AFC West teams doing well in first half of season

Allen Bridge, ‘Doah Contributing Writer
October 23, 2013

The AFC West is one of the most competitive divisions in football this year. As it stands, the remaining two teams in the league that remain unbeaten are in the division, with the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos both standing tall at 6-0. The San Diego Chargers, with Philip Rivers back to his old form, stand third in the division at 3-3, and the Oakland Raiders round it out at 2-4.

Let’s start with the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. They have a new quarterback in Alex Smith, a new coach in Andy Reid, and are coming off a season in which the team only posted two wins. There was some improvement expected this year from the team due in large part to Reid coming to town, but no one expected the 6-0 start.

The Chiefs started off strong in week one only allowing two points to the Jaguars. The Chiefs defense as a whole has not allowed more than 17 points in a game, with the Titans being the only team to score 17 against them in week five. There may be some doubts about the Chiefs offense as they go only as far as Smith and running back Jamaal Charles can carry them. As long as their defense stays solid enough to keep the score low and give the offense a chance game in and game out, look for the unbeaten streak to continue.

Next are the San Diego Chargers. This is a team that in two of their three losses were only three points away from being 5-1 rather than 3-3. Once the powerhouse of the AFC West with Philip Rivers and Ladainian Tomlinson leading the charge, injuries and changes have taken place and the team has spiraled downward until this season where a new hope has been found.

The Chargers opened the season with a heartbreaking loss to Houston, rebounding week two against Chip Kelly’s Eagles, losing another close one in Tennessee week three and rebounding again week four against Dallas. The Chargers need to be consistent if they are going to hang around in this division with the Chiefs and Broncos.The defense needs to apply more pressure up front to cover up the glaring problem that is their secondary. If they can do that, look for a possible shot at a wildcard spot in January.

The Oakland Raiders are up next. Often considered the laughing stock of the NFL, or no man’s land where all the washed up players go only to never be heard of again, have shown some flashes of promise with dual threat quarterback Terrelle Pryor at the helm.

The Raiders have always been a team to pride themselves on speed, looking to outrun anyone to victory. That theme has not changed under new coach Dennis Allen. They are a top 15 defense but health is a concern on offense with Darren McFadden battling hamstring injuries and Pryor having dealt with a concussion. If they can stay healthy and continue to build through the draft, this is a team to watch out for in the future.

Lastly, we have the top team in the league: the Denver Broncos. They have a high powered offense led by MVP candidate Peyton Manning, newly acquired slot receiver Wes Welker from New England and a strong defense that will have Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller returning to them from a six game suspension. The Broncos are first in the league in passing with Peyton Manning off to a record- breaking start, and now have a reliable running game with Knowshon Moreno finally getting healthy and Ronnie Hillman providing power.

This high-octane offense is averaging 44 points a game and has eclipsed 50 points twice already this season. Although the secondary has disappointed so far, look for the defense to slowly make their climb in the ranks throughout the rest of the season as Miller returns, and players like Champ Bailey begin to return from injuries. The Super Bowl is definitely realistic for the preseason favorites as the Broncos are exceeding their already high expectations, but will they begin to overlook opponents and lose a game that matters? If they keep this pace up, it looks like no one can get in their way from winning the Super Bowl.

The AFC West will essentially come down to two teams — the Chiefs and the Broncos. Which team can stay undefeated the longest? These two teams still have to play each other twice in the coming weeks of the season, so things are only starting to get interesting in this division.

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