AFC West Report: Raiders and Broncos Atop Division

Still winless on the season the Kansas City Chiefs dropped a heart breaker to Houston at home, San Diego falls to 1-2 while Oakland and Denver protect home field and share first place in the AFC West with a 2-1 record. But the road gets tougher for each of the AFC West teams as they all face a four-game stretch that could seperate the men from the boys.

Finally the Kansas City Chiefs managed to stop the run when they slowed down Dominick Davis, Jonathan Wells and the Houston rushing attack. Still the Chiefs let down on defense just enough that Houston found success through the air and took a 24-21 win in Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs fall to 0-3 and the road does not get any easier with a Monday Night match-up in Baltimore against the 2-1 Ravens.

The Chiefs were ready to put their foot on the neck of the Texans late in the third quarter, Trent Green's fade pattern pass which was intended for Tony Gonzalez was picked off by Marcus Coleman and taken back 102 yards for a score. The interception essentially made a fifteen point swing that the Texans needed to stay in the game. Failing to convert in the red zone cost the Chiefs their first win. Putting the ball in the end zone probably would of sealed the victory for Kansas City.

The Chiefs offense showed good balance as Trent Green found the end zone for the first time this year and he managed to find it three times. Priest Holmes added a workhorse-like 134 yards on 32 carries. The one turnover managed to be the difference and they'll have to look for victory at 2-1 Baltimore next Monday night.

The Chiefs stare down a tough four game stretch with games against several of the NFL's better teams. With a combined record of 10-2 the Chiefs have the no so luxurious task of defeating Jacksonville on the road or Atlanta and Indy at home not to mention this weeks game with the Ravens. But this team needs to turn it around or they could start the season 0-7. Hopefully that's not the case for Dick Vermeil's emotions and his players.

The Oakland Raiders took it Tampa Bay 30-20 Sunday night but the victory was costly as they lost Quarterback Rich Gannon who could be out anywhere from eight weeks with a broken neck vertebrae. Gannon left the game attempting to dive towards the end zone but instead took the hard end of a Derrick Brooks helmet-to-helmet hit that left him dazed and sore.

Kerry Collins came in a provided an effective replacement going 16-27 for 228 yards with a touchdown and a pick. The former Giant quarterback now inherits a first place team for at least the rest of the first half of the season. Ronald Curry got a touchdown for the second consecutive game and Tyrone Wheatley carried the ball 18 times for 102 yards.

The Raiders held control of this game until the very end when they gave up two late garbage touchdowns to the winless Buccaneers. Sebastian Janikowski missed his first field goal of the year but was able to convert on three others to help Oakland in their winning cause.

The schedule gets tougher for the Raiders as well as the Chiefs so the division is anything but out of reach. Oakland's true colors should emerge as they have back to back road games in Houston and Indianapolis then come home to face Denver and New Orleans in the black hole.

Speaking of the Denver Broncos they took an easy win from the San Diego Chargers 23-13 at Invesco field. Neither team looked particularly impressive on the ground, but the Broncos were able to muster up their second win despite the fact that running back Quentin Griffin, who fumbled for the second consecutive week, was held to a meager 12 yards rushing on the afternoon. His counterpart LaDainian Tomlinson was held to 60 yards as the Broncos defense keyed on the Chargers best offensive threat.

Jake Plummer played a good game throwing two touchdowns and nearly eclipsing the 300 yard passing barrier. The next four weeks the Broncos travel to Tampa Bay, host the Carolina Panthers, head to Oakland in what could determine the AFC West leader. After that key match-up the Broncos have a Monday Night showdown at Cincinnati to face the struggling Bengals. The Chargers will get the 3-0 Titans at home, travel to Atlanta and Carolina before an AFC West showdown with the Raiders at home.

With that daunting four week stretch, no team in the AFC West looks to be in a position to separate from one another. So this division likely will remain up for grabs until the final weekend of the season. Even though the Chiefs have a tough road to overcome if they can start winning games that should keep them in the division hunt for a while. All they can do is play better and hope that they can steal the division when they play five of their last six games against the AFC West. Denver looks to have the easier schedule in the immediate future but have the toughest end of the season stretch amongst the four teams.

What does all this mean? No team is out of it in the AFC West not even the Chiefs.


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