NFL Week 16 AFC West: Interesting Turn of Events

Lost in all the Tebow talk is the play of the defense led by Von Miller's 11.5 sacks and 50 total tackles.

Everyone is still trying to wrap their heads around the topsy turvy AFC West or mainly the Tim Tebow led Denver Broncos. We, at Taylor Blitz Times figured out the Oakland Raiders are a season away from full potential with Carson Palmer. With a full offseason to work the kinks out and get him a grade A receiver, they look to be the division front runner for 2012. We forwarned you the San Diego Chargers would underachieve with that talented roster and are waiting for the Chargers to dismiss Norv Turner to get a jump on 2012 now that Kansas City has made the switch. Huh, oh Tebow Magic?? We’ll be getting to that but first…

Haley's offense scored 10 or fewer points in 8 of 13 games leading to his dismissal after a 4-9 record.

In an effort to get a jump on the 2012 season, the Chiefs dismissed Todd Haley. Did he deserve it?? His team has tanked this year from the very outset and the offensive performance of his Chiefs has been, well, offensive. Remember they lost their first two games 41-7 and 48-3 respectively… This from the offensive mastermind that got the Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII just 3 years back?? Chiefs brass drafted WR Jonathon Baldwin in the first round and signed his former receiver with Arizona in Steve Breaston to join Pro Bowl WR DeWayne Bowe. We know they lost Charlie Weiss as co-ordinator but should this offense have slipped THIS far??  How in the hell did Matt Cassel regress from 27 TDs /7 int’s to 10 TDs/9 int’s before Tyler Palko’s 2TDs/7 ints since Cassel’s injury?? Sure they lost Jamaal Charles to a season ending injury but they still had Thomas Jones in house who ran for almost 1,000 yards last year. Then couple that with his reported inability to get along with Scott Pioli, he had to go. You can’t say the front office didn’t get him the pieces he needed for even moderate success and they ranked 31st in offense. Yes it was a just firing. Here let’s take a look at the standings…

AFC WEST W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
Denver 8 5 0 .615 3-3-0 5-2-0 3-2-0 6-3-0 269 302 -33 Won 6
Oakland 7 6 0 .538 3-3-0 4-3-0 2-2-0 5-5-0 290 354 -64 Lost 2
San Diego 6 7 0 .462 4-3-0 2-4-0 2-3-0 5-5-0 324 299 +25 Won 2
Kansas City 5 8 0 .385 2-4-0 3-4-0 2-2-0 3-7-0 173 305 -132 Lost 1

Marching toward the playoffs are the Denver Broncos who just vanquished the Chicago Bears 13-10 in overtime. “Tebow Magic” strikes again and much like “Mile High Magic” in the 1980’s, teams play those last few minutes in total fear and make mistakes. However it’s the stellar play of the defense that is being totally overlooked that is giving Tebow the chance to win it in the end. Although they’re ranked 19th overall they have kept 4 of their last 5 opponents to 13 or fewer points.  Von Miller is one of 4 bloodthirsty linebackers who are making plays all over the field. Wesley Woodward leads the way with 78 tackles followed by DJ Williams (74),  Joe Mays (64), and Miller with 63. They’re making timely plays when they need it more than anything else. With their top 4 tacklers being their linebackers , they are executing their defensive play calls to perfection.

Right now there is no way to quantify what is taking place in Denver outside they are doing just enough to win. During the 7-1 record that Tebow has engineered, the Broncos are dead even in the turnover ratio. Tebow has not been efficient at the beginning of games when the full playbook is being used. It’s when the Broncos are running from spread formations and the hurry up offense that he can see the openings. It might be time for Denver to open with this in the first half. Especially with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots coming to town. Prepare for some exotic looks and delayed blitzes on the part of the Patriots if the Broncos try to line up traditionally.  If they don’t counter what New England game plans for the Broncos are headed for a loss. They will not slow the Patriots offense down like Chicago’s or the Chargers. Don’t forget this coming week, the Patriots are eyeing a first round bye and need this win.

Still in the hunt are the Oakland Raiders who have have one of the most tumultuous season in their history. They have seen better days than last week’s 46-16 drubbing from the Super Bowl champion Packers. Yet the defense couldn’t sustain the load over the course of this season and that’s before the injuries to Jason Campbell and Darren McFadden. Do you realize the Raiders have allowed 20 or more in 11 of 13 games including 30 or more points allowed in 3 of their previous 6?? Right now the Raiders are 29th in the NFL against the run so we’re not talking about the loss of Namedi Asougmha either. Somewhere this team lost it’s defensive focus yet will come out of 2011 with a real quarterback in Carson Palmer and can focus on a true number one receiver and solidify their defense. They may have enough gas to catch the Broncos in the waning weeks due to schedule (Lions, Chiefs, Chargers) but that would take a monumental collapse on Denver’s part (Patriots, Bills, Chiefs) in remaining games.

