AFC West Week 13 Review

Tamba Hali led the Chiefs defense to a complete shutdown of Kyle Orton and the Broncos passing offense. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

San Diego Chargers

The Zombie Chargers were lured in by the fresh, tasty Joe Raider. It's lips still dripping with Kevin Colt's fresh blood it went into full ramble to chase down this Silver and Black menace. But, just as the chase began it tripped over it's own mangled corpse. Joe Raider and all his buddies took shovels, baseball bats and plenty kicks as it groaned helplessly on the ground. It's battered corpse just lies there. Twitching. But, no one shot the head. Can it rise again? Or is it too beaten to be a threat?

The Chargers fell back to .500 with a loss to the Oakland Raiders that dropped San Diego's record to 6-6. The Chargers had not been swept by the Raiders in a single season since 2001. Their AFC West record now stands at at a measly 1-3. They are 2 game out of first place in the AFC West with 4 games to play.

Here are the numbers from the Sunday Night:

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
-29.5%
17.9% 28.7%
-25.8% 40.4%
63.0% 33.2%
-7.0%

We probably didn't need DVOA to know what happened in this game. The defense got thrashed, the special teams played poorly, the little that the running game was used was completely ineffective and the passing game didn't live up to it's own impressive standards.The Total DVOA for the game was the first negative performance for the team since going to St. Louis in week 6. It was only the 4th negative performance of the year (the Chargers lost the first game with the Raiders and the Patriots game with positive DVOAs). This was worst DVOA performance in run defense of the season. The previous low was against Denver in week 11. Again, we probably didn't need DVOA to tell us that. 

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
16.4% 8
19.7% 4
45.5%
2
0.0% 17
-8.7% 4
-11.9% 3
-4.7% 15
-11.9% 32

Usually, this late in the season it's pretty hard to move the needle in any of the DVOA categories. The one that moved a lot was the run defense. Last week the Bolts were in the mix with Chicago, Baltimore, Tennessee, Minnesota, Miami, San Francisco and Atlanta as a sort second tier run defense behind the top tier of Pittsburgh and the New York Jets. Now the team false back in the pack to about the fourth tier. Teams like the Packers, Chiefs, Rams and Giants are the company they keep. The run offense has been tanking for a while and now sits at an exactly average DVOA.

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 clinch their first losing season since 2007 by splitting their season series with the Kansas City Chiefs. Their overall record is now 3-9 and one more loss would guarantee their worst record since 1999 (6-10). Another loss after that would make it their worst season since 1990 (5-11). The Broncos have never lost 12 games in a season. On the bright side, if you're a Broncos fan, is that it won't be their worst season ever. In 1963 and 1964 they went 2-11-1, which is a lower winning percentage (.143) than if they finished the 2011 season at 3-13 (.188). The Broncos are now 1-3 against the NFC West, which still matches the same embarrassing the Chargers hold. They are now mathematically eliminated from both the division and the wild card. Only the Bills, Bengals, Lions, Panthers and Cardinals can also claim that.

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

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
1.6%
-8.3% -57.7%
51.3% -0.9%
6.7% -6.4%
9.0%

DVOA seems to think that the Broncos' performance in this game was very close to average. Looking at the passing offense and passing defense, that starts to make sense as you how unexpectedly bad they were passing the ball and how they made up for it in the running game. This also marks their 4th straight week running the ball well and a season high DVOA in that area. I'm officially declaring their early running woes a thing of the past. Of course, they fired their head coach this week, so anything could happen. On defense, you see another yin and yang situation where the good run defense cancels out the bad pass defense. Then a quality special teams performance fixes any other slight discrepancies. Speaking of special teams, this was a season best performance for that unit. Congratulations, feel free to reward yourselves with some golf reservations in January.

