Even halfway through the season, the AFC West is wide open. The Chiefs and Raiders are playing better than expected, and although the Chargers are 3-5, they have the potential to run off five or six straight wins and get right back into the playoff hunt. The only team that is floundering completely is the Denver Broncos, who have lost four straight and seem to be in a freefall.
Kansas City Chiefs Midseason Report (5-2)
Through only seven games in 2010, the Chiefs have almost equaled the win total from 2008 (2 wins) and 2009 (4 wins) combined. The main reasons for Kansas City’s resurgence: They are first in the NFL in rushing offense and seventh in the NFL in rushing defense.
Kansas City’s fate ultimately rests in their own hands: five of their final nine games are against AFC West foes, and how they play against their own division will ultimately decide whether the Chiefs make it back to the playoffs or have to be content with improving upon last season’s record.
Total Offense: 354.9 yards/game (12th)
Total Defense: 332.7 yards/game allowed (16th)
Kansas City Chiefs Midseason Grade: A-
Oakland Raiders Midseason Report (4-4)
The Raiders started the season 1-3, but have since gone 3-1 and are outscoring their opponents 136-61 over that period. Jason Campbell has rebounded from some early season struggles and former Heisman trophy runner-up Darren McFadden has finally started to capitalize on the talent that made him the number 4 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. It seems unlikely that they will be able to keep up the torrid pace that they’re currently playing at, but even if they stay at .500 over the second half of the season they could have a chance at winning the AFC West.
Total Offense: 366.0 yards/game (8th)
Total Defense: 310.0 yards/game allowed (9th)
Oakland Raiders Midseason Grade: B+
San Diego Chargers Midseason Report (3-5)
The San Diego Chargers lead the league in total offense and total defense, yet they’ve lost five games and are 2.5 games behind Kansas City in the AFC West. There are two main culprits behind the Chargers’ maddening start: Poor special teams play and a -8 turnover differential.
Against Seattle, the Chargers gave up two kickoff returns for touchdowns. Against Oakland, the Chargers lost three fumbles and had two punts blocked, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Against New England, the Chargers were -4 in turnover differential and missed a late field goal after a false start penalty pushed the kicker back five yards. If the Chargers stop beating themselves, they could still win the AFC West. San Diego doesn’t have a lot of time to turn things around, however, as they’ve already dug themselves a very deep hole.
Total Offense: 426.9 yards/game (1st)
Total Defense: 260.0 yards/game allowed (1st)
San Diego Chargers Midseason Grade: C-
Denver Broncos Midseason Report (2-6)
Going back to last season, the Broncos are 4-14 over their past 18 games. Denver is coming off a loss in London to San Francisco and an epic 59-14 beatdown at the hands of the Oakland Raiders. The Broncos rank last in the league in rushing offense and 31st in the league in rushing defense. There is almost no way the Broncos can leapfrog the three teams ahead of them in the AFC West and make the playoffs, but they are far from dead.
Despite their atrocious rushing offense, the Broncos do rank 4th in the league in passing yards per game and quarterback Kyle Orton is having a career year. In addition, many of the Broncos’ overall stats are skewed by the Week 7 loss to the Raiders. Denver isn’t a good team, but they could turn things around and at least give their fans hope that they’ll be better next season.
Total Offense: 363.4 yards/game (10th)
Total Defense: 359.0 yards/game allowed (24th)
Denver Broncos Midseason Grade: D
AFC West 2010 Midseason Predictions
The AFC West may be one of the toughest divisions in the league to predict. The Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers all have a legitimate shot at finishing the season at 9-7, although it’ll take considerably more effort from San Diego than it would from Kansas City or Oakland. I think the Chiefs are strong enough to hold off the onslaught and win the division at 9-7, Oakland finishes at 8-8, San Diego finishes at 7-9, and the Denver Broncos level off around 5-11.
All stats and standings from espn.com
All records and statistics are accurate through Week 8 of the 2010 NFL Season