The Broncos and Raiders are works in progress. Although the Broncos are in the midst of Tebow hysteria, it’s the Raiders who have made some strides and are in place to really challenge for the AFC championship next year. From an X’s and O’s standpoint a book is being established against Tebow and you’ll see it in the up coming weeks in the form of delayed blitzes.  Teams are going to rush hard outside, get him to where he commits to dart up in the pocket to run through holes, then send delayed blitzers there. Keep your eyes on this… The book on how to stop Tebow was written over 25 years ago. Its the same one that was designed to stop young John Elway. Yet a team had better have willing hitters when they arrive.

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Week 7 AFC West: The Pendulum Swings

Just when it seemed that you knew where the season and how the teams would fare, up jumped week 7. The Oakland Raiders had to recover from not only the loss of owner Al Davis, they had to replace QB Jason Campbell due to injury. It seemed natural that there would be a letdown after the emotional win over Houston but a 28-0 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs may have turned the season. The Chiefs looked like their 2011 campaign was doomed after an 0-3 start. However do you realize that the Raiders have a bye and if the Chiefs defeat the Chargers, they would actually be in first place with a 4-3 record?? Sure we’re getting ahead of ourselves until you realize the AFC West has been thrown for a loop.

Gone is the efficient offense the Raiders enjoyed for 6 weeks with Campbell at the controls. The Raiders tossed up 6 interceptions yesterday with perennial below average quarterback Kyle Boller at the controls. He and Carson Palmer each threw 3 interceptions. Palmer’s is understandable since he has only two practices with the team but Boller has no excuse for being that ineffective. The Chiefs came into the game with only 5 interceptions on the year. However they left Oakland with a confidence boosting win and the Raiders are left trying to salvage a good season start short circuited by injury.

Tim Tebow in the midst of yesterday's 18-15 comeback win over Miami

Did we say changes?? Well the Broncos will be galvanized for the next few weeks with their 18-15 comeback win over the Dolphins. The Broncos were down 15-0 with just under 3 minutes remaining when Tebow and the offense came to life. Up until then he looked like the erratic quarterback that John Elway envisioned before the season. Turnovers, inaccurate throws, and not reading the whole field. He missed a wide open Aaron Decker, when the Dolphins broke a coverage that would have been a 78 yard touchdown. Tebow completely whiffed on his throw. For much of the day he displayed exactly what team exec. John Elway and Coach John Fox’s countenances had suggested about his play.

Yet when the game and the lingering questions of inserting Tebow was on the line, he led a dramatic comeback. His first touchdown was a scramble throw but the throw for 27 yards to Daniel Fells to set up the second showed maturity. He threw a bend to the TE over the linebacker in the heart of a Cover 2 (we don’t say Tampa 2 here) which showcased the type of throw Tebow was accused of not being able to make. Then came his TE throwback screen for the TD before running in the two-point conversion himself. Yet before we get ahead of ourselves…lets take a look at the standings

AFC WEST W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
San Diego 4 2 0 .667 3-0-0 1-2-0 2-0-0 3-2-0 141 136 +5 Lost 1
Oakland 4 3 0 .571 2-2-0 2-1-0 1-1-0 4-3-0 160 178 -18 Lost 1
Kansas City 3 3 0 .500 1-1-0 2-2-0 1-1-0 2-2-0 105 150 -45 Won 3
Denver 2 4 0 .333 1-2-0 1-2-0 0-2-0 2-3-0 123 155 -32 Won 1

Which brings us to the front running San Diego Chargers. After Coach Norv Turner was upset by Jets Coach Rex Ryan who said earlier in the week, ‘that he would have several rings had he coached the talent in San Diego’. The Chargers took the field with that emotion and marched to a 21-10 halftime lead only to fold in the second half enroute to a 27-21 loss. This was a big loss, not only because Turner’s reputation was on the line but again this team displayed the lack of heart to take down an AFC heavy. Its a broken record around here to talk about how they play up to or down to their competition yet here we go again. https://taylorblitztimes.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/2011-san-diego-chargers-preview/ The two teams with winning records the Chargers have played they lost to. This is music to the Chiefs ears who host San Diego this week and can overtake the Chargers in the AFC West with a win. The Chargers are 1-2 on the road and looked like the AFC’s best team in the first half. Yet a second half collapse against a team that knocked them out of the playoffs a few years back is disheartening and may have long term affects. Especially with a showdown with the World Champion Green Bay Packers in two weeks. This team could possibly be .500, again!! You have to be kidding me?? After a 4-1 start?? Of course it doesn’t sound far fetched. No more than the NFL’s #8 offense being shut out (2nd half) in the type of game that could have gotten the Chargers over the hump from a maturation standpoint. Even with Rex Ryan’s bulletin board shenanigans and they play that flat when their coaches reputation is on the line?? Uh Oh!! We fully expect it if you read our preview nothing has changed and yes the pendulum has swung.

