By Rich Kurtzman
The first six weeks of the NFL season have come and gone, and boy did they fly by.
We’ve learned a lot about the league, and more specifically, about the AFC West over that time. Most notably, the Denver Broncos are the best in the west.
Denver, at 3-3, has the head-to-head tiebreaker over San Diego, also at 3-3, due to the Broncos’ crazy 24-point comeback on Monday night. And it’s not just about where they sit in the standings that makes the Broncos better; their +32 point differential is easily tops in the division, as is their 170 points for. In fact, the Broncos are tied for second in the NFL with 21 touchdowns scored, that’s more than the Raiders (8) and Chiefs (10) combined. Peyton Manning’s been magnificent all year long, and he’s on pace for an MVP season while Denver’s defense has stepped up big time in recent weeks.
San Diego sits in second, and they are the only other decent team in the division. After examining their wins, it’s difficult to determine just how good they are. The Chargers have beaten the Raiders, Titans and Chiefs, teams with a combined record of 4-13 while San Diego has been beaten handily by Atlanta, New Orleans and Denver. Many believe the problems begin with head coach Norv Turner, whose decade-old offense isn’t catching opponents off guard, while his in-game coaching leaves much to be desired. Year after year the Chargers start out strong only to completely fall apart in the second half of the season. If they see another late-season collapse this year, it may be the nail in the coffin for Turner. And it can’t be missed that San Diego doesn’t do anything better than mediocre other than stopping the run, and they’re near worst in the league in passing defense.
The Raiders, at 1-4, are currently third in the division thanks to their Week Five bye. Besides the team’s one win against the Steelers in Week Three, Oakland has been beaten by an average of 16 points per game in their four losses. Despite having the explosive Darren McFadden in the backfield, the Raiders are 29th in the league in rushing (78.4 RYPG) and their 17.4 points per game are 29th as well. Quarterback Carson Palmer has underperformed too, throwing for only six touchdowns compared to three interceptions and one fumble. Simply stated, the Raiders are playing losing football.
And at 1-5, the Kansas City Chiefs may just be the worst team in the NFL. KC has had a second-worst 79 more points scored on them than they have put on the board and have been blown out by 16 or more points in four of their losses this season. Quarterback Matt Cassel has taken the brunt of the criticism in Kansas City, deservedly so. Cassel has only tossed five touchdowns while turning the ball over 14 times (9 INT, 5 FUM) while showing a lack of leadership. He was infamously booed after being knocked out on the field two weeks ago versus Baltimore as fans showed their displeasure for him is a disgusting way. Of course, it’s not all Cassel’s fault–the Chiefs only score 17.3 points per game while they allow nearly double that at 30.5 per.
So, while we’re not quite at the halfway point of the 2012 season, the AFC West looks like it’s boiling down to a battle between two teams, the Broncos and Chargers. And through six weeks, Denver is the best in the west.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.