San Diego Chargers
The Chargers start to circle the drain by falling to 2-5 with an in-conference loss to the New England Patriots. The Chargers are the only team in the AFC West that plays the Patriots, so it does not affect their common opponents tie-breaker should they need it. This was the Chargers first home loss and they are now 2-1 at Qualcomm. They also drop to 1-3 against teams from the AFC.
Here's this week's game in numbers:
By Total DVOA this was the Chargers best performance in a loss of the season. A lot of that has to do with their performance on defense and the opponent adjustment that comes with bogging down one the league's most efficient offenses. On offense, it was the Chargers 2nd worst performance of the season overall (week 1 vs. KC was worse) and their 2nd worst passing the ball (week 6 in Oakland was worse). On defense it was their best game stopping the run. On special teams it was their 2nd best game, despite still being a below average performance.
Here's where the Chargers stand on the season:
No one in San Diego will take solace in the fact by DVOA's standards the Chargers are improving. The offense stayed the same, the defense looked more elite and the special teams crept forward on his long trip back to mere mediocrity. Sounds like a formula for a win, but sometimes it just doesn't turn out that way. The Broncos encountered this last week. Let's hope the Chargers don't have a similar follow-up performance.
The Denver Broncos lost a divisional game to the Raiders to join the Chargers in the cellar at 2-5. This was the Broncos' first divisional game. It was not their first AFC game though as they are now 1-5 against the conference. The Broncos went from their best performance of the season to their worst by DVOA. Let's see how the numbers shook out:
Those numbers are truly astounding. Their ineptitude in pass defense was truly amazing. Their own passing was also shockingly bad. Their previous season low was a 22.8% against the Jaguars in week 1, so this type of performance surprised many. It wasn't their worst game running the ball or stopping the run though, which just goes to show you how truly awful those units are.
Here's where the Broncos stand on the season:
The Broncos basically swapped places with the Raiders in the overall rankings. They are now the team that looks like its trying to lay claim as the 29th best team in the league. To give some perspective on how bad their defense is right now here's some comparisons to 2009 performances. Chris Johnson ran for 2,006 yards and had a 15.2% DVOA. The Broncos turn RBs into a better version of 2009 Chris Johnson. Aaron Rodgers in 2009 passed for 2,262 yards and had a 22.7% DVOA. The Broncos turn QBs into a better version of 2009 .
The Chiefs maintain their AFC West lead by moving up to 4-2 after beating the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Chiefs are now 3-2 against AFC teams. The Jaguars are also a common opponent for all the AFC West teams. Here's how the game went down by DVOA:
Two things stand as special compared to their previous performances is the passing DVOA, which was the highest of the year, and their rush defense, which was also the best its been all year. Keeping Maurice Jones-Drew bottled up put the burden on Todd Bouman to move the chains. Bouman, who was out of football until the Jags came calling, did alright against the Chiefs, but a couple of key slip-ups played right into Kansas City's hands. Literally.
Here's where the Chiefs stand on the season:
The Chiefs on paper and in the standings are the class of the AFC West.
The Raiders won a divisional game against the Denver Broncos to push their record to 3-4. This is their second divisional win so they are now 2-0 against the AFC West. Here's what the Raiders best game of the season looked like when tallied up:
It's truly astonishing that the Raiders could go from such an awful performance in week 6 to an absolutely brilliant game numbers-wise. As a Chargers fan I'm seriously envious of what the Raiders did this past Saturday. It makes me sick.
Here's where the Raiders stand on the season:
The Raiders magically transformed their below average rushing units (offense and defense) into above average ones in one week. They still have looks of a losing club overall (DVOA and in the standings), but when you've hit rock bottom even the slightest improvements can be reasons to celebrate.
Norv Turner might as well turn into Jim Mora if anyone mentions "playoffs" to him. As Philip Rivers said in a recent press conference, the teams goals are out the window and the only goal on the table is to win next Sunday. The team is in dire straights due to 5 losses in the books, a hobbled receiving corps that looks like it'll need a few more weeks to get right, an underused running game, a severe case of fumblitis, a lack of turnovers from the defense, some horrid special teams that is adept at finding new ways to stink and a fan base that has become increasingly jaded about the team, its management and the franchise as a whole. The recession and a lack of excitement for the team had already threatened nearly every home game with a blackout, but after this start its pretty safe to assume that no more home games will be televised in Southern California. That includes a couple of primetime affairs like the upcoming Monday Night showdown with hobbled rival Denver. The cruelness of it all is that many a diehard fan actually likes a lot of aspects of this team compared to 2008 and 2009, but the mistakes and mental errors on the field just weigh the football club down like an anchor.