The Chiefs are playing mistake proof football and Coach Haley has scaled back Matt Cassel’s passing. As of this week the Chiefs are the 7th best in the NFL at rushing the football. This bodes well for their upcoming game with the Chargers ranked 21st at stopping the run. They have gone back to last year’s formula that produced a 10-6 season. Thomas Jones (58 att., 185 yards) does the heavy lifting but the committee of Jackie Battle (232 yards / 5.2 avg) and Dexter McCluster (210 yards /5.0 avg.) has been effective. The Chiefs are 6th in sacks allowed with 10 and the defense has rebounded to a respectable 18th.http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?archive=false&conference=null&role=TM&offensiveStatisticCategory=OFFENSIVE_LINE&defensiveStatisticCategory=null&season=2011&seasonType=REG&tabSeq=2&qualified=true&Submit=Go  Coach Haley, this is the formula you need to stay with until you have a full offseason with Cassel. He’s not yet ready to be your Kurt Warner as his early season play showed. One more week and the Chiefs can be in first place at midseason. Who would have thunk it 4 weeks ago??

http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2011102300/2011/REG7/broncos@dolphins#menu=highlights&tab=recap

Which brings us to the 2-4 Broncos again. The comeback was one that was more frantic than it was artistic but its the heart that was displayed that rallied his teammates that can’t be underestimated. You saw it in the team’s body english along the sideline and the spirit exhibited on the field. First the team found life in Willis McGahee’s emergence and now Tebow going into the lineup. His team believes in him and all comments about his play should be relegated to what he does the rest of this season. However as we at the Taylor Blitz Times look back, yesterday’s performance invokes the memory of the first comeback by Lil’ John Elway. Each came against weak teams but the experience could have long term affects on confidence. How can you be so enigmatic for 57 minutes and deadly in the last 3?? Yet when you quarterback the Denver Broncos, you will ALWAYS be compared to John Elway. Well here is Elway’s first fourth quarter comeback which looked eerily similar to Tebow’s yesterday. Take a look

Did you notice Elway only had one good throw on the corner route to Clint Sampson?? The rest were screens and a frantic ad-lib to a blitz. They looked the same to me and Tebow has a chance to grow from his moment in Miami just as Hall of Famer Elway grew from his. Are we saying Tebow will become a Hall of Famer?? Time will tell…we’re just comparing novice quarterback comeback to another for their starting point value. Now maybe his team executive nemesis Lil’ John will cut Tebow some slack. Believe me, we have.

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NFL Week 5 AFC West: Defining Moments

A tumultuous week in the NFL was sent into a state of shock with the passing of Raider Owner Al Davis. His passing came on a Saturday before his beloved Raiders were to take the field at Reliant Stadium and take on the Houston Texans. In a display that would have made Davis proud, his Raiders willed their way to a 25-20 win to raise their record to 3-2which keeps them within one game of the division leading Chargers.

In a game where Darren McFadden was held to 51 yards rushing and Campbell to 184 yards passing, it was Sebastian Janikowski’s 4 field goals that were the difference. Early drives that were short circuited were just in range for Janikowski’s big leg where he connected from 55 and 54 yards to keep the Raiders in the game. In all he made 3 from beyond 50 yards in a single game. Are you kidding me?? Thats a seasonal statistic for a kicker.  They also won with timely defense with a game sealing interception despite giving up 403 yards passing to Matt Scaub. The Texans were missing All Pro wideout Andre Johnson and the Raiders figured to stop the Texans aerial assault. Good thing they willed themselves to a victory or their record could have dropped to 2-3 and would have had them 2 games back to the Chargers and a third loss in the AFC making wild card tiebreakers difficult. Yet with a 3-2 record and their next two games against the Browns and Chiefs, the Raiders can finish the first half of the season on a winning streak. Take a look at the standings…

AFC WEST W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
San Diego 4 1 0 .800 3-0-0 1-1-0 2-0-0 3-1-0 120 109 +11 Won 3
Oakland 3 2 0 .600 1-1-0 2-1-0 1-0-0 3-2-0 136 133 +3 Won 1
Kansas City 2 3 0 .400 1-1-0 1-2-0 0-1-0 1-2-0 77 150 -73 Won 2
Denver 1 4 0 .200 1-2-0 0-2-0 0-2-0 1-3-0 105 140 -35 Lost 3

Ryan Matthews slashes through the Bronco defense last Sunday.

Which leads us to the quiet San Diego Chargers who haven’t had the statistical season they had a year ago but the wins are more important for them. They’re still playing up and down to their competition only this year they have maintained leads until the end of games instead of coming from behind and falling short. Yet will this formula keep?? Even though they are 4-1 they have only outscored their opposition by only 11 points. Before holding off a furious rally by the Tim Tebow led Denver Broncos last week, those wins were courtesy of the hapless Miami Dolphins, a down Kansas City team, and a 1 win Vikings team. So are they as good as their 4-1 record?

A year ago Phillip Rivers threw for over 4700 yards, 30TDs and only 13 interceptions. Where this year he’s not having as good a season with 1,536 yards, 6TDs and 7 interceptions. He’s on pace for almost 5,000 yards yet another for 23 interceptions. Ryan Matthews is on pace for a 1300 yard season with over 413 yards with a gaudy 4.9 yard average. However.. how will Rivers and company play when they face stiffer competition?? They were manhandled against the Patriots in week 2 and after a bye comes the desperate for a win Jets, a possible resurgent Chiefs team (2 straight wins), the World Champion Packers, and a motivated team from Oakland. This is their season!! If they come through this crucible with a winning record, they learned how to win and have moxie. If they lose the majority of these four it’s the same underachieving Chargers of the not so distant past.

