San Diego Chargers
The Chargers went to 2-4 by falling to the St. Louis Rams in an out-of-conference game. The Chargers are now 1-2 out-of-conference. The Rams dismantled the Chargers in both the main two phases of the game, but failed to take full advantage against the Chargers special teams. That's either a credit to the Chargers or a discredit to the Rams. Here's this week's game in numbers:
What we see here is not a flukey loss or one that we can completely blame on special teams again. These are numbers of a team that should lose, even without that ugly special teams number (which by the way is the Chargers' best ST performance in a loss this year). The only thing that went right for the Chargers was the running game. However, that aspect of the game became to utilize when the Chargers were behind and the Rams were controlling the clock.
Here's where the Chargers stand on the season:
As it stands, this week didn't really change much. The Chargers still have produced well on offense and defense during the season, but getting the special teams to produce at a non-abysmal level is a priority. One thing to keep in mind is that the high DVOA on defense could very well be assisted by the poor special teams. A kick return, punt return or punt block for a touchdown on special teams means that the defense remains on the bench and stays fresh.
The Denver Broncos lost an in-conference game to the New York Jets to go to 2-4. The Broncos are the only team in the AFC West that will play the Jets, so this loss doesn't hurt their common opponents tie-breaker, just their in-conference tie-breaker (the Broncos are now 1-4 against in-conference teams, which is the worst in the division). The Broncos played pretty well this week and here's how the numbers came out:
The Broncos actually outperformed the Jets (-0.1% DVOA on the day), but sometimes simply playing better doesn't get you the win if you don't also get the breaks. This was the Broncos 2nd best performance of the year (Seattle game was better at 14.0%). It was the first time that their rushing offensive finished in the positives. And it was the first time their defense finished in the negatives.
Here's where the Broncos stand on the season:
The good performance this week didn't move their overall line enough to make Denver look like anything other than a bad team by DVOA. However, a good performance against a top team could be a sign that this team is on the upswing.
The Chiefs fell to 3-2 by losing an in-conference game to the Houston Texans. The Chiefs are now 2-2 against AFC teams and are still the only team in the AFC West with 2 wins in-conference. The Chiefs fell on hard luck like the Broncos, but they did not outperform their opponent and were only unlucky in that the game was close and they didn't get the right breaks.
This was the Chiefs worst performance of the season. Their passing offense was able to take advantage of Houston's bad pass defense and their rushing offense had one of its better games, but the defense was their undoing. Going into this game the Chiefs only had good defensive performance by DVOA in each game. This game was not only the first to reverse the trend, but the reversal was surprising in how large the gap was between this performance and what they had accomplished so far this season.
Here's where the Chiefs stand on the season:
Two things stand out on that line: 1. The Chiefs overall DVOA went from 2nd in the league all the way down to 7th and 2. The once consistent defensive DVOA went tumbling from around -16% to -3.1% just from this one game.
Brutal. Absolutely brutal. The Raiders lost an out-of-conference game to the San Francisco 49ers to set their record at 2-3. This performance was so awful that I'm just going to get to the number so as to quickly rip off the band-aid that is this ugliness.
This was their worst overall performance. Their worst game on offense. Their worst game passing the ball. Their second worst game running the ball (Arizona was worse). And just in general everything up there looks putrid. Oh, except the special teams. The Raiders running seemed to be on track to respectability, but the the 49er stout run defense put a stop to that and Oakland will try again to establish a useful unit next week.
Here's where the Raiders stand on the season:
If the Raiders are trying to finish as the unequivocal 29th best team, then they are doing a pretty good job. They just need to tweak those special teams to try to knock them down 11 spots.
San Diego Chargers
The reality is starting to sink in with the fans and media that this may actually be a bad football team. The reality has definitely sunk in that this team is a longshot to make the playoffs at this point. That's not just because of their record relative to the Chiefs, their upcoming tough games and their 2 game losing streak, but also because the Chiefs have such an easy schedule over the next few weeks. If the Chargers drop any of their games before the week 10 bye week, then their outlook on winning the division would be really dire. Even if they still have really good offensive and defensive DVOAs.
The injuries are still an issue for the Chargers. Larry English is expected to miss more time and Legedu Naanee and Brandon Siler will at least be questionable for this week. New injuries to Malcom Floyd and Nate Kaeding have the team preparing as if they won't be able to play this weekend. Antonio Gates gave the franchise a scare by missing time against the Rams, but head coach Norv Turner remains hopeful that the All-World Tight End can play in the next game. Louis Vazquez returned from injury, but looked a bit rusty. That rust may or may not wear off in time for the next game.The aforementioned injuries to the receiving corps mean that Buster Davis, Patrick Crayton, Richard Goodman and Randy McMichael will see extended playing time in practice and in the next game. Also, Paul Oliver will continue to fill in for the suspended Steve Gregory.
