for field goal after field goal. Charger fans across the country are breathing easier today knowing that their kicker somehow survived the first trial of kicking a soft stationary object without massive injury. Nate Kaeding has clearly been punting teddy bears and cats in the offseason.

Offensively I expect the Chargers to show something more against the Titans at home next week, but Bronco Country has to be encouraged by their showing last night. If the Broncos can keep that pressure on Rivers, who seems to now love to run 10-yards directly backwards after taking a snap, he'll continue to try and launch the ball downfield to his relatively average receiving corps. I'll take our cornerbacks in that situation anyday.

At the end of week one, the Broncos were the only team that managed to impress from the AFC West. The Chiefs definitely have some hidden firepower if their QB can find his groove and AFC West matchups aren't normally blowout games but as we prepare ourselves for week 2 it's nearly impossible not to feel very optimistic about our start out of the gate. Now we just have to keep the momentum on our side.

Look for my AFC West Preview on Thursday as we begin to break down the storylines as they develop in our division and what this next week of games means to the Broncos.