Shaun Phillips running to pay dirt as the Chargers defense attempts to announce its presence with authority. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
First a note on VOA and DVOA: To quote FootballOutsiders.com this week:
Week 4 is when we introduce opponent adjustments into our formula for the first time...Opponent adjustments are currently at 40 percent strength and will steadily grow stronger until Week 10.
So for this week I'll be mentioning the current DVOA values for a team as well as their previous VOA values. In some cases values will go up or down based on opponent adjustments as opposed to week 4 performance.
The Bolts won an out-of-conference game in convincing fashion to get back to .500 at 2-2. The offense took some strides forward, moving up to 20.8% VOA from the 12% VOA it was at the week before.
The defense is now the new pride and joy of the team as it now sits at -26.0% DVOA and ranks #1 in the NFL. Its worth noting that Arizona (31st), Jacksonville (20th) and Seattle (24th) rank in the bottom half of the league and, while they do rank 10th in the league right now, we only have 3 games of data on which to judge Kansas City's offensive attack. Suffice it to say, it'll take some very impressive performances to keep up that #1 ranking.
The special teams still sit in the cellar at -20.7% DVOA, which is an improved value from the -26.6% VOA from the week before. Overall, the Chargers now rank 5th in the NFL in total DVOA behind only New England, Kansas City, New York (green version) and Bay (also the Green version).
The Broncos won an in-conference game in scrappy fashion to get to 2-2. Kyle Orton had an outstanding performance against what, going into the week, was the best pass defense in the NFL. On the other hand, Laurence Maroney was absolutely terrible and did his best to kill Denver's chances all by his himself.
This continued–trend of good passing and abysmal running is not impressing DVOA, and the Broncos now sit 4.3% DVOA on offense as opposed to the 10.2% VOA they were at last week. Opponent adjustments combined with a not-terrible performance against the Titans improved the Broncos defensive value with their DVOA now at 16.3% versus the 20.1% VOA they were at before. Special teams were still a bit of a problem and went down from -2.8% VOA to -3.6% DVOA after week 4.
The Chiefs are now the only undefeated team in the NFL at 3-0. The opponent adjustments alone caused the Kansas City offense to climb from 9.4% VOA to 11.5% DVOA. The defense stayed about the same going from -16.6% VOA to -16.3% DVOA. The special teams retained their 3rd–in–the–NFL ranking going from 7.8% VOA to 5.8% DVOA.
As I said last week, this units' performance is almost entirely bolstered by a strong showing against San Diego's weak showing in week 1. Their total DVOA is 33.6% and they are still #2 in that category.
The Raiders played the Texans and lost an in-conference game to fall to 1-3.
Their offense is looking at bit better as it went from -33.0% VOA to -19.9% DVOA. The defense was a nightmare for the Silver and Black and it went from 3.0% VOA to 17.1% DVOA. Those that watched the game saw the Raiders get pounded–on repeatedly by the Texan offensive line and RB Arian Foster. Rookie LB Rolando McClain specifically looked pretty terrible as he got washed up in blockers on almost every play. The special teams couldn't get any worse after last week's FG debacles, and it didn't, going from -7.7% VOA to -4.4% DVOA.
San Diego Chargers
We're kings of the world! No one can stop the Chargers. They can play defense, they have Philip Rivers and a power offense, they've eliminated their issues with penalties and have fixed the special teams.
Or, they just played the Cardinals who apparently forgot to do any homework before the season started.
Remember that project where they were supposed to find a new QB? Yeah, they got drunk and forgot about it and the Chargers took advantage. Remember that extra credit assignment where they had to find a LB who could cover TEs to replace Karlos Dansby? Well, their friends got tickets to this awesome concert and ... well, anyway, you get the point.
Still, the Chargers team that showed up in Seattle wouldn't have whooped a team this badly, so it's still really nice to see.
There is one problem this Chargers team is tasked with, and that's dealing with missing players. Much of the LB corps is dinged, as is one safety and another got suspended. One offensive lineman is down for a bit and somehow the team will start the same LS two weeks in a row for the first time next week. Some of these players aren't coming back and the Chargers need to keep playing like they did Sunday to make hay this year.
As I mentioned in the review, this team's running game is awful. Maybe Knowshon Moreno helps fix it. Maybe the lineman start playing better, but at this point all we know is that it's bad.
