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AFC West Week 15 Review

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Jamaal Charles for MVP? (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Jamaal Charles for MVP? (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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San Diego Chargers

Our favorite Zombie is now able to stumble out from the shadows and enter daylight. To his delight he finds a dirty hippie too high on his own herbal remedies and his glories of the past to notice the threatening stench of this animated corpse. His dismemberment was quick. This Zombie is on a mission.

The Chargers started a new win streak against the San Francisco 49ers. They are now 8-6 and will finish 2-2 against the pitiful NFC West. This was a common opponent with the rest of the AFC West division, but the Chargers are already guaranteed to win that tiebreaker should they need it against the Chiefs. They continue to be 1 game out of first place in the AFC West with now only 2 games left to play. They wouldn't have been eliminated with a loss, but for all intents and purposes this was a must win game and they came through big time.

Here are the numbers from this past Sunday:

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
51.6%
32.0% 115.3%
-3.0% -16.2%
-21.4% -7.1%
3.3%

The Philip Rivers to Vincent Jackson combination found its 2009 form for the first time in 2010. This was the Chargers 3rd best game passing the ball (the Arizona and Houston games were better by DVOA). The negative rushing number may surprise some. Looking back the at play-by-play here's what I come up with. Early in the game the Chargers had a bunch of unsuccessful runs mixed in with successful runs that just barely met the qualities for success. That sort of performance keeps DVOA near 0.0% or even a little below. Later in the game the Chargers had more runs that could be considered successful and well above average, but they occurred after the team was up by more than 3 scores. That means they occurred in garbage time and don't count as much. I wouldn't worry about unless your run game ego needs stroking. If that's the case, stroke it somewhere else.

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
24.0% 4
21.5% 4
50.0%
2
2.9% 10
-11.8% 3
-15.7% 3
-6.8% 11
-9.3% 32

A stat I've mentioned here before is Weighted DVOA. This stat marginalizes games played earlier in the season a lot more than regular DVOA does. Sometimes it gives you a better idea of how a team is playing going into the postseason. The Chargers are now the #2 team in the NFL by this measure (Patriots are #1). Another statistical feather in the cap of a team isn't guaranteed to be a part of the postseason. Sigh.

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 Broncos continued their losing ways by losing to the Oakland Raiders and fall to 3-11. They now have the worst record for the franchise since 1990. Next week they'll have a chance to become the Broncos team that lost the most games in franchise history. The Broncos, Bills, Bengals, Browns, Cardinals, Cowboys, Lions, Panthers, Redskins and Vikings were joined this week in elimination-land by the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans.

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

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
-27.1%
-8.4% 75.6%
-30.7% 16.4%
18.4% 15.4%
-2.3%

Just more examples of how bad the Broncos are. That terrible number in rushing offense column is their fifth worst of the season. Four other games were actually worse than that terrible effort. On defense, that bad number represents their fifth BEST. There were just four other games where the defense was able to perform better than that. Something tells me that Raiders fans weren't watching that game thinking, "We're getting one of Denver's best defensive efforts out there." Think again Raiders fans I just imagined in order to illustrate a point.

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
-19.4% 24
4.8% 16
29.5% 9
-17.4% 31
21.8%
32
41.3% 32
5.5% 30
-2.3% 27

The worst defense. The worst pass defense. And now a bottom three run defense. The Denver Broncos: Finding New Lows Each And Every Week. Their passing DVOA did go up though. Maybe this means they can run Kyle Orton out of town so I can root for him again?

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs bounced back from their thrashing in San Diego to defeat the Rams easily and improve to a division leading 9-5. This win also completed their sweep of the NFC West. The Chiefs magic number is now at 2 to win the division.

Here's how the game went down by DVOA:

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
0.6%
0.7% -18.1%
23.0% 2.6%
-6.4% 19.3%
2.5%

A nice rushing performance by Jamaal Charles made Football Outsiders make the case that he could be MVP. In this era I don't know if we'll see a non-QB win for a long time. Especially one that doesn't play in a big market. However, they make a decent case as to why he's been extremely valuable.

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% 13
11.0% 11
24.9% 13
9.0% 7
5.1%
18
7.6% 14
1.8% 21
-2.0% 23

I mentioned Weighted DVOA as a good stat to check out before the postseason when I talked about the Chargers above. The Chiefs probably want to shield their eyes from this one. Currently, they are the only non-NFC West division leader with a negative Weighted DVOA. They also rank 22nd in the league. The next lowest non-NFC West division leader? The Jaguars at #16. There are 17 non-NFC West playoff contenders still playing for something.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders swing back up to .500 with a 7-7 record after putting down the Denver Broncos at home. That continues their unbeaten streak against the AFC West this season and puts that record at 5-0. They will also be unable to use that tie-breaker for any useful purpose. However, by virtue of that record they can win a tie-breaker against the Chargers (swept them) or against the Chargers and Chiefs in a 3-way tie (4-0 against the two clubs combined once they beat KC to force this theoretical 3-way tie). Of course, their overall record is what matters now since they sit 2 games behind the Chiefs and 1 game behind the Chargers. They require the Chiefs losing out, the Chargers losing at least 1 game and themselves winning out in order to make the postseason. With the Jets and Ravens winning this past weekend the Raiders were eliminated from wild card contention.

Here are the numbers from this week's loss:

Total Offense OPassing ORushing Defense DPassing DRush ST
14.2%
0.5% -24.2%
24.6% 2.5%
51.0%
-20.9%
16.1%

The Raiders running game showed that it could impose its will against an improving Denver run defense. Their pass rush was also disruptive enough to make rookie QB Tim Tebow look very uncomfortable when he tried to drop back and pass. I would consider the Raiders a little unlucky that Tebow was able to complete as many passes as he did.

Overall Offense Defense Special Teams
DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank Passing Rank Rushing Rank DVOA Rank
-8.2% 21
-4.7% 25
-4.1% 26
10.6% 6
3.8%
17
15.3%
24
-7.3% 10 0.2% 18

The Raiders keep seeing improvements in that rushing attack (no small feat this week since it was against a Broncos defense that is one of the worst in the league and DVOA is strict about how well you have to perform against a bad opponent to get an above average performance). They cross over into double digits this week for the first time this year. With continuing improvements they could end up as high as 4th in the NFL, but they are still well behind the likes of Philadelphia, New England and Houston who have by far the most efficient running attacks.