AFC West Week 5 Review

The Oakland Raiders come away with their first victory against the San Diego Chargers since 2003 (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Review

San Diego Chargers


The Chargers got embarrassed against the Raiders to fall to 2-3 overall. This was also a divisional game, which brings their division record to 0-2. It was also their 3rd road loss of the year. Overall, the Chargers now rank 9th in the NFL in total DVOA at 18.7%. They are less than a tenth of a percentage point behind Tennessee while also trailing Green Bay, Atlanta, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, New York Jets, Kansas City and the big dog New England (32.8% Total DVOA).

The Chargers offense stayed right on course coming in at 20.4% DVOA. Last week they were at 20.8%, so despite fumbles by Rivers (2) and Tolbert (1) and a rough receiving day from Buster Davis they still come out looking okay. The passing offense (42.0% DVOA) is second only to Tom Brady's Patriots and the rushing offense (1.1% DVOA) maintains a better pace than last year's (-11.2% DVOA).

If we look at the individuals on offense we can break down how impressive they've been. Philip Rivers had the second best QB performance of the week with 141 DYAR, which brings his total to 603 for the year. That's good enough for 3rd place behind Peyton Manning and Kyle Orton and he's on pace to slightly eclipse last year's total. Ryan Mathews is 6th in the league among RBs in DVOA and, despite limited carries, is 12th in DYAR. Mike Tolbert, despite his struggles, is 14th in DYAR and 12th in DVOA among RBs. This is in stark contrast to how bad Tomlinson was last year (42nd in DYAR, 41st in DVOA). Antonio Gates has been a beast. He's #1 among both TEs AND WRs in both DYAR and DVOA. And its not really close. Malcom Floyd isn't far behind as he ranks 3rd among WRs in DYAR and 2nd in DVOA.

The defense is still near the top of the league. They rank #3 in overall DVOA at -19.5%. By comparison, the 2009 Jets were -23.4% DVOA and the 2008 Steelers were -26.9%. The Chargers are #2 in the league against the pass (-25.6%) and #13 against the run (-11.9%). The overall defensive numbers did take a hit this week as they were at a season high -26.0% DVOA last week, but the overall showing is still a strong one.

We can officially conclude that the special teams suck. Even if they get better, 2010 will still be a bad year for the Chargers special teams. As Football Outsiders pointed out, the Chargers have allowed 6 special teams TDs, which has only being surpassed once (1988 Steelers with 7). So the Chargers have the rest of season to give up 2 more and set a new record. The DVOA for the unit is -21.3%, which is absolutely awful and slightly worse than last week's -20.7%.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos lost an in-conference game to the Baltimore Ravens to get to 2-3. No one else in the division plays the Ravens, so all this does is hurt their conference record as far as any tie-breakers go. Their overall DVOA stands at -14.4%, which probably ruffles somebody's feathers since its quite different from the Chargers who are also 2-3.

Previously, Denver had been doing their best impression of the 2009 Chargers (outstanding passing game, mediocre-to-bad everything else). However, the running offense started to separate itself from that M.O. in the last few weeks as its gone from bad to absolutely awful. The run game for the Broncos now sits at a miserable -45.0% DVOA. The passing offense is still great though at 51.5% DVOA behind only the Patriots and Chargers. Overall that comes to only 9.8% DVOA, which is good enough for a #9 ranking.

The defense and special teams continue to underwhelm. 20.6% DVOA for the defense (20.1% last week) ranks 29th in the league and their special teams' -3.6% (last week also -3.6%) ranks 27th. The Broncos get toasted in the passing game to the tune of 31.9%, which means they are turning opponents passing games into the equivalent of the 2010 Saints passing game (31.8%). Their run defense is nothing to write home about either at 9.7% DVOA, which ranks 30th in the league.
 
Kansas City Chiefs

The 1972 Dolphins popped the cork on their champagne bottles as the previously unbeaten Chiefs fell to 3-1. They lost an in-conference game to the defending AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts, but did so while surprising a few people with their ability to slow down Indy's offense. Their overall DVOA did go down though, mostly due to bad offense, from -33.6% to 28.6%. 