The Broncos are in mostly the same boat as the Chargers (with the exception of the blackouts issue) as they also stare up at most of the AFC. Losing to Raiders has a way of sending a team into self-reflection. You start to wonder how you let yourself get here and if there is truly a way back from this pit of despair. It's been mentioned a couple of places that Head Coach Josh McDaniels could be on the hot seat, but that seems a little odd since the team let him draft a QB (Tim Tebow) in the first round this year. Most franchises don't like to split up a QB and his coach unless its been proven they can't work out. Maybe that means that a couple more losses will bring the former Heisman trophy winner out on the field more. That might bring some excitement to a potentially lost season.
Kansas City Chiefs
If the Chargers were in the Chiefs shoes I'm sure Bolt backers would be talking about how to secure playoff seeding and starting to keep an eye on what the Jets, Patriots, Colts, Steelers, Ravens and Titans are doing. As it stands right now those are the main rivals for the Chiefs as the rest of the AFC West stumbles its way through the season. The Chiefs already compared wares with the Colts and didn't look terrible, so a visit for for Colts to KC in January is probably a delectable thought for the Chiefs. The Titans are also on the schedule, but that's it for legitimate playoff contenders. The Chiefs would have to stumble against the likes of the Rams, Seahawks, Cardinals, Bills and 5 AFC West games in order to screw up this opportunity. For Chiefs fans it might prudent to start looking at how much can be saved for playoff tickets because someone's Super Bowl chances are likely going through KC.
Darren McFadden. The man's picture is on the cover page of this article for a reason. The Raiders drafted him high in the 2008 draft and for once he actually performed how the Silver and Blacked dreamed he would. Jason Campbell was right there with him leading the Raiders to victory. The traditional stats don't seem too gaudy for Campbell, but he was efficient at what he did. Six of his 20 passes were for 20 yards or more and the team picked up a lot of first downs through the air. I suppose you could call what happened last Sunday the formula for success for Oakland, but I'll remain a little skeptical despite the praise I've been heaping. Let's see them do it against a team a little less flawed than the Broncos.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers stay at home to face another tough opponent as the Tennessee Titans come to town. So far the Chargers haven't played a team that could be considered good on defense by DVOA standards, but that's about to change. The Titans are #2 against the pass and #4 against the run by DVOA. The last time the Chargers faced a team this good on defense was when the Jets came in and ended the Chargers Super Bowl aspirations last year. The game has the added bonus of meaning a little extra for Tennessee. Last year the Titans needed to keep a winning streak alive to stay in the playoff hunt when San Diego came into town for Christmas and ended those hopes in blowout fashion. The Chargers also knocked the Titans out of the playoffs in 2007. Trust me when I say that these things have not been forgotten. The Chargers do get a little breathing room in that the Titans are just an average team on offense. The recipe for a win is probably to hold onto the football, keep playing good defense and wait for the offense to find a big play or two.
The Broncos packed their bags and grabbed their passports early this week in order to jet over to London for this weekend's matchup. The Broncos' opponent is the San Francisco 49ers who are technically the home team for this one. Despite Denver's struggles this might be a winnable game for them since the 49ers are not playing anything close to winning football lately. The 49ers one strength is stopping the run, but with the Broncos opposing them that was going to be a given anyway. The 49ers also seemed to be developing a somewhat lethal combo in Alex Smith to Vernon Davis deep over the middle, but Alex Smith injured his arm and will be questionable for this game. The 49ers could go with David Carr at the helm where he'd much rather take a sack or throw a 2 yard check down then look down the field for an open receiver. Instead it looks like they'll go with 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith. Smith hasn't had a lot of playing time in the NFL and I would think that nobody believes that the 49ers can develop a QB. So, I wouldn't expect to much. Enjoy, Londoners.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs stay at home where a potentially energized Buffalo Bills team comes to the Midwest. The Bills just took the Baltimore Ravens to the brink by leading them for most of the game and then forcing overtime with a 4th quarter comeback. A lot of that had to do with Joe Flacco not being able to hit the broadside of a barn door. Matt Cassel may not be the most accurate QB, but it would be somewhat surprising to seem him play as bad as Flacco did. The Bills are the worst team in the league at stopping both the run and the pass, so that probably means that the Chiefs will look to run early and run often. The Bills are bad enough that this will probably work, but its worth pointing out their pass defense is colossally bad and the Chiefs passing game has been really effective. The Chiefs could put this game away early if they just took advantage of that.
The Raiders are facing an old rival in the Seattle Seahawks as a new generation of players gets to visit the black hole just like their predecessors used to when they were in the AFC West. Seattle is not a good team, but they are not a terrible team. Their strength is in run defense, which should be interesting with Oakland riding high on Darren McFadden's recent performance. The Seahawks aren't terrible passing the ball either and could take advantage of a bad pass defense like the Raiders. Seattle also has a new RB in Marshawn Lynch to deploy against the Raiders run defense, which has struggled at times. However, Lynch hasn't lit the world on fire with his initial efforts for the Seahawks. It seems to me like this could be anybody's game.