Speaking of linemen, Ryan Clady has not looked good at all this year. Either he's not 100% or he's just way too rusty to play anywhere close to his former level after sitting out and rehabbing for so long.
I also have to give another shout to my boy Kyle Orton. I don't actively root for him anymore since he became a Bronco, but he is performing at a very high level this year and definitely is throwing for a lot of yards while also racking up the advanced stats over at Football Outsiders. This could be a special year for him provided he doesn't get hurt. Injuries have thrown off his rhythm and timing in years past. We'll see what happens this year.
Kansas City Chiefs
With the Chiefs getting an early bye, there's not really much to say that hasn't already been said. Many teams need the bye to rest up players or work on different things. The Chiefs don't have a lot of injury issues like the other teams in their division so that opportunity is somewhat wasted.
They could however spend some time working on doing what I've said they'll need to do to keep up with the other teams in the conference and that is to improve their offense and defense. The man in the spotlight for that has been and will be Matt Cassel. There's also an opportunity to game plan a little something extra for a couple of their upcoming opponents, but we'll get to that later.
Can we put Tom Cable on the hot seat already? The expectations with the Raiders were pretty high going into the season and this writer puts the blame on the coaching for not getting their job done. There should have been opportunities for the Raiders to use the passing game effectively against a struggling Texan pass defense, but they couldn't do it. The Raiders played the blame game with last year's run defense reworked the linebacking corps as well some of the defensive line. Well those interesting personnel changes on defense didn't pan out on Sunday as they were run over by Houston. Year in and year out this team just does not get prepared enough for these games.
San Diego Chargers
Raider week! The streak is on the line. The Chargers will try to win their 14th consecutive game against the Raiders. The Chargers will try to do it on the road where they are 0-2 this year and the Raiders have played the Chargers tough in Oakland the last couple of years.
By DVOA the Chargers should have all the advantages here since their offensive and defensive strengths play into the Raiders' weaknesses, and the Raiders special teams unit is nowhere near as good as the last 4 teams the Chargers faced.
Unless the Raiders have been waiting until this weekend to put together a good performance, or the Chargers just fall apart on the road again, there's no reason to think the Bolts can't do to the Raiders what they just did to the Cardinals.
The Broncos stay on the road and travel to Baltimore to, yet again, test their offense against one of the better defenses.
The Ravens have done better this year against the pass than against the run, but that was also true of the Tennessee Titans. The Ravens offense has been decent throwing the ball so far, but they do have a QB that can lose focus and accuracy at times.
The Ravens have struggled a little running the ball even though they have one of 2009's better performing backs in Ray Rice. Rice has been dinged up and faced some top notch run defenses in the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I remember last year when the Chargers met the Ravens early in the season and have a similar offense and defense as the Broncos. I think we can expect a game similar style to that one.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs will play their toughest road game of the season this week when they go to Indianapolis to face the defending AFC Champs. This is the first of two consecutive road opportunities for the Chiefs as they face the Texans in Houston the following week.
Perhaps the early bye has helped them prepare a little better for these two solid opponents. For this week what they really need to prepare for is pounding the football, using their special teams and getting turnovers on defense. That formula worked against the Chargers and it worked for the Jaguars against the Colts this past week. As the only undefeated team in the NFL the league's eyes will fall on the Chiefs in Indy to see what they're really made of.
The Raiders stay at home to face the Chargers. The streak may or may not be on their minds, but injuries definitely are. The Silver and Black were just getting used to some solid performances from Darren McFadden, but now he has a hamstring injury that could keep him out this week. Third–string running back and former Charger Michael Bennett has the same issue. That leaves only Michael Bush to carry the running load.
Bruce Gradkowski got dinged up in the Houston game as well. The cameras showed Jason Campbell warming up, but Gradkowski toughed it out, stayed in and threw an interception to show that he was okay. He'll probably play this week, but I doubt he's 100%.
Defensive lineman John Henderson couldn't get on the field last week and probably won't play this week either. Linebackers Quentin Groves and Thomas Howard have an injured hamstring and knee respectively, and offensive players Robert Gallery and Chaz Schilens are unlikely to play.
This team's mettle will be tested this week as will Coach Cable's ability to inspire his men to win against a team that hasn't been beaten by the Raiders since 2003.