The Chiefs offense fell down from 11.5% DVOA to 5.1%. The Chiefs passing offense is doing alright for itself at 12.8%, but only ranks 18th in the league due to so many teams having good passing years. The Chiefs depend on their running game a lot and its 4.9% DVOA sinks their overall offense total.

The Chiefs can hang their hat on their defense, which stayed steady at -16.1% DVOA (-16.3% last week). It continues to stifle both the running game (-20.7% DVOA) and the passing game (-12.7%). It ranks 5th overall behind the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans.
 
The special teams continue to be 3rd–in–the–NFL going from 5.8% DVOA last week to 7.4% DVOA this week (their first increase since week 1). The Jacksonville Jaguars (7.4%) and the Seattle Seahawks (16.9%) are the only two special teams units that rank higher.
 
Oakland Raiders

As we know, the Raiders played the Chargers and won a divisional game to go to 2-3 overall and get their first divisional win of the year. The game did not impress the computers crunching the numbers since the Silver and Black still have a -35.8% Total DVOA. That ranks them 29th in the league.

Their offense continued its recent upward trend going from last week's -19.9% to a new -16.7% DVOA. The defense also saw very improvement creeping upward from 17.1% to 16.7%. So, if their offense played their defense they would always result in a very ugly tie, right? The special teams improved from -4.4% DVOA to -2.4% DVOA despite their good effort at home against the Chargers. Apparently, DVOA now expects special teams to be great against the Chargers and adjusts accordingly.

All VOA, DVOA, YAR and DYAR statistical values are developed, calculated and reported by Football Outsiders. Their explanation can be found here. Team efficiency ratings can be found here.

 
The Hype
 
San Diego Chargers

Fire everybody! Or don't. Whatever, its cool. The Chargers continued their trend under Norv Turner and start the season 2-3 again. In other years the offense sputtered against good defenses or the defense fell apart under injuries or bad tackling, but this year its all about the special teams. Many want special teams coach Steve Crosby's head on a platter. A sacrifice to the football gods in hope that it will make it rain players that know how to protect a punter and cover a kick. Norv and A.J. don't believe in this strategy and will continue to mix up personnel until they get a group of guys together who don't embarrass themselves on the football field. Their first move this week was to release C.J. Spillman who repeatably has made mistakes on special teams.

Marcus McNeill got the new contract he always wanted and all he had to do was get his rear into Chargers Park just like everyone said he needed to. He should start at left tackle this week and Brandyn Dombrowski will move to the bench. The hold out and the 5 year contract put a target on Marcus' back and something tells me any sack he gives up will stand out a little more than it used to.

Shawne Merriman was put on injured reserve with the intention of releasing him when he's healthy. The move is partly due to frustration with Merriman's lack of time on the playing field, but its also a move of necessity. The Chargers are thin at OLB and need players from that position to play special teams. The corresponding move to correct this problem was the signing of former Baltimore Raven OLB Antwan Barnes.
 
Denver Broncos

Injuries. The injury report hasn't been pretty this season for the Broncos and it certainly won't be again this week. This team lost one of its defensive stars in Elvis Dumervil during the offseason. Its also dealing a rusty Ryan Clady who had a big injury in the offseason. Its also been missing its starting RB, Knowshon Moreno, and starting CB, Andre Goodman, for multiple games this year. Now, they are going to lose LB Robert Ayers and S Brian Dawkins for multiple weeks. On top of that, they have a number of other players that can at best be listed as questionable for next week including the afforementioned Moreno and Goodman. When you combine that with the fact that this team hasn't played particularly well this season and continues to head through a stretch of tough opponents, then as a Bronco fan you can't like the team's outlook in the near future.
 
Kansas City Chiefs

Wasted opportunity. That probably sums up the week for the Chiefs. They had two weeks to prepare for the Colts. They held Peyton Manning and the Colts offense to only 19 points. They're a team that emphasizes the running game who were playing a team that looked as if they couldn't stop runs with Immodium AD. And they blew it. Dwayne Bowe gets a lot of criticism because he dropped a pass in the end zone. Jamaal Charles finally got some extra carries, but fumbled the ball away. Matt Cassel fell apart on 3rd downs and a 4th down play. And, yet, you can still say that the Chiefs hung around with one of the most respected teams in the league. At least they didn't lose to the Raiders.
 