The Broncos caused quite a stir for multiple media outlets because of one play at the end of the game. Renaldo Hill was called for pass interference in the fourth quarter while covering Santonio Holmes when the Jets decided to go for it on 4th and 6th in the 4th quarter. The ball was placed at the 2 yard line and LaDainain Tomlinson ran the next play in for a touchdown. The call was right (Hill clearly grabbed Holmes' facemask while the ball was in the air), but the fairness of the rule was the issue. Perhaps because there was the juxtaposition of multiple offensive pass interference penalties in this game the difference between the offensive and defensive varieties of the penalties were exposed. The 10 yard call for the offensive variety seems quite the contrast from the, in this case, 48 yard penalty and sure touchdown that came from the call of defensive pass interference. Some just complained the rules was unfair, some even offered suggestions (like placing the ball halfway between the 20 yard line and the spot of the foul) and at Football Outsiders someone came up with the idea of building an offense around getting defensive pass interference calls (which was a tad bit silly). Anyway, it was interesting how one call could spark so much debate.
Oh, and some guy named Tim Tebow got his first touchdown. Apparently, this is important to some people.
Kansas City Chiefs
De-fault! The two best words in the English language. The Chiefs lost, but so did the rest of the AFC West so they maintained sole possession of the top spot. Last week in the "Looking Ahead" section I was pretty confident the Chiefs could beat the Texans. I'm still pretty convinced that the Chiefs are a better team than the Texans, but the Chiefs defense fell apart and let Houston hang around until the end. That's not a good way to win games, especially against a team that has Andre Johnson on the team. Speaking of Andre Johnson, one of the big (and controversial) plays of the game involved him. There's probably a lot of Chiefs fans that will point to this one play as the reason the game was lost, but I believe they should really be more upset at the defense for letting the play matter in the first place. What happened was that Andre Johnson gave the underrated Brandon Flowers a push and caught the ball. A flag was thrown, and since Johnson pushed off, the Chiefs thought they caught a break. Instead the referee penalized Flowers for defensive pass interference. Todd Haley was livid, the fans were aghast and the Texans drove on to score the winning touchdown. There's no excuse for a bad call, but there's also no excuse for how the Chiefs played down to their opponent.
Earlier in the season I stole a bad Twilight-related joke about Team Gradkowski facing off against Team Campbell for the affection of Oakland fans at the QB spot. Well, that bad analogy can be thrown out because Kyle Boller may be about to throw his hat into the ring. Jason Campbell may have torn the meniscus in his knee and Bruce Gradkowski's throwing shoulder is probably not ready to get back in action. So, the former Cal Bear may get his shot at starting in the NFL one more time. Based on how the Raiders played their last game, he should fit in quite nicely.
I really don't have anything nice to say about the Raiders and I really don't want to look up reasons why they are as bad as they are. I'll just assume its what I thought it was going into the season. Coaching.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers come back home to face the New England Patriots. The only thing good about this game is that we'll probably be able to watch it on television. I don't think many fans in San Diego will have a lot of optimism about a win in this one and the DVOA numbers back that up. New England had been #1 in the NFL in DVOA for a couple of weeks, but both the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers passed them this week. Their 29.0% DVOA is still very respectable and their 35.7% offensive DVOA is the best in the league. Their young defense is their achilles heel and perhaps the Chargers passing attack will bounce back. Maybe, just maybe, that will be enough for Chargers to get close enough to pull out a last second win. New England's special teams are 4th in the league in DVOA and boast a possible rising star in Brandon Tate as their kick returner.
In the past 4 weeks the Broncos have played the Indianapolis Colts, the Tennessee Titans, the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets. Those teams are 8th, 4th, 11th and 5th in DVOA respectively and the Broncos came out 1-3 against them. What could possibly be in store for Denver next? A home game vs. the Raiders. The potentially Kyle Boller-led Raiders. Its like a breath of fresh thin air for Denver. The Raiders will most likely play tough and the Broncos have been prone to dropping games vs. Oakland, but the degree of difficulty is definitely less in this one.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs host Jacksonville who are coming off a short week after a Monday night game and their QB, David Garrard, is nursing a concussion. Jacksonville isn't much different than when the Chargers played them. The offense still runs through Maurice Jones-Drew. Their pass defense is still horrendous as evidenced on Monday Night when the mediocre passing game of the Titans moved practically at will against them. And their pass rush comes and goes (which is actually an improvement from last year). The only thing the Jaguars do okay is their special teams, which is 3rd in the league in DVOA. That doesn't sound like enough to beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead unless the leaks on defense that sprung up against Houston persist. Since we aren't even sure who the starting QB is for Jacksonville is anymore, a geyser could be spouting from the Chiefs defense and it might not matter.
Oakland travels to Invesco Field at Mile High to take on the rival Broncos. I'm sure they'll see this as a winnable game, especially given that the two teams have the same record. If they play hard and don't make as many mistakes as they normally do then the Broncos may beat themselves. Figuring out how knock Kyle Orton around would probably be a good game plan as well. However, I pretty much have no faith in the Oakland coaching staff to game plan for anything. Especially if they think they are equals with the Broncos (which they are not). The Broncos are bad, Oakland is worse. I expect Orton to manipulate the awful Oakland safeties and have no problem with the Raider pass rush. That should be enough to put the game away unless the Broncos defense plays even worse than it already does.