Division rivalries heat up
~ by Bob Volpe ~
The Broncos held off a late surge by the Raiders to hold on and beat the Raiders 16-10.
The Broncos once again dominated their opponent on the stat sheets, and were able to keep the mistakes to a minimum to come away with an all important, division win.
Again the Bronco defense dominated the battle field. The “ground control” rush defense held the Raiders to 24 yards rushing. Late in the third quarter the Bronco pass rush put the hurt on Derek Carr with a sack by Shelby Harris and that was all for Carr.
With the Raider run game in the toilet the Raiders were forced to take
to the air. They passed for 230 yards, but only one TD pass on a blown Bronco coverage.
Once the Raiders were reduced to a one dimensional team, the “no fly zone” made them pay. Justin Simmons intercepted EJ Manuel, who replaced Derek Carr, with 1:56 remaining on the clock. And the fat lady sang.
Now, with a record of 3-1 and 2-0 in the division, the Broncos will have next week off with an early bye.
A look at the Brutal AFC Wild West Division
So, what does it look like for the division at this point?
Let’s start at the bottom of the barrel.
The Chargers. Over the last few years the Chargers have started slow and picked up a win streak late in the season only to find themselves begging for scraps and holding title to last place loser in the AFC West. That doesn’t mean they can’t be a spoiler at any time in any division game. They have some talent. It’s just that they didn’t plan
well for the future and their good guys are getting old. Rivers can still chuck the bean bag. Last week against a superior Eagles team, he threw two TD passes in the fourth quarter and almost beat the Eagles. Trouble with the Chargers is, they’re experts at almost winning.
The Raiders. The rivalry goes back to the days of the AFL. Statistically, the Broncos hold the win loss record over the Raiders 62-50.
Last year the Raiders were poised to take the AFC West Championship, until Derek Carr broke a leg and the Broncos burst their bubble, beating them in the last game of the season, giving the Chiefs the AFC
West title. There is no love lost between the Raiders and Broncos.
The Raiders have been an explosive offensive team in the past. They have had a good balance of pass to run, but this year their run game has been awful. They added bad boy Marshawn Lynch to be their run game enforcer, but all the beast has done is get eaten by every defense he’s come up against this year. Lynch has only rushed for 151 yards total in four games.
This year the Raider passing game has dropped off significantly compared to last year. Derek Carr seems to be off target a lot (maybe a little shell shocked from that busted leg) and their number 2 receiver Amari Cooper has a bad case of the drops. Even their number one receiver Michael Crabtree has only 13 catches for 170 yards this year.
Even with their two wins, the Raiders have been out run, and out passed by their opponents this year. The Raiders lost two games straight to the Redskins and the Broncos. Their record is 2-2, and
they are in third place in the AFC West behind the number one Chiefs and number two Broncos.
At the moment, Carr is out, Crabtree is out, and Cooper has that case of the drops. They don’t have the balance on defense to make up for the shortfalls of the offense. Their secondary is highly vulnerable.
The Raiders play the Ravens next. That is not going to be a cake walk and then they have the Chargers in Oakland, so maybe they can start to get back in the race.
The Chiefs. OMG, the Chiefs are looking like the best team in the NFL right now. They have balance on offense, extreme speed in rookie running back Kareem Hunt and receiver Tyreek Hill. They are number one in the NFL running the ball, second in total yards, and third in points scored.
They beat the Patriots in Foxboro. As of press deadline, the Chiefs faced a big contest against the Washington Redskins, an outcome that could further determine their fortunes this year.
They have, arguably the best tandem edge rushers in the league in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Their front seven are beasts and their secondary is strong, already snagging 4 INTs.
Offensively, Alex Smith has been a master at managing the game. Last year he was criticized for just throwing dink and dunk passes, but this year he is slinging the long ball for some big plays. His passer rating is 132.7.
Games will come and games will go. Some will be won and some lost, but when it comes to division games, its dog on dog, get outta the way.
The Broncos are looking pretty good, even with the growing pains they are experiencing at quarterback and the offensive line. This year’s defense may be the best Denver has ever seen. Just with that asset, the team can win this division. It won’t be easy. The Raiders aren’t dead yet. The Chiefs are serious about another AFC West Championship and they have the talent to back it up.
Who knows what the future holds. We are only one fourth of the way through the regular season. It may well come down to some team not even in the AFC West that determines the fate of the division.
Enjoy plenty of good games this week and weekend at Russ’ Place in Divide, even without the Broncos.