Which brings us to the heartland in Kansas City, Missouri. Now we here had picked this team to be a darkhorse for the Super Bowl and this team was knocked flat with an 0-3 start. Face it the first two were against frightfully strong teams in the 4-1 Buffalo Bills and the 5-0 Detroit Lions. Despite that they have picked themselves up by their bootstraps and returned to their strength which is running the football. Last week’s 28-24 win over the Colts was defining for it gave the team a boost in confidence going into their bye week. If they come out and beat the Raiders in two weeks it would put their record at 3-3 and ahead of the Raiders in the standings. The Chiefs have been running the ball with a committee of Thomas Jones (166 yards), Dexter McCluster (172 yards), and Jackie Battle (156 yards) with some success yet haven’t rushed for 1 touchdown yet. On defense it’s time for Glenn Dorsey to make some plays and help out Tamba Hali who has 4 sacks. Dorsey has yet to register a sack, forced fumble, knocked down pass or anything. First round draft pick needs to produce more.

John Fox you picked a good time to put in Tim Tebow now leave him in the rest of the year. He nearly rallied you back to a win vs. San Diego and you need to ride the coat tails of  the spirit brought by he and a rejuvenated Willis McGahee and see what you have. In reality there should be 6 more wins at least with Tebow playing. Had you waited another week, you may have lost the season and your fanbase. Good luck the rest of the way.

NFL Week 2 AFC West: Who Are These Guys??

The most enigmatic division in the NFL has just gotten weirder and weirder over the last two weeks. We chronicled how the Chargers play up or down to their competition and until Norv Turner is gone will continue to do that. True to form in their 1-1 start, they played down to the Vikings and up to the Patriots, although they lost. In the 93 years of the NFL, normally when a team can run the ball better than their opponent, they usually will win. Well the Chiefs are turning that axiom into a lost cause. They have run for over 100 yards in their first two games yet were blown out of the stadium on both occasions. They were also dealt another loss when they lost RB Jamaal Charles, who ran for over 1,400 yards last year. Second in the NFL.

However the Chiefs have lost three prominent players to injury and no one can answer the lingering question: What happened to the Chiefs passing attack?? It fell apart just  because Offensive Co-ordinator Charlie Weiss left?? We don’t buy that. Josh McDaniels and Todd Haley are from that same New England Patriot coaching tree. They both were offensive passing coaches there. So how do you explain Matt Cassell who threw for 27 touchdowns to just 7 int a year ago, to having thrown for only 1TD and 4 interceptions in two games this year?? Look no further we’ll reveal that answer in a moment. Yet lets take a look at the AFC West standings…

AFC WEST W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
Oakland 1 1 0 .500 0-0-0 1-1-0 1-0-0 1-1-0 58 58 0 Lost 1
San Diego 1 1 0 .500 1-0-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-1-0 45 52 -7 Lost 1
Denver 1 1 0 .500 1-1-0 0-0-0 0-1-0 1-1-0 44 45 -1 Won 1
Kansas City 0 2 0 .000 0-1-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-1-0 10 89 -79 Lost 2

Which brings us to the cream of this crop in the Oakland Raiders. Someone must have told Darren McFadden about our CEO’s claim that the SEC sends too many draft busts to the NFL. Since the midway point of last year no running back has run with more purpose. Even in defeat he ran hard for a well earned touchdown in Buffalo, where he fought off two Bills at the pylon. DMC rushed for nearly 100 yards for a second straight week. He’s the second leading rusher in the NFL after two weeks and it’s his play that’s allowed Jason Campbell to settle in and play some good football.  Right now Campbell has completed over 65% of his passes and is going downfield with confidence. That touchdown bomb to Denarius Moore was a thing of beauty. Last year he would have overthrew his receiver or thrown a two yard outlet pass since he saw Buffalo CB McKelvin running with Moore. The Raiders have stuck to their philosophy of running first to set up the pass. Something the Chiefs used to do.

How about the embattled John Fox and the situation in Denver regarding the quarterback position. Should he start Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton?? We say start Tebow and you can always go back to Orton. By going with Orton and switching to Tebow late it looks like you’re giving up the season and the Bronco players might go in the tank. If Orton is your guy trade Tebow and get something for him. You can’t dangle a talent like that in front of a fan base and have him not hit the field. We said it before on our CEO’s facebook page, the more Cam Newton succeeds in Carolina, the louder the fan base will call for Tebow. How embarrassing was that a week ago to be on Monday Night Football and your stadium chanting for Tebow to play?? They’re chanting this while Orton is playing ok football. When he has a bad outting Coach Fox might need a heavy police presence to get him to his car. Better make a decision fast or keep winning. Well so far they did the latter after Willis McGahee (The U) came off the street to rush for over 100 yards in last weeks win over the Bengals.

The Chargers have the NFL’s best quarterback that hasn’t played in a Super Bowl in Phillip Rivers. He’s a fiery field general yet needs his duplicate on the defensive side of the ball. The Chargers are well coached and are strong in ever phase of the game. What they lack is a little more play making ability to get a little more out of each play. On defense they haven’t had a “presence” since Shawne Merriman left this team. They don’t have an enforcer maybe Bob Sanders can remain healthy and become that guy. They have to stop coming out unmotivated and playing down to teams then try to roar back late in the game. It will work against a lessor team but you saw what happened in New England when they try that against a good one. This will be Norv Turner’s last year coaching them if they can’t break that spell.

