AFC West Week 14 Review

Smile Norv. Your team wasn't eliminated this week. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

San Diego Chargers

Billy Chief was wandering an alley looking for food. He had been eating quite well, but less than a week ago his belly started hurting. An old surgeon pal of his told him he had appendicitis and removed the inflamed organ. Unfortunately for Billy his old buddies had abandoned him in his weakened state and only some guy named Brodie was sticking with him now. He didn't trust Brodie and told him to look for food elsewhere. So down the alley he went, peeking in dirty dumpsters. This next one smelled funny, but he was desperate. He threw open the lid and with gurgling growl a mangled jaw full of teeth found its way to Mr. Chief's neck. Billy knew at this moment it was over. Why did he have to be left with only Brodie?

The Zombie returns. Growing strong again. Sure, the corpse isn't as pristine as it once was. But, the teeth still work and the hunger is still there.

The Chargers got back on the winning track against the Kansas City Chiefs. They are now 7-6 and bumped up their AFC West record to 2-3. They are now 1 game out of first place in the AFC West with 3 games to play. They needed this win to stay alive. And they got it.

Here are the numbers from this past Sunday:

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
114.7%
32.5% 71.4%
27.1% -71.6%
-96.6% -41.5%
10.6%

That looks pretty. Real pretty. First time over 100% in DVOA for a week. 2nd highest rushing DVOA of the season (Tennessee in week 8 is #1). Highest defensive DVOA. Highest DVOA defending the pass for the season (Thank you Brodie!). 3rd highest DVOA defending the run (NE and IND games were better). And the 2nd highest special teams performance of the year. That's what you would describe as a complete victory. A team victory.

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
21.6% 6
19.8% 4
45.4%
2
2.9% 11
-12.0% 3
-16.2% 2
-6.6% 12
-10.2% 32

The Chargers made some significant strides here this week. They moved up two ranking spots in Overall DVOA. That required the Chargers picking up about 5 percentage points to do it, which is no small feat this late in the season. The biggest jumps came on defense, especially passing defense. Some of that is because of Brodie Croyle being a subpar NFL QB, but the Bolts were already the 3rd ranked passing defense going into that game, so it's not like the game was out of character. It's also worth noting that the Chargers are only team in the NFL with both a top 5 offense and a top 5 defense by DVOA. Other teams that come close are the Packers (#8 on offense, #4 on defense) and the Steelers (#9 on offense, #1 on defense).

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 only interesting thing with the Denver Broncos season is seeing how historically bad it will stack up with the rest of the franchise's history. This week they lost to one of the worst teams in the league in the Arizona Cardinals and fell to 3-10. They now have the worst record for the franchise since 1999. Next week they'll have their sights set on 1990 and one more loss after that would make them the Broncos team that lost the most games in franchise history. The Broncos are done with the NFC West and finish with a 1-3 record against it. Last week only the Broncos, Bills, Bengals, Lions, Panthers and Cardinals were eliminated from the division and wild care, but this week the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings join them in saying, "Wait 'til next year". The Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers were also eliminated from the wild card races.

Here's how the Broncos' game looked in DVOA form:

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
-84.9%
-55.0% -74.0%
-24.6% 31.2%
12.6% 51.0%
1.3%

Well, this is certainly what laying an egg looks like. Oh, wait, there was an slightly above average special teams performance (golf clap). It's pretty amazing that the passing offense could be so bad after being so good earlier in the year. I wish I had an explanation. Last year, you could tie the downfall of the passing offense with Orton hurting his ankle against the Chargers. It wasn't the first time Orton's play had diminished after injury (it happened at Purdue and in Chicago). However, this year no such injury exists as far as I know. Orton has even already been named the starter for next weekend's game.

