AFC West Week 12 Review

San Diego Chargers

The Zombie Chargers rampage is well under way. Brave Kevin Colts came out shooting and even wounded the Zombie slightly (its Vincent Jackson fell off), but the scared midwesterner ran into a local TV studio. Zombie Chargers finally caught Colt right in the middle of a live news broadcast. Everyone saw the carnage. The broadcast made it to the national airwaves. The whole country has been put on notice that the Zombies are coming for them.

The Chargers upped their record to 6-5 by shutting down the Indianapolis Colts. This is the Chargers' first winning record of the season. They completed a sweep of the AFC South and improved their record versus the AFC Conference to 5-3. They are now 1 game out of first place in the AFC West with 5 games to play.

Here are the numbers from the Sunday Night:

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
73.7%
23.2% 59.2%
-2.1% -38.4%
-35.7% -47.6%
12.1%

The only game of the season where the Chargers were more dominant was the week 4 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The Chargers did set two season highs this week, however. The first was on run defense where they suffocated the Colts. The second was on special teams where (trumpets sound) the Chargers posted their first positive DVOA of the season in that category. They did just about everything well. Perfect on field goals, solid on kick coverage and even got some decent returns. The run DVOA is probably a surprise to some since it is a below average value. This is a combination of the Colts having a bad run defense and the Chargers having a boom or bust running that featured a lot of 0, 1 and 2 yard carries on first and second down. That's not a way to sustain offense so DVOA punishes the team for it.

Here's where the Chargers stand on the season:

Overall Offense Defense Special Teams
DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank
20.5% 6
19.1% 4
46.0% 3
0.7% 15
-13.8% 2
-15.3% 3
-11.6% 6
-12.4% 32

One thing I think is funny is how San Diego's passing DVOA always stays about the same, but its ranking goes up and down. What it tells you is that the passing game is consistently there for the Bolts. The teams they play can rarely do much to make it better or worse. Other teams with top passing games (Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Green Bay) seem to wax and wane. Some days its other worldly for them and other days it becomes more pedestrian. Basically, their passing offenses aren't as  trustworthy as San Diego's. Another thing that's worth noting is that Football Outsiders also publishes a "Weighted DVOA" where the Chargers rank 4th in the NFL. What that means is that the 2010 Chargers, taken as a whole for the entire season, look like the 6th best team in football. However, the more recent play for the Chargers makes them look like the 4th best team in football. It tells us is what we basically already know. The Bolts are getting hot.

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.

Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos continued their downward spiral and lost to the St. Louis Rams. That drops their overall record to 3-8 and guarantees them at best a .500 season. The Broncos are now 1-2 against the NFC West, which is the same embarrassment the Chargers currently bear. Misery loves company. All the Broncos have left to realistically play for is draft position or playing spoiler. Although, technically, they aren't mathematically eliminated. A loss next week would fix that however.

Here's how the Broncos' misery continued in DVOA form:

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
-22.7%
55.6% 82.4
24.6% 26.1%
63.6% -13.4%
-6.8%

One bright spot for the Broncos recently has been their running game. This is their 3rd straight week where they've had a positive DVOA in that category after posting some truly awful numbers early in the year. It seems that almost all their problems on the unit were related to injuries to Knowshon Moreno and a couple of the offensive lineman. The run defense had a 3 week period earlier in the year where it struggled, but bounced back the last 4 weeks and has had 7 weeks of above average play. The pass defense on the other hand is a hopeless mess.

Here's where the Broncos stand on the season:

Overall Offense Defense Special Teams
DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank
-11.7% 22
15.2% 8
47.8% 2
--21.3% 31 23.4%
31
48.2% 32
2.0% 23
-3.6% 28

It took a while, but the Broncos now have the worst pass defense in the NFL surpassing the putrid unit down in Houston. That part of their football team is absolutely killing them. The Broncos aren't terrible at stopping #1 WRs and have a 3.7% DVOA doing that. Even their performance against #2's isn't cellar-dweller worthy at 28.2%. However the 42.2% against "Other WR" and 31.1% against TE really drags them down. What's crazy to think is that number against TEs doesn't even including having to play Antonio Gates since he sat out of their matchup.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs defeated another NFC West team to improve to 3-0 against that division and 7-4 overall. This was their first win against an NFC West team on the road, as the Chiefs made the hostile Seattle environment their home-away-from-home for 3 hours last Sunday.

