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AFC West Week 15 Preview

Which quarterback will step up for third downs?

NFL: Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

This is the time of year where your third down conversion rate dictates your season. Your defense needs to stop them and your offense needs to make them. Phil Simms says the third down is the QB down. He's right. The down HE needs to make the right decision. If the QB isn't getting them, then their defense has to make sure to keep those numbers low.

Over the last 10 years, teams who are 8-5 and win out, make the PO’s 90% of the time. Go 10-6, the rate is 69%. Finish 9-7, it's a 50/50 prop. Finish 8-8, just one of seven teams made it. What's the chance 8-5 teams winning the last three? 57%. So, we have a chance.

Caveat...if we don't win the next three, Belichick could throw the Miami game and make sure we don't make the WC. I would. Give my third stringers and second tier guys playing time to evaluate them and avoid Denver. A real two-fer.

Tennessee (7-6) @ Kansas City (9-4)

Titans are 18th at stopping third downs and KC is 29th at it. This stat surprised me. KC 29th.

KC is 26th at making them. Tennessee is 4th. How KC is the second seed is actually amazing when you look at their third down stats. For KC, it's because they're not scoring on third downs. They're getting break away scores and defensive scores. IF KC was playing in Nashville, I'd hand them the loss, but the game is in KC. In December.

The Titans are very similar to Tampa Bay, but TB played there on a warm day and in a game they weren't expecting to lose. They were also down Dee Ford. Right now, KC is pretty healthy for this time of the season, that's a disadvantage for TN.

The KC crowd is going to be fired up. They beat Oakland and they won’t want to let TN pull a TB. A QB when asked about crowd noise he'd be facing in Dallas said, we don't play the noise, we play the team. That's how Marcus needs to think. Focus on the team, not the crowd.

What TT has is a good run game if their passing game is shut down. Getting those third downs and keeping their offense on the field will be crucial. Alex Smith is king of the checkdown, but it works. He lulls defenses and then he lets loose with a deep pass and boom. He eats up time. Tennessee needs to eat into their time. Stay on the field. Balanced offenses like TN can do that.

Mariota has one job, don't turn the ball over. Please, don't turn the ball over. If the Titans can keep the ball in their possession, by churning out downs, they have a shot at winning. KC is much better than Denver at stopping the run and worse at defending the pass, so Mariota should be able to make some scores because he is mobile. Against KC’s pass rush, he's going to need to use his legs.

This game should be good. Go Titans!

Oakland (10-3) @ San Diego (5-8)

Does SD have a team left for Oakland to play? Not sure there's a team out there that is so beat up. The injury report doesn't include the IR list. Which is long. Um, Oakland, you lose this game and you don't deserve the Play Offs.

How does one preview a match-up against a team with several second string players? We know Carr’s finger is hurt; however, he won't be playing in the cold, but sunny SD. Plus, I'm thinking I could play and still make some completions agsinst SD’s walking wounded.

It will be Oakland's defense vs Phillip Rivers. That's the game. Can Phil be chill and be patient? Same for McCoy whose job is on the line.

If San Diego has a chance, it'll come down to Rivers channeling the best Phil and Bosa going full gorilla mode on Carr. Not having Melvin Gordon is a huge blow because he was their highest points scorer. Last week, the raiders without Karl Joesph couldn't shut down Kelcie, so maybe SD can get a great game from TE Hunter Henry. If they could also channel a running game with Kenneth Farrow and get Travis Benjamin going, who knows.

Unless Carr leaves the game, don't see a win. Although there's always some spoiler team and it's often SD. So...On Any Sunday...SD needs to hope it’s that Sunday. I'll add my hope with theirs.

New England (11-2) @ Denver (8-5)

Want to talk about third down conversions? NE* is third. We're 20th. Which ranks with where our QBs are. We want to win? We need third downs. Bunches of them. Pass, rush or QB sneak. Send in our hero Riley Dixon. Just make them.

Remember when we cheered that we had mobile QB’s? Many said, without Manning we can finally see a Kubiak scheme. A strong run game, lots of zone reads, play action, boots, etc. I've seen that in about three quarters all season. What's the point of having a ZBS, if you don't have the OL, RB and QB, moving? Call me puzzled.

Kubiak better dust off that plan to move our guys if he wants a chance. Can't get the run game going by doing what we did last week or pretty much all season. Since week 8, we’re 4-4. Minus the Jag’ game and we're 3-4. In that time, we've seen two quarters of what could be.

A week more of practice and Justin Forsett should have the rust off and Juwan Thompson settling into being the FB (please use this, Gary). We get the pieces moving and we could see a run game. Moving parts are beautiful parts.

AJ Derby needs to be used more. Forget the fumble, he was holding that ball with both arms while being hit. The second defender punched it out. Not much he could do. Love Virgil Green, know he wants more catches, but Derby is faster. That matters. Keep using VG to block.

NE* has some line backers to be worried about, Hightower, Van Noy, McClellin have been clicking recently. However, Dont’a Hightower popped up on the injury report, so that may make Siemian breath a little easier. NE* is 15th against the pass, allowing an average of 260 passing yards a game, but second in allowing points. 17.7 a game. Give up empty air yards, but don't allow scores.

We need RZ trips to counter this. Send Trevor on a naked boot for a TD. NE* knows Kubiak likes to call passing scores with Siemian. Try something different. Use his legs. Anything, (on my knees here) anything that what they've been doing for 90% of the season. Dennison indicated there were play calls deep in the sheet Lynch didn't know. If Siemian knows them, can you please use them? Thanks.

There are three keys to tying this game.

  1. Run the ball anyway you can
  2. Move the QB. Move. The. QB.
  3. Hit Brady every play

The only way to stop Brady* is to get him off his marks. I can't stand the guy, but he knows what our defense is showing and he knows who to get the ball to. The only way to stop that is to get in his face and disrupt his timing. Easier said than done.

They now have a pretty good run game, so it won't all be about stopping him from throwing, it’ll also be about keeping the hand offs from going anywhere. I don’t care if it's a blitz or a seven man rush, yes this a joke, but we've got to send the heat every play and trust our DB’s.

Sure he'll get some big plays off, but we've got to smack them on the line, every play. Use the cold and altitude against them like last year.

So, did you catch my tying remark? My key to go from neck and neck with NE* to a win? Special Teams. Our offense is going to need every advantage it can get. That means starting every drive in positive territory. That means a score would be nice. That means every kicking point made. That means blocking kicks.

If our offense continues its anemic play, our defense will be the one getting gassed, not NE*. Having ST help could keep us in the PO hunt. Failure by offense or by the defense to do their job, will come down to ST bailing them out.

Brady* is 2-7 in Denver, so Go Broncos!