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AFC West Week 1 Review

The Review

San Diego Chargers: They lost a division game to drop to 0-1. Their offense did not play to their lofty standards (22.9% DVOA in 2009 vs a -6.7% VOA performance in week 1). Their defense, however, played much better (9.6% DVOA in 2009 vs. a -8.9% VOA performance in week 1). Their special teams collapsed (-31.2% VOA performance for the week was the worst in the league). One major injury from the game, David Binn the Chargers' long time long snapper was placed on IR with a broken leg. The Chargers signed former Jets long snapper James Dearth to replace him.

Denver BroncosThey lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars and also go to 0-1. This was a loss to an in-conference team and a common opponent for their division rivals, which isn't a huge deal unless they need to use tiebreakers for a potential playoff spot. Their offense moved pretty smoothly and had a better VOA (18.9%) in this game than its DVOA from last year (4.7%). The Broncos defense (31.8% VOA) and special teams (-3.6% VOA) were the problem for them. Even still, they gave themselves a chance at the end, but failed to convert a 4th down on one drive and threw an interception on another.

Kansas City Chiefs: They won division game vs. the Chargers to start the season 1-0 for the first time since 2005. They won it with a pedestrian offense (0.8% VOA) , a pedestrian defense (0.3% VOA) and the best special teams performance the league saw in week 1 (24.6%).  The offense was bolstered by Jamaal Charles' stellar performance (33.9% VOA), but dragged down by Matt Cassell (-21.7% VOA) and Thomas Jones (-18.2%).

Oakland Raiders: They lost to the Tennessee Titans to be the third team in the AFC West at 0-1. The offense was terrible (-56.3% VOA), the defense was better but still awful (23.1% VOA) and the special teams didn't help (-5.4% VOA). All of those marks are worse than last year. On a positive note, former 1st round pick Darren McFadden was a force rushing the ball (34.6% VOA) and catching the ball (45.5% VOA).

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: The local media and much of the fan base is focused on the absences of Marcus McNeill, Vincent Jackson and Kassim Osgood. In this writer's opinion its too early to judge what those losses will actually mean to the team. Especially with Vincent Jackson who was going to miss this game either way. The second bit of hype is the slow start. Personally, I'm tired of freaking out with every early season loss. Its exhausting and I guess I'm getting to old for the yearly freakout. Again, I'll wait this out. The backburner stories have to be Philip Rivers and his, let's call it, excited behavior on the field, as well as Shawne Merriman's health and whether he'll be ready to go anytime soon and, finally, the potential for a Southern California television blackout of the home opener.

Denver Broncos: The theme that I can gather from the Mile High Report is that the team made a lot of mistakes and has to fix them. There also has to be some concern about LT Ryan Clady who played some during the game, but was not considered very effective. The Broncos front office is trying to spark something with a trade for NE RB and former 1st round pick Laurence Maroney. Maroney has the same sort of injury issues that plague Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, but he's a more explosive runner. Also, Tim Tebow did get some snaps in the Jaguars game and combined for 2 yards on 2 carries rushing the ball.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs got an early signature win to build on vs. the Chargers. They also got to showcase two of their top picks on special teams in Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster. They showed that they have some building blocks to make a run at the division title. I think they'll still need to step their game up to do that, but so do the Chargers. Their team president stepped down and was replaced by the current CEO. They resigned one of their depth players LB Andy Studebaker to a contract extension. Their DE and top 2009 draft pick Tyson Jackson will miss a couple of weeks with an MCL injury.

Oakland Raiders: The preseason hype on the Raiders was that they'd improved to the point where they'd provide good competition to the AFC West. That hype didn't lead to results on Sunday. They still have a weakness on the offensive line and the QB Jason Campbell is not experienced or talented enough to overcome that. The Raiders front 7 on defense played okay, but their defensive backfield betrayed them. When Chris Johnson is gonna do what he does in the running game you can't give up a bunch of yards and big plays in the passing game. I still say it all comes down to coaching and player development issues for the Raiders.

Looking Ahead

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qualcomm. Strength may meet weakness again as the Jaguars did well on special teams last week and the Chargers have work to do on that unit. Tiquan Underwood is the name to look out for on kick returns and Adam Podlesh had a good day punting the ball against the Broncos. The name most people know is RB Maurice Jones-Drew, but QB David Garrard had an efficient day throwing the football and to the naked eye his throws looked improved. His favorite targets in week 1 were WR Mike Thomas and TE Mercedes Lewis.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos host the Seattle Seahawks at Invesco Field. This is probably a winnable game for the Broncos. However, a healthy Matt Hasselbeck can be just as efficient as Garrard, even if he doesn't have as good of a runner as MJD as a distraction. The Broncos will probably have to lean on their offense mixing up passes to their top 3 WRs (Eddie Royal, Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney) and pounding the ball with the run game. This is a game vs. an NFC opponent, so a loss doesn't hurt them in any potential tiebreakers.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs will go to Cleveland to face the Browns. After the win vs. the Chargers it would be a big disappointment for Chiefs fans to see a loss in this game. The Browns have been own of the worst teams the last few years and just lost to another on of the leagues bottom dwellers in Tampa Bay. In theory, the Browns showed up on defense vs. the Buccaneers, but that could just be a case of a bad Buc offense. Also in theory the Chiefs can stick to their Jamaal Charles and the Special Teamers strategy since it could be enough to win the game, however I wouldn't be surprised if they go to the air a bit to try to build a lead.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders get to host last year's worst team in the St. Louis Rams. The key here will be the Oakland defensive backfield again since the Rams showed in week 1 that they weren't afraid to go to the air with rookie QB Sam Bradford. Interceptions buried that Rams aerial assault against the Cardinals, so the Raiders may have to get some picks of their own to keep points off the board. On offense, the Raiders rushing attack should be able to have success against the Rams even though the Cardinals did not (I don't have a lot of respect for the Cardinals run game). I expect this either to be close or for Sam Bradford to have some rookie moments and give the Raiders their first win 2010.