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
-19.3% 24
5.3% 16
28.0% 12
-16.7% 31
22.4%
32
42.1% 32
5.3% 28
-2.3% 24

The Broncos now have the worst defense by DVOA in the NFL. Yikes. I kind of feel for the Broncos a little. For years it just started feeling comfortable to have the Raiders and sometimes the Chiefs as a divisional team that also could put up performances on par with some of the league's worst. Now it's the Broncos and their atrocious defense. Did I say it was sad? On second thought, I'll take that back. Dress warmly people of Denver. It's cold in the cellar.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs got thrashed by the Chargers to move to 8-5 overall and worsen their AFC West record to 2-3. They are also now 0-3 on the road against divisional opponents. The Chiefs still have a magic number of 3 to win the division.They can win some tie-breaking scenarios, but most of those require them to beat the Raiders in a few weeks. Possible, but no gimme.

Here's how the game went down by DVOA:

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
-66.0%
-34.8% -38.9%
-30.2% 27.1%
26.5% 27.4%
-4.1%

This is also what laying an egg looks like. It's an even bigger egg than the one the Broncos laid. That's impressive in it's own right since the Broncos got beaten up by one of DVOA's worst teams, while the Chiefs got their beatdown at the hands of one of the best. This was the Chiefs worst offensive performance of the year, their worst passing performance of the year and their 3rd worst running performance. That alone was probably enough to lose the game for them, but the defense also had one of its worst days all around and individually in both pass and run defense. And, on top of that the special teams let them down.

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
3.9% 14
11.8% 11
29.7% 11
7.1% 7
5.6%
18
9.7% 19
0.1% 20
-2.3% 25

Not much movement here. DVOA has settled it's internal "debate" about the Chiefs and has firmly decided that they are a middle of the pack, very average team. Or what the NFC West refers to as a "dominant team". The Chiefs can be very thankful for the Chargers and their rough start because it's giving them a lot of hope right now. The Broncos have had that kind of hope in previous years. Let's see how that turns out.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are back down below .500 at 6-7 after suffering a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road. The AFC South has been the Raiders bugaboo this season. They are 6-4 against non-AFC South teams and 0-3 against the Jaguars, Texans and Titans. Hope for the first playoff season since 2002 for the Silver and Black should be starting to dwindle. They still have their shiny 4-0 AFC West divisional record, but it will take some funky circumstances to get that tie-breaker to hold up. A game against the Chiefs theoretically helps, but they'll also need another loss by the Chiefs (@StL and TEN at home) against opponents that are a combined 11-15 and at least one loss by the Chargers (SF at home, @Cin and @Den) whose opponents are a combined 10-29. And that all assumes that the Raiders can win out against the Denver Broncos (on the road), the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs (on the road).

Here are the numbers from this week's loss:

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
-5.9%
34.1% 57.5%
13.9% 23.7%
38.9%
15.7%
-16.2%

The defense and special teams let the Raiders down in this game. For whatever reason David Garrard was able to give them more trouble than Philip Rivers. That just seems odds, but maybe that little extra mobility that Garrard has helped him avoid the pressure that troubled Philip so much. The Raiders also had some injuries to key contributors on defense like ILB Rolando McClain.

On offense though, I'm pretty sure this is a case of the slutty DVOA luring another partner underneath the bleachers and smooching for hours. It's really starting to take a liking to this Raiders offense. The passing game especially is starting to come around with another nice performance this week. Of course, the Jaguars have made a lot of passing games look good this season. But, once upon a time that wasn't even enough for a Raider passing game to have a good day. Progress. Isn't it annoying Charger fans?

Also worth noting is that this is the first game the Raiders have played with an Total DVOA close to average. Almost every game this season has been either decently above or below average with some (@SD in week 13 with 67.6% and @Pit in week 11 with -112.0%) being real outliers. I'm not exactly sure what it means, but it's interesting.

Overall Offense Defense Special Teams
DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank
-10.3% 23
-5.6% 25
-3.7% 27
8.7% 6
3.9%
15
13.8%
24
-6.0% 13 -0.8% 20

The Raiders are still making small improvements on their season, but stubborn DVOA will not budge for such subtle changes. It just can't forget what it's seen. All the games matter. Even if the Raiders end up playing in January DVOA will still be here reminding the Raiders how fortunate they were to get away playing so awful at various points of the 2010 season.

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