Here's how the game went down by DVOA:

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
47.2%
58.3% 87.1%
48.8% -15.6%
-10.6% -30.9%
-26.7%

The Chiefs broke out of their rut that featured 3 straight games with negative DVOA by pulling together for a dominate win over the Seahawks. The performance included their highest total DVOA since their win over Jacksonville and street free agent QB Todd Bouman, their highest offensive DVOA of the season, their 2nd highest passing DVOA of the season and their highest rushing DVOA of the season. On the other hand it also featured their worst special teams performance (blocked punt and field goal) and Chargers fans can tell Chiefs backers that they may not want to overlook that.

Here's where the Chiefs stand on the season:

Overall Offense Defense Special Teams
DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank
8.4% 15
15.6% 7
36.5% 7
8.8% 5
4.5%
20
14.0% 21
-9.1% 10
-2.6% 26

Where last week DVOA was pretending like it didn't know Kansas City, this week they've made up and have been spotted smooching under the bleachers. DVOA is such a slut. The Rush offense is now a top 5 unit, but there still exists an extreme juxtaposition between Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. Charles leads the NFL with a 33.5% DVOA (Foster is 26.8%) and Jones is 25th with a -7.5% DVOA. And yet Jones has 177 carries on the season and Charles has 161. You can try to explain that to me anyway you like, but barring injuries that just seems wrong.

Oakland Raiders

Going into the game I thought the Raiders had a legitimate shot at winning against the Dolphins. Even when Chad Henne (who has been the most effective weapon for the Dolphins offense) was announced as the starter I figured he was hobbled enough to keep the Raiders competitive. However, except for some brief fluky moments of competence (featuring rookie speedster Jacoby Ford), the game wasn't that competitive. The Raiders slipped below .500 to fall to 5-6. They are now 3-4 against the AFC, but for the second straight week they lost to a team that no one else in the division plays and therefore does not affect the common opponents tie-breaker. The Raiders still do have their 3-0 division record in their back pocket should they miraculously pull out some wins down the stretch.

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
-15.6%
-19.8% 31.7%
-87.2% 2.2%
18.1% 7.9%
6.4%

The run game betrayed the Raiders in this one. Lots of runs of -3,- 2, 0, 1, 2 and a fumble will do that. Considering how successful Darren McFadden has been this season its awfully surprising to see him get stuffed so consistently. It's hard to tell if the Dolphins just had his number, if he had a bad day and reverted to dancing in the backfield or if the offensive line wasn't playing well. In any case, it completely stalled out the offense and even the solid day by Bruce Gradkowski couldn't overcome all the bad situations it put him in.

Overall Offense Defense Special Teams
DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank
-17.2% 27
-15.7% 29
-15.7% 30
1.6% 12
2.3%
15
13.6%
20
-8.4% 12 0.1% 17

Unlike the Broncos who put their top draft pick at risk with every win they could potentially pick up down the stretch, the Raiders gave up their 1st round pick and can play spoiler to their hearts' content. They can also find out what they have in Jason Campbell once and for all since Gradkowski is out for the season. DVOA-wise for now it seems like they've settled into being in the bottom third of the league, but out of arms reach of truly awful teams like the Cardinals, Panthers and Seahawks. The Broncos outpace them in DVOA, but not in wins so it will be mildly interesting to see where each of the rivals ends up in wins and DVOA in 5 weeks.

Due to how wordy this part has become, I'm splitting the article up into two parts. The second part will be an AFC West preview which should show up in the coming days. The "Hype" section is on hold since many of the storylines revolve around the games, records and playoff scenarios. I'll wrap up all the hype when the season ends.

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