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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