Which leads us back to the Chiefs. Haley should fire his offensive co-ordinator and take over play calling himself or pass it over to Josh McDaniel. This team needs to get back to running first and passing second. This was the #1 team in the NFL in rushing attempts and yardage last year. So after 2 weeks Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster and Thomas Jones have a combined 38 carries for 219 yards?? Last year those were single game totals and to have McCluster with as many carries as Jones shows their running out of passing formations. Too much slick ’em and not enough sick ’em. Get your lineman firing off the ball and run at your opponents with purpose. Enough of this trick ’em football!! Chiefs if you listen and play to your fundamentals you can reclaim your division. We know that you have scored 10 points while giving up 79, has a team ever had that bad a beginning of a season and made the playoffs?? Yes, the 1989 Pittsburgh Steelers were 0-2 after losing 51-0 and 42-10 to the Browns and Bengals yet fought their way to a 9-7 wildcard. So it can be done. Aside from the Raiders, who in this division has some direction??

2011 AFC West Previews & Predictions

The NFL season is about to commence and now we break down the AFC West. Last year this may have been one of the best divisions in football. The two best rushing attacks in the NFL came from Kansas City and Oakland while the San Diego Chargers had the league’s #1 ranked defense. Actually the Chargers became the third team since the AFL/NFL merger to finish #1 in offense and defense in the same season. The other two?? The Dallas Cowboys went on to win Super Bowl XII and the ’87 San Francisco 49ers finished 13-2 and were upset in the playoffs. Yet the Chargers didn’t even make the playoffs with all this firepower, finishing with a disappointing 8-8 campaign.

Well if the old adage of “to win in football you have to run and stop the run” still holds true, something definitely went wrong. The Oakland Raiders went undefeated in the division behind the second best rushing attack yet missed the playoffs along with the San Diego. The Chargers achieved their #1 offensive status with WR Vincent Jackson and TE Antonio Gates missing a combined 17 games. This should have sabotaged the Chargers top rushing defense yet Rivers threw for more than 4,700 yards. Only the Kansas City Chiefs with Jamaal Charles’ 1,467 yards, the NFL’s second leading rusher, and Thomas Jones with 896 yards, made the playoffs. So what made the Chiefs complete the postseason equation where their counterparts could not?? By adding the performance of quarterback Matt Cassel who threw for 27 TDs and only 7 interceptions. He was third in interception percentage with only a 1.6% of his 450 attempts. This performance by Cassel solidified him as a legitimate quarterback and showed his 2008 season with the Patriots was no fluke. Now add to this equation the free agent signing of WR Steve Breaston, from Arizona and 1st round draft pick WR Jonathan Baldwin and you’ll see where our story begins…

Kansas City Chiefs 1960s AFL Logo

2011 AFC WEST PREDICTIONS

Kansas City Chiefs 12-4 *

San Diego Chargers 10-6 #

Oakland Raiders 7-9

Denver Broncos 2-14

So the Kansas City Chiefs banner will sit atop this division again. No team did more to strengthen themselves when it comes to balance. After leading the NFL in rushing attempts (556), rushing yards (2,627), and finishing tied for 4th in rushing attempts with a 4.7 yards per carry average, this team comes off the ball with consistency.  The seven man sled is alive and well in Kansas City practices.  This team had 72 runs of over 10 yards or more and pushed for first downs on 3rd or 4th and 2, 73% of the time up the gut.  When a team can come off the ball and push their opponent back it bodes well for the passing attack.

Do you realize the last time Coach Todd Haley last saw Steve Breaston, they were in Super Bowl XLIII together with the Arizona Cardinals?? Now Haley brings him in to line up with Pro Bowler Dewayne Bowe, who only gained 1,162 yards on 72 receptions and led the league with 15TDs. So the Chiefs will field one of the biggest sets of receivers and lets ask the question: What won’t this team do on offense?? They’d definitely like a rematch with the Ravens in the playoffs with this new group. It would definitely be a different story.

The Oakland Raiders have fielded one of the most underrated defenses for years yet their “send in the clowns” offense has sabotaged their efforts. They jettisoned JaM…we can’t even say his name…and brought in Jason Campbell and now grabbed former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor. So you can’t say Raider brass isn’t trying. With the emergence of Darren McFadden, there should be passing windows open just beyond the linebackers. Campbell has to throw the ball down the field and be more accurate this year.

Last year’s drafting of Rolando McClain and fellow linebacker Kamerion Wimbley are the heart and soul of the defense. Losing Namedi Asoumgha would doom most teams but the drafting of Demarcus Van Dyke (The U) at corner, Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson have covered well in pre-season. Most folks don’t realize that they finished 2nd in the NFL against the pass. They will not miss Asoumgha. The Raiders can go further than the 7-9 record we project if Campbell can play beyond his capabilities. However we see him as a marginal NFL talent and his upside is somewhere around a 3,000 yard season and 18TDs v 12 int. at best.