Oakland Raiders

Last week I said that Tom Cable should be on the hot seat. Well, a win is a win in the NFL and Cable got his second of the season. His team also sits only 1.5 games behind the division leading Chiefs. Oh, and he ended the 13 game losing streak to the Chargers. So, I guess he's off the hot seat for now.

His team still doesn't look great though. Sure, they blocked two punts, but then they also roughed the opposing punter an other. Sure, Jason Campbell helped drive the team to some scores, but the offense also got their starting QB knocked out of the game due to injury and even Campbell got sacked twice. Sure, they forced 3 fumbles, but they also fumbled the ball 4 times (even if they did recover them all). The only thing to really be proud of was Michael Bush's hard running that pumped up the crowd and helped the offense put points on the board. Oh, and the W. But, 1 W doesn't necessarily get you more W's.
 
Looking Ahead

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers go to the road again and take on the team that finished with the worst record in football last year. The Rams await the Chargers in St. Louis for what will be the first 10 A.M. PT game of the season for the Bolts.

The Rams were so bad last year on both sides of the ball, it would be hard for them not to improve somewhere. Predictably, its on the side of the ball where their head coach specializes. The defense is nothing special (1.9% DVOA), but its not terrible like it was in 2009 (20.3%). The run defense is carrying the unit at -12.5%, while the passing defense at 13.0% looks ready to let Philip Rivers carve them up.

On offense the Rams are bad at running and throwing, but they do have a talented young QB in Sam Bradford. Unfortunately for them he lost his favorite target in WR Mark Clayton last week for the entire season. He was the 3rd Rams WR to have a season ending injury. Stephen Jackson still runs the ball for the Rams, but he's a shell of his former self. That being said, he's still capable of a big day here and there if the Chargers don't respect him.

This should be a win. Otherwise, the city might just explode.
 
Denver Broncos

The Broncos get to stay at home this week to play the New York Jets, and (say it with me) yet again test their offense against one of the better defenses.

The Jets have absolutely stifled opponents' running games, which shouldn't phase the Broncos since they can't be expecting many yards that way anyhow. The Jets have been vulnerable against the pass thanks to an injury to Darrelle Revis and the torchability of their other CBs (Hi, Cromartie!). On top of that, teams seem to be able to adjust to their blitzes a little bit better than before and get good chunks of yards when they pick them up.

The Jets offense is buoyed by the resurgence of LaDainian Tomlinson and the newfound poise of Mark Sanchez. Sanchez has yet to throw a pick, which is quite different the pick-happy version that was around this time last year. Overall, the Jets offense has ranked 8th in the league this year and can't be discounted like the one that bumbled and stumbled its way through the 2009 season.
 
Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs go to Houston this week and I actually think that for the first time this year I expect the Chiefs to win. I expect their defense to keep Arian Foster under wraps and limit the Houston passing game. I expect the Chiefs to use their passing game to get ahead on the Texans who can't seem to stop anyone through the air. I expect that the only way the Chiefs lose this game is if they beat themselves. That could mean not playing defense the way they've been playing. That could mean relying too much on the running game and not exploiting the Texans' vulnerability. Or that could mean just overall laying an egg with turnovers or big plays. But, I don't expect any of those scenarios to happen.
 
Oakland Raiders

The Raiders travel across the bay to play the winless 49ers. The 49ers are a team in turmoil and the Raiders are coming off a victory that took a monkey off their back. This game could be interesting. It'll probably be ugly, but it should be interesting. Most likely the team that makes the most mistakes will lose.

Where will those mistakes come from? Alex Smith and the 49er passing game? Maybe, but it did look like they make have found some rhythm at the end of last week's game. From the Raiders special teams? Maybe, but they should be filled with some confidence from some nice plays vs. the Chargers. From the Raiders' offense? Maybe, but probably not from an improved running game. We'll see. Its not must-see-TV, but it does have its intrigues.

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