By Rich Kurtzman
What looked like a two-horse race for the AFC West two weeks ago has become a three-team battle for the division.
Through seven weeks of play, the standings look like this:
- Denver (4-3)
- San Diego (3-4)
- Oakland (3-4)
- Kansas City (1-6)
The Broncos faced the NFL’s most difficult schedule in their first six games, and when Denver dismantled New Orleans on Sunday Night Football, they proved again they’re the best in the AFC West. Peyton Manning and his merry men went wild on the Saints’ sorry defense, putting up 17 points in each half and eventually winning 34-14. The offense was overwhelming as Manning was a maestro and they racked up 530 yards of total O on the day. But this game showcased Denver’s defense as well; they held the spectacular Saints’ offense to 14 points while forcing eight punts and intercepting Drew Brees once. It was an all-around great game for the Broncos and it was an important win, carrying their momentum from the 24-point comeback against the Chargers through the bye week to gain their second straight victory.
Speaking of San Diego, the Chargers are choking once again. Norv Turner’s team found themselves in rainy Cleveland Sunday afternoon and they couldn’t find footing on either side of the ball. San Diego, usually a strong scoring offense, was limited to a mere six points on the day—two field goals—as they lost to the 2-6 Browns. That loss not only hurts because it was to a terrible team, but because it was the Chargers’ third straight losing effort. Coupled with Denver’s win, San Diego is now two games back in the West.
Right on the Chargers’ heels are the Raiders, who have miraculously ran off two straight wins, albeit against bad teams. Last week, they edged out Jacksonville 26-23 and this Sunday they beat the Chiefs in Kansas City 26-16 when Darren McFadden went for 114 yards, while Carson Palmer was quite efficient. Those back-to-back wins by Oakland put them at 3-4 and just behind San Diego due to the Chargers beating the Raiders in Week One.
At the back end of the division are the Chiefs, who may just be the worst team in the entire NFL. Kansas City lost to Oakland last Sunday, their fourth straight loss, and they’ve only won one game this season. And here’s the stat that says they’re the worst in football; according to Cecil Lammey, the Chiefs are the first team in 83 years to go through their first seven games and never lead at any point in regulation. Yes, even though they won a game, it was an overtime field goal to win sudden death-style.
So, while the Broncos hold a two-game lead for now, there’s still far too much football to be played to anoint them AFC West champions. Still, it’s evident they are the best out west and if they don’t win the division, it will be a debacle in Denver.
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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.