AFC West Week 3 Review

Yes, that's another Kansas City Chief. What am I supposed to do? (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Review

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers lost an out-of-conference game to the Seattle Seahawks to fall to 1-2. The offense chugged right along this week. It dipped from 13.5% VOA to 12%. That's still good enough to be ranked 10th in the league; a respectable spot for week 3. The defense also saw its performance drop from -23.2% VOA to -18%, but is actually ranked 3rd in the league now as opposed to 6th the week before. The defense is also fairly balanced with both the pass and rush defenses playing at similar levels (-19.7% and -16.5% VOA respectively). Most football fans know that the special teams had another bad day and continues to be the worst in the league. They currently stand at -26.6%, which is even worse than the -18.6% they were at last week and 17.1% worse than the next worst team (NY Giants). This is an exceptional weakness and has not gone unnoticed. Getting back to the offense, the passing offense actually upped its already high level of production going from 35.2% VOA to 42.5%. However, I'm pretty sure the Seahawks are going to end up as one of the worst pass defenses when everything shakes out. The running game sunk back to pedestrian levels and now sits at 0.8% VOA when it was at 6.9% last week. There's a lot to like here with that overall VOA at 3.6% despite atrocious special teams, but that loss column is problem.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos had the toughest matchup in the entire AFC West and lost at home in an in-conference game with the Colts to go to 1-2. The Denver offense performance keeps sinking each week as its now down to VOA 10.2% down from 13.7%. The running game is a big issue for them sitting at -35.5% VOA, which is last in the league whereas their passing is 4th in the league at 56.1%. That's a 2009 Chargers-esque discrepancy. Obviously, not using opponent adjustments against Peyton Manning and the Colts offense will drop your VOA if you don't play lights out and that's exactly what happened. The Broncos now have a 20.1% VOA, but its safe to think of them as doing slightly better than that. The Special Teams provided a little help and now sit at -2.8% VOA when they were at -6.4% after 2 weeks. The Broncos are riding some peaks and valleys right now in their performance right now and it'll be interesting to see if some things level off or keep being this team of extremes.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs made a push to start pulling away from the division by establishing at 2 game lead with a 3-0 record after beating an out-of-conference opponent in the San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs boom or bust offense is seeing a lot of booms, including some new wrinkles that came from the passing game actually contributing some. Their offense showed a big time improvement getting up to 9.4% VOA from -7.5%. The defense shut down the 49ers in a big way and now ranks 4th in the league at -16.6% after two weeks of playing the Browns and 49ers. There's probably an adjustment needed there, but putting up good unadjusted numbers is better than putting up bad ones. The Special Teams relinquished its top spot to fall to 3rd place mainly because the Seahawks used and abused the Chargers and Pittsburgh put up a good day vs. the Buccaneers. The unit fell from 10.7% to 7.8% and looks to be living solely off of its effort against the Chargers. This was a good win for the Chiefs. I'd argue they still need to work to improve to consider themselves contenders in the AFC, but each win gets them closer to getting to test their merit in the playoffs.

Oakland Raiders: Team Gradkowski made its first start this week, but lost an out-of-conference game to the Cardinals when their special teams let them down and now sit at 1-2 just like the Chargers and Broncos. The offense seems to be settling in as it maintained close to the same level as it was before (-33.0% VOA after being -35.2%). That's a pretty awful level to sustain, but that's the Raiders for you. The Raider nation saw a little improvement on defense going from 5.4% to 3.0%, but that's an improvement that comes at the unadjusted hands of the Derek Anderson-led Cardinals. I'll let you read between the lines on that one. We already mentioned that the Chargers have worst Special Teams in 2010 and the New York Giants are the next worst. Well, the Raiders are next in line at -7.7% as they suffered multiple field goal misses (3 total) including one that would have won the game. Commitment to Excellence indeed.

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.

The Hype

San Diego Chargers: Well, the Vincent Jackson stuff has settled down to a dull roar and Marcus McNeill has ended his holdout and now only has to serve out his suspension before returning. The Special Teams issues are a big deal and many couch potato GMs want Steve Crosby's head as well as probably Norv Turner's. The fumbling problems continue and continue as a topic of conversation. Fumbling is always kind of a boring issue though. There are two ways to fix it: 1. Coach the players up and wait for the results to show up on field, 2. Replace the players that have been fumbled. The latter isn't going to happen, so fans are left to wait for the problem to go away. The Special Teams problems probably have the same possible solutions, but it seems likely that we'll see that problem addressed both ways including some starters potentially reprising their previous special teams roles. The final thing is injuries. David Binn, James Dearth, Ryan O'Neill, Donald Butler, Jyles Tucker, Stephen Cooper, Larry English, Shawne Merriman, James Holt, Louis Vazquez, Ryan Mathews and Buster Davis have all missed games or will miss games. Oh, whoops, Buster Davis hasn't missed any and is still h..h...healthy (that felt weird). My bad. Anyway, its likely the team won't get much healthier as the season goes on so this is probably an ongoing issue.

Denver Broncos: I'm sure many of rational Broncos fans can live with the loss to the Colts early in the season even if it hurts to lose at home and fall two games behind the Chiefs. The Broncos run game is still struggling and is suffering from injuries to offensive linemen and running backs. They still haven't seen their RT Ryan Harris return and their RB Knowshon Moreno isn't a sure thing to return next week. They also have two linemen (Ryan Clady and Chris Kuper) playing through injury and their newly acquired backup RB Laurence Maroney is coming off an injury of his own. Will health fix these woes? Only time will tell. The pass defense has injuries of its own and having rookie Perrish Cox playing CB hurt the team a lot at the end of the game when he couldn't stop Austin Collie's connections from Peyton Manning. The Mile High Report also talked about the team making mistakes, especially in the Red Zone. John Bena described it as, "a golfer that can hit the ball right down the fairway, 275 yards,only to need 6 shots to get up and down." Finally, the team is also trying to get over the loss of WR Kenny McKinley who passed away last week at the young age of 23.

Kansas Chiefs: The Chiefs are 3-0. That's a fact. No one can take that away from them. Nor should they try. The Chiefs did what they needed to do and still have plenty of easy opponents left on the schedule to keep piling on the wins. This makes them a force in the AFC West even if people don't look at them and see a Super Bowl contender. Plenty of things to be excited about as a KC fan. Their former 1st round pick Derrick Johnson is hitting his prime and producing on defense, which the Kansas City Star-Telegram gives a report on. Rookie all purpose player Dexter McCluster produced big plays. So did Dwayne Bowe, Tony Moeaki and, by association, Matt Cassel. There's a chance that this past week was a sign of the Chiefs gelling on offense. Even if it is possible that they aren't using the very productive Jamaal Charles enough.

Oakland Raiders: Finding ways to lose while not playing all that well in a close game. That sounds like the Raiders everyone has known for a while now. Even Team Gradkowski couldn't save them from that, and actually his competitiveness may have gotten in his way. He tried a QB sneak to get in the end zone, got stood up and let the clock roll instead of calling a timeout and getting a better play call. However, the biggest goat is a familiar one. Sebastian Janikowski missed those 3 field goals and the potential game winner I mentioned in the review. This isn't the first time this has happened and he's never been known as the most consistent field goal kicker. I guess Raider Nation just lives with this. Just like they'll have to live with this team losing a lot more games. Raymond St. Martin at Silver And Black Pride tried to look for bright spots. Old standby Nmandi Asomugha is one, the underrated WR Louis Murphy is another, 1st round pick Rolando McClain impressed and, I suppose, Zach Miller (18 YAR and 4.2% VOA) and Darrent McFadden (22 YAR and 11.6% VOA) are doing alright.

Looking Forward

San Diego Chargers: The Bolts get sloppy seconds again this week, but its the Raiders' instead of the Broncos'. As I mentioned last week, the offseason saw the Cardinals lose Kurt Warner, Karlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle and Anquan Boldin. This week the Cardinals also had injuries to Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston. Fitzgerald should be able to play, but the Breaston most likely will not. Breaston was leading the team in receptions, receiving yards, receiving YAR and receiving VOA this year. The Chargers didn't fare so well against a team with an avian nickname from the NFC West last week, but I think this will go differently.

Denver Broncos: After playing the Colts, the next opponent can only get easier. However, its not a whole lot easier. The Tennesse Titans await the Broncos in Nashville. The Titans appear to have put back together a top defense and rank second in defensive VOA. The Broncos passing game should be able to test that, but its strength against strength since the Titans pass defense is #1 in the league at an incredible -40.7% VOA. The Titans used a lot of pressure and forced bad passes from Eli Manning last week. I don't see Kyle Orton doing that as much this week. Familiarity with the Broncos offense tells me that they'll design a plan to get the ball out quick and attack the middle of the field. The Titans offense has not played well and may not be equipped enough to take advantage of the hobbled Broncos. Obviously, Chris Johnson and the Titans running may try to control the game and put up points that way. I'm not sure it'll be enough. I wouldn't be surprised if the Broncos pick up a road win here, but it won't be easy.

Kansas City Chiefs: Chiefs can bask in their Super Bowl dreams for at least another week. They have a bye and won't lose this week.

Oakland Raiders: The Houston Texans are coming to town and they are probably coming in angry. However, Andre Johnson has injury issues and even if he does play he'll have to deal with Nmandi Asomugha. The Texans are short on receivers though and they have a running game that might be able to push around the Raiders. Where it gets interesting is on defense for Houston. They have very good at stopping the run, but the pass defense has more holes than swiss cheese.  The Texans have the worst pass defense this year and go against one of the worst pass offenses in the Raiders. Fantasy players may want to grab a Raider WR or TE this week because its a good opportunity to produce, especially if the Texans offense can jump ahead early. You've got assume the Texans can take care of business, but a couple Al Davis "Go Deep" specials could make it interesting.

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