The enigmatic San Diego Chargers seem to lack a motivator to get them going. They keep falling behind early in games and come roaring back. Some games they win and others they fall too far behind and that is the reflection of Head Coach Norv Turner not getting his team up for the lessor teams. Phillip Rivers last year was magnificent and is the best of the young quarterbacks. He is in his prime, and without his two best receivers for 17 combined games, thew for 4,710 yards 30TDs and only 13 interceptions. He had to take some chances and still came up a winner. This year he will benefit from a projected 1,500 yard season for second year back Ryan Matthews out of Fresno State. Then when you add the defense and their play this team has no obvious onfield weaknesses. This team may be in need of a different coach to get them over the top. A coach that is more of a grinder that can get this team a little more battlehardened to go out and take care of business, no matter the opponent. We look for Coach Turner to be replaced at the end of the season. Remember they fired Marty Schottenheimer after he led the Chargers to a 14-2 record, so don’t be surprised.

As for the Denver Broncos, this is a rebuilding year. Coach Fox needs to let Tim Tebow start the season. It would energize the fanbase and possibly the organization. Then they could make a move to Kyle Orton if he founders. With a season start hosting Oakland and the Bengals, and if they can get to a 2-0 start, they could salvage the season with the early promise. This would be the recipe to offer your team and fans some hope. However Tebow isn’t favored by John Elway, who is in the front office, and that doesn’t bode well. During the pre-season Tebow was dropped to #3 on the depth chart and you could hear the disappointment from Bronco fans all over the blogosphere. With all of this going on and the need to revamp the defense, it’s time to completely rebuild and go younger. Don’t be surprised if a trade couldn’t send a Champ Bailey or a Kyle Orton away for future draft considerations. So start Tebow and see what you have. He’s under contract and you have nothing left to lose.

So that is your AFC West in a nutshell. All indications point to Kansas City reigning over the division with some competition from the San Diego Chargers. It’s hard to pick against a team that has several former NFL head coaches in one staff.  They learned a valuable lesson about playoff intensity from the Baltimore Ravens in last year’s playoffs. They will be more formidable this time around. The road to Super Bowl XLVI is a path that they can take with a few lucky bounces of the ball. Are the Chiefs ready for primetime??  We say absolutely…

2011 Kansas City Chiefs Preview

What produces a good team?  Is it based upon the accumulation of top shelf talent or can you coach a lesser talented team with top shelf coaching?  Head Coach Todd Haley put together a staff with 3 former head coaches with multiple Super Bowl rings from the 00’s Patriots and 1980s New York Giants. Did you know that current defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has 5 Super Bowl rings?  Yet is overlooked when it comes to credit in formulating defensive gameplans and getting the most out of moderate talent.  The Chiefs lost Charlie Weiss, who went back to the college ranks with the Florida Gators.  Yet the offense he leaves behind was the sparkplug that powered this team to a 10-6 record and the AFC West Divisional Crown.  Haley, who was the former offensive coordinator for the 2008 NFC Champion Cardinals, should have more of a hand in the play calling.  Can the Chiefs improve on the rapid rise and improvement shown in 2010?  Has the talent on this team developed enough to take the next step?

Quarterback: Time to enter the confessional: How many of you were thinking Matt Cassel was the second coming of Scott Mitchell or Rob Johnson? Quarterbacks who filled in for an injured starter, played well, parlayed it into a big free agent contract, then faltered with his new team. Well after a lukewarm 2009 in which Cassel tossed 16 TDs and 16 interceptions, he improved dramatically in his single season under Weiss. Cassel tossed 27 TDs with only 7 interceptions while moving his passer rating to a respectable 8th in the NFL. His improvement from 69.9 in 2009, to 93 was the best turnaround in all of pro football.  These numbers even top his 2008 campaign when he filled in for Tom Brady and led the Patriots to a surprising 11-5 season, which included a 5 game winning streak to conclude the season. Going into his 7th season,, he is entering his prime as a signal caller. One way to get to Cassel is to rush him from his front side.  He seems to throw the ball away or pull it down prematurely at times when he has a split second to complete the throw.  Even though he’s intelligent enough to know when to throw it away, this contributed to his ranking of 18th in passing yards per attempt (6.9yd avg.) along with his dumpoffs. He’s a little quick to move his feet from a throwing position.  So time your front side overload blitzes and jump his short routes when you do.  The Ravens were affective with this in last year’s wildcard playoff loss. Otherwise he can play action pass the Chiefs to efficient drives and to narrow wins. Arrowhead stadium has its most effective quarterback since Len Dawson and quarterback is good in Kansas City.

Offensive Backfield:  This team is set at running back with the continued development of Jamaal Charles. Entering his 4th season he is averaging a whopping 6.0 yards per carry over 3 seasons. His 1,467 yards last year was 2nd in the NFL while snaring 45 receptions for another 468 yards, scoring 8 times overall. His yards per reception average of 10.4 shows you can’t discount Charles in the passing game.  You had better bring some healthy, in shape linebackers to  play Kansas City or you might be in for a long day. At 5’11 199 lbs., it was thought by some that Charles may not be tough enough between the tackles, coming into the NFL.  Last year showed his 1,100 yard season in 2009 was no fluke. He started only 5 games last year and the Chiefs are doing the right thing playing him with 2 backs sharing the workload otherwise Charles might break down.  This keeps Charles fresh and allows him to break big plays once the Chiefs opponents start to wear down. Many good years ahead for this talent from Texas.

One thing we can’t come to grips with at the Taylor Blitz Times is why teams have let Thomas Jones go when he has been so productive? The last two stops he was let go by teams fearing he’d get old on them and not perform which is nuts if you see this guy out of uniform.  In his last year with the Bears in 2006, he led the Bears to the Super Bowl rushing for 1,210 yards. He even ran for 112 yards in Super Bowl XLI, which was the first time since Thurman Thomas in Super Bowl XXV to do so. In his last year with the Jets in 2009, he rushed for 1,402  yards and 14 TDs, leading the Jets to the AFC Championship game.  Then released after those two years?? Are you kiddin’ me? Its no coincidence that Jones physical running style embodied the attitude of his team’s offense on a 3rd successive team that made the playoffs.  Last year was the first time in 6 years Jones didn’t cross the 1,000 yard threshold finishing with 896.

First glance at his 3.7 yard average per rush, you’d think he was slowing down when in reality he carried the ball in all obvious running situations.  The Chiefs may benefit themselves by not telegraphing that they are always going to run when Jones is on the field.  Make no mistake that Jones is in the twilight of his career. Yet this is an extreme physical specimen who keeps himself in great shape with a body weight lifters could be proud of. So even at the age of 32 we expect him to have at least two good years left in him with the current situation.  With teams focusing a little more on Cassel, WR Bowe, and first round draft pick in Pitt wideout Jonathon Baldwin, expect him to cross the 1,000 yard threshold yet again.  As a matter of fact the Chiefs may post the first 1,000 yard rushing tandem in AFC West history.  Rushing the football over 500 times last year, yikes. At running back, Kansas City is Super Bowl quality…better bring some linebackers with “big boy” pads on to play them too.

Receivers: The Chiefs wanted to ensure that teams couldn’t concentrate solely on Dewayne Bowe last year by running effectively, and this year by drafting him a running mate in Pitt’s Jonathon Baldwin.  As for Bowe, he had an explosive year pulling in 72 receptions for 1,162 yards and 15 TDs.  A physical specimen at 6’2 221lbs with good speed, is only going into his 5th season and should be there for the Chiefs for years to come.  With a strong running game to force more 8 man fronts Bowe had a field day against undersized DBs. With the addition of 6’4 228 lbs Baldwin, the Chiefs will field one of football’s largest set of receivers. They will be a team that can move the chains yet we have to see how Bowe comes back after this lockout.  If he’s worked out fiendishly so that his hamstrings hold up, he will be the deep threat with Baldwin the itermediate target. With wideouts this big Oakland had better think twice about Namedi getting out of town as a corner.

The Chiefs are serviceable at TE with Leonard Pope and Tony Moeaki combining for 57 receptions and 5 TDs. Its hard to think of that being productive after Tony Gonzalez manned this spot for so long but these guys are better blockers.  Also 3rd down back Dexter McCluster ate into some of this group’s production running the up and under routes that the tight end would usually run.  With some of the division’s defenses in flux, this should be a good receiving group in Kansas City.

Offensive Line: After leading the NFL in rushing attempts (556), rushing yards (2,627), and finishing tied for 4th in rushing attempts with a 4.7 yards per carry average, this team comes off the ball with consistency.  The seven man sled is alive and well in Kansas City practices.  This team had 72 runs of over 10 yards or more and pushed for first downs on 3rd or 4th and 2, 73% of the time up the gut. Coach Haley has to love that!  How they only had one Pro Bowl lineman in LG Brian Waters is embarrassing.  As always it takes the league 1 year after a performance to recognize emerging talent.  With a heavy dose of running the football, you have to say RG Ryan Lilja and RT Barry Richardson are getting the job done.  They are in their 7th and 3rd years respectively and should be able to maintain their level of play for the foreseeable future.

One of the ways to get after the Kansas City offensive line is to get on top of this team by 7 or more points.  Since they are a heavy run offense they aren’t conditioned to come back or protect the quarterback for extended drives consisting of a majority of passing.  This team ranked 12th in the NFL allowing 32 sacks, and 18th allowing 74 hits on the quarterback.  So they are better suited in pushing off the ball than they are at protecting the passer.  With this line I’d definitely overload blitz in the face of Matt Cassell who gets the ball out a tad early which couples with the tendency that he gets hit a lot on dropbacks.  All told this team has a lot of leads and stays committed to the run so they don’t fall too far behind.  Offensive line is superior in Kansas City and may be a shade better than New England.

