AFC West Report: Getting Seperation

Kansas City, San Diego and the Raiders all suffered losses this past weekend and the Broncos gain a huge victory in Oakland and improve to 5-1 on the season. Denver is firmly planted in the drivers seat in the AFC West with a two game lead over the Chargers.

The Kansas City Chiefs season, which looked to be on the turnaround after the big road win at Baltimore two Mondays ago, took a huge step backwards in Jacksonville on Sunday when they lost 22-16 to an inferior Jacksonville team. Kansas City erased a 14-3 deficit and took a 16-14 lead with 4:45 left in the contest. The Chiefs couldn't stop the Jacksonville offense and the Byron Leftwich as he led the Jaguars to their fourth come from behind victory of the season.

Chiefs quarterback Trent Green was harassed by the Jacksonville defense all day but he still managed to put up 315 yards passing. Green had a couple of touchdowns including his flip to Priest Holmes, which gave the Chiefs the lead. Holmes had a decent day running but it was below his standard as he rushed for 75 yards against a gritty Jaguar defense.

It's a heart breaking loss for the Chiefs especially after the Denver win. Talk all week had the Chiefs improving to 2-3 and right back in the thick of the playoff hunt for the AFC West, but that was not meant to be. Instead Kansas City drops to 1-4 and still is looking for answers. The Chiefs now find themselves in last place a half game behind Oakland and needing a win this weekend.

The schedule could prevent the Chiefs from getting back in the playoff race as Michael Vick and the 5-1 Atlanta Falcons come to Kansas City for this Sunday's game. Atlanta barely managed to get by San Diego 21-20 at home. Atlanta has been involved in several close games this year so it's sure to be another fourth quarter game at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

In only his second career start for the Denver Broncos running back Reuben Droughns cruised through the Oakland Raