An amazing thing happened last Sunday. Charger fans sat down in front of their televisions with hopes that the Denver Broncos would play a good enough game to beat the Kansas City Chiefs. Lo and behold, they did....and all was well in San Diego. Right? Apparently not.
We've known all season that the Bolts were a better team than the Broncos and, while that doesn't guarantee victory (obviously), we shouldn't be too afraid of them heading into our Monday night match-up with them. Yet, because of how they man-handled the Chiefs (who have a sterling 1-0 record against the Chargers this season), most of the Chargers fanbase seems to be afraid that the Broncos have suddenly found "it" and are ready to rocket into contention in the AFC West.
Here's why that's dumb:
1. The Kansas City Chiefs are not a very good football team
Seriously. At least not among the league's best. I can convince you of this in two stats or less.
The first stat is their record away from the friendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium, which is 1-4 (and that 1 win came against a Browns team that was still starting Seneca Wallace and Jerome Harrison). It should come of no surprise that the Chiefs, with their young players and still-new coaching staff are relying heavily on their large home field advantage for most of their victories. This team is building itself towards being something special, but right now they're not ready to go on the road and beat both the team they're facing and the opposing crowd.
The second stat focuses on who they've beaten. The teams they have beaten this season have a combined record of 16-29, while the teams they have lost to are a combined 18-18. Here they are laid out team-by-team:
The Chiefs should be applauded. They have moved themselves from that bottom-rung of the NFL (with the 49ers, Bills, etc.) to the middle-of-the-pack very quickly and with a strong foundation of talented young players and solid veterans (meaning they'll be getting better). However, they are not leaps and bounds better than the Broncos and are not ready to beat the league's best teams without a perfect storm of luck bouncing their way.
2. The Broncos still cannot run the ball
They did a good job getting Knowshon Moreno over 100 rushing yards against the Chiefs, but that was done by first proving that Kansas City could not defend the downfield pass (they rank 27th in the league in 40+ yard pass plays allowed) and then was assisted by the Broncos efforts to burn as much clock as possible in the second half.
Here's what's more shocking: Did you realize that was Moreno first 100 yard game in his career? Better yet, did you realize that before that game his highest rushing total on the season was 60 yards against the Jaguars in Week 1? It's true! He also hasn't found the end zone since Week 2 against the Seahawks.
Contrary to what Broncos fan might be thinking this week, the offensive rushing game is still a problem in Denver. I believe they will have more problems moving the ball against the Chargers' Top 5 Rushing Defense (technically, 4th in basic stats and 6th in DVOA) than they did against the Chiefs (13th in basic stats, 11th in DVOA). Especially when you factor in that even if they're up by two scores the Broncos will most likely have to keep scoring in fear of the explosive Chargers passing offense.
3. The Broncos are not very good on defense
Remember the 2008 Broncos team that could throw it around the field with the best of them, but couldn't run or play any defense whatsoever? The team that seemed to score 30 a week and give up 35 at the same time? This team reminds me of that team, just without the good record (the Chargers went 2-0 against the Broncos team if it wasn't for Ed Hochuli, by the way). Anyways, here are some fun stats for the Broncos....
Total Defense: 25th in yards allowed, 29th in points allowed
Pass Defense: 19th in yards allowed, 29th in yards per pass allowed
Run Defense: 30th in yards allowed, 25th in yards per carry allowed
4. This team wins when the game is handed to them, and only when the game is handed to them
It's actually funny to look through some of the box scores of their victories. Check this out.
26-20 Titans: The Broncos finished off this victory with 19 yards rushing on 20 carries. Seriously. Kyle Orton was their leading rusher with 11 yards on 3 carries. He was the only rusher they had with an average of over 0.5 yards per carry.
If you're wondering how the Titans lost this game, it was due to their 2 lost fumbles and the 10 penalties for 111 yards. Still, any time you lose the time of possession battle by 11 minutes....you assume the opposing team had something resembling a running game. Not this day.
31-14 Seahawks: It would appear the Seahawks got a taste of what they did to the Chargers (losing while being the better team) on the day they faced the Broncos. Although they held Denver to 1.7 yards per carry(!), they lost by this large margin because Matt Hasselbeck decided it was a good day to throw 3 of his passes into the hands of Bronco defenders.
49-29 Chiefs: Okay, fine, maybe this one wasn't handed to them. However, they were able to execute the plan that every other team that faces the Chiefs goes in with: Score a bunch and force Matt Cassel to beat the defense. It worked because the Chiefs first four drives went like this:
5 plays, 12 yards - punt
3 plays, 6 yards - punt
7 plays, 30 yards - missed FG
9 plays, 55 yards - fumble
The next time the Chiefs touched the ball, their run-heavy offense was down 28 points and the Broncos had already begun to burn clock. The difference between this game and that game is that Philip Rivers is not Matt Cassel, and the Chargers defense is not the Chiefs'.