Defensive Line: Surprisingly the Chiefs aren’t getting the return they had originally envisioned in DE Glenn Dorsey out of LSU.  This is partially the team’s fault for drafting a 3 technique 4-3 tackle then converting to a 3-4 defense the next season.  He got caught in the middle, just ask former Green Bay Packer DE Aaron Kampman.  Now that isn’t an excuse for an anemic showing with only 2 sacks in nickle situations when they employ 4 man fronts, but he isn’t effective as a DE.  The Chiefs should trade him to a team committed at a 4-3 defense like Chicago, Minnesota, Atlanta, or home to New Orleans and getting something in return.  His build is conducive to be a “rooter”, to shove the middle of a pass pocket and not come from the additional 3 yards away at DE. Since the Chiefs are 14th in rushing yards allowed and average with 1,764 and 4.3 respectively they could use more help on this line.

The combined 5.5 sacks amongst the front 3 needs to be higher, especially for a defense that should be that rested on a team that ran the most in the NFL. DT Ron Edwards and DE Shaun Smith are decent players yet could improve as pass rushers.  The issue is that in year’s 9 and 6 respectively, this is as good as they will be and play for the aging Edwards could slip. To that avail the Chiefs drafted specimen Allen Bailey from Miami to help with that interior push.  The question is where will they play him.  He seems suitable to rush from the inside on nickle and dime packages with his explosion and strength. He should be able to play special teams to keep him engaged in games but again his body type doesn’t lend to a DE, maybe part time DT. He could be disruptive if he learns to fight better with his hands.  The defensive line is slightly below average yet it could make a few strides this season if Bailey disrupts on 3rd down.

Linebackers: The Patriots flat out gave Scott Pioli and the Chiefs brass a gift when they traded Mike Vrabel to them.  A heady linebacker who’s veteran leadership and 3 Super Bowl rings give him the locker room clout to have the ear of his younger teammates. He has shown invaluable in helping the Chiefs grow up fast under Romeo Crennel’s watch.  He is showing signs of wear in not making any splash plays but he just made the right ones yet father time may be catching this 14th year vet. Star of this defense is Tamba Hali closing in at the right side OLB spot.  The Chiefs were hoping he’d improve on his 2009 and he didn’t disappoint charting 14.5 sacks (1st in AFC) and second in the league to DeMarcus Ware with 15. Hali forced 4 fumbles, recovered 2 and knocked down 3 passes and should have been to the Pro Bowl.  He’s only 27 years of age and has steadily improved with now 3 years with over 8 sacks.  Only going to get better.

Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson #56 led the team with 120 combined tackles and returned his only interception for a TD.  He gets to the football and along with Jovan Belcher’s 84 tackles this may be the best younger set of inside ‘backers in all of football.  Combined they had 2 sacks and 4 forced fumbles bringing some thump with their tackles.  Belcher was a rookie and Johnson is only entering his 6th season.  Couple that with the ages of the Jets and Raven’s inside tandem and this could be the AFC’s best within a year or two.  Linebacker is really good in Kansas City.

Secondary: Of all the playoff teams out of the AFC last year, the Chiefs were fair larsonists with 11 interceptions between their starters. They had solid play out of free safeties John McGraw and Kendrick Lewis who combined for 5 interceptions and benefitted from teams throwing away from Pro Bowl SS Eric Berry.  In 2010 Berry had 4 interceptions while making 87 tackles.  Of his 4 interceptions he did take one back for a pick 6 from 54 yards out.  This guy is a playmaker.  At the corner position, high draft pick Javier Arenas could only make the field in obvious passing situations as a nickle back. Why?? Ask the Chiefs brass about the play of corners Brandon Flower with 14passes defensed, and Brandon Carr’s 23.  An active group.  Now throw in Arenas’ 7 passes defensed and 1 interception to go along with the 2 Brandon’s 3 picks and teams had better not throw into this secondary.  With their top three corners all being 24 years old or less, this is the best secondary fielded by the Chiefs since the million dollar secondary of Kevin Ross, Albert Lewis, Lloyd Burrus, and Deron Cherry of mid to late 80s fame.  Superior is the only grade to be given out here and if this team can get another pass rusher to force more errant throws….yikes!!

Overall: Still the best in the AFC West, and if they could take something from the intensity they faced in the wild card round against Baltimore, this team could be headed to the AFC Championship Game or beyond.  Last year early on the question was were they as good as their 3-0 record. They weren’t.  They were better as evidenced by their 5-2 stretch to win the division crown when the pressure was on at the end of the season.  As strong as they are in the phases of running the football and defending the pass, if they get a lead its curtains.  They are well coached and they could make a conference splash this year if age shows up in Pittsburgh and Baltimore.  A team with no obvious weaknesses that has to see Head Coach Haley scout himself and not get pass happy with another big target opposite Bowe. He could get flashbacks to his offensive co ordinator days with the Arizona Cardinals and take to the air.

Careful Coach Haley, you have a good thing building in Kansas City and this team could make a Super Bowl run in these next two seasons.  One of the chances for this team to see growth is in week 10 with a Monday night matchup in New England.  Kansas City comes through with a win there in a championship building block game, this team could be the AFC’s sleeper.  I know that sounds crazy to say of a possible two time division champion, but they are not the sexy pick and most pundits would list them as the 5th or 6th best AFC team. They should finish with a record of 11-5 or 12-4 with another AFC West Title. Plenty of bar-b-que and handwarmers come playoff time in Kansas City.