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
-11.5% 24
13.0% 10
41.0% 3
-16.1% 31
21.9%
31
46.1% 31
1.4% 21
-2.6% 27

As you'll see later, the Broncos got passed by the Raiders in Overall DVOA and now rank last in the AFC West in that category. However, they are still very close. It'll be interesting to see what happens when these two teams play each again, but we'll have to a wait a couple weeks for that. Since we don't have a Hype section anymore let me use this space to opine about Josh McDaniels. From the beginning I was very skeptical that he was the right coach for the job. I think from a people management standpoint, he rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and some coaches know how to get away with that and others don't. Now, by purely analyzing team performance the firing is not quite justified. In 2009, the Broncos finished the same as they did in 2008, but did it with a lot of changes happening all around. In 2010, they were absolutely devastated by injuries most notably Elvis Dumervil's season-ending injury. It is entirely understandable that the team would not perform well. In my opinion, they've actually done a little better than what you'd expect under the circumstances. Based on that alone, I would give the coach a pass. However, there's more to the firing than just what happened on the field.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs defeated the Broncos to go to 8-4 overall and even out their AFC West record to 2-2. They are also now 2-0 at home vs. divisional opponents. The Chiefs magic number to win the division now stands at 3. However, they can also win the division by going 2-2 if those 2 wins are over the Chargers and Raiders (or if the Chargers and Raiders each lose at least 1 of their other games). That's probably a little over-simplified, but you get the idea.

Here's how the game went down by DVOA:

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
2.8%
-12.0% 13.6%
3.2% -11.1%
-77.9% 62.0%
3.7%

I'm sure you're all shocked to see that DVOA took a low scoring slugfest between two teams that normally play better offense and said that both played pretty average with the winning team coming out as ever-so-slightly better. Or maybe you're not. The Chiefs passing offense had it's second negative DVOA of the season (Cleveland in week 2 was the other) and set a season low. On the other side of the ball the pass defense set a season high by shutting down Kyle Orton and the Broncos through the air. I will point out though that the Chiefs have now played very average or worse for 4 of the last 5 weeks with the Seahawks game being the only exception. We'll see how that translates down the home stretch.

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
8.1% 13
13.9% 8
33.4% 9
8.5% 6
3.3%
19
8.6% 14
-3.5% 18
-2.1% 25

DVOA still sees the Chiefs as the 13th best team in the NFL and the 8th best team in the AFC. That means that if DVOA had it's way, Kansas City would be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. In addition to the Chargers, it also thinks non-playoff teams Cleveland and Miami are better than the Chiefs. It also sees those teams (and the Chargers) as teams on the rise where their weighted DVOA (the stat that values recent performance higher than early season performance) is higher than their overall DVOA. The Chiefs, on the other hand, have a weighted DVOA of 3.1%, which is quite a bit lower than 8.1%. The New York Jets are another AFC team with the same "problem". 

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders get back to .500 at 6-6 by crushing the Chargers on a road trip to San Diego. They improve to a perfect 4-0 against the AFC West, which will probably come in very handy should they finish the season tied atop the division. The Raiders do not yet control their own destiny, but should be rooting for the Chargers on Sunday to defeat the Chiefs because if that happens Oakland can win out and make the playoffs for the first time since their AFC Championship season in 2002. They do already have the most wins of any Raiders team since that 2002 season (they had 5 wins 3 times during that stretch).

Here are the numbers from this week's win:

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
63.0%
45.6% 88.4%
55.2% -13.8%
-9.5%
-32.0%
3.5%

Best Total DVOA since Bronco Bustin' in week 7 and their second best mark of the season. Best DVOA of the season for their offense. Very close to being the best DVOA for passing offense with just a 0.3% difference between this game and that same week 7 game. Best DVOA of the season for the run offense. This was a very special performance for the team. The question that I think a lot of people are asking themselves is:How they can play like this a couple times a season, but still have all these terrible games (week 1 vs. TEN, week 3 vs. Ari, week 4 vs. HOU, week 6 vs SF and week 10 vs. PIT) as well? How can a team be so two-faced? Maybe it's the eye patch. Anyone ever check if it switches eyes for different games?

Overall Offense Defense Special Teams
DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank
-11.4% 23
-9.7% 27
-11.1% 29
7.9% 8
2.1%
15
11.9%
18
-8.1% 11 0.4% 16

DVOA is definitely aware of the Raiders being a team on the rise. It has their weighted DVOA as -4.0%, which is better than their overall DVOA, but not exactly good. It just can't get over all those terrible performances they've sprinkled through the season including a very recent one in Pittsburgh. Football Outsiders also has a stat that tracks how much a team's performances vary during the season. It's aptly called "Variance" and the Raiders rank dead last in that category as the most inconsistent team in the league. By comparison, Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta and New Orleans are four of the most consistent teams in the league. Last year, San Diego was the most consistent team in the league and Tennessee was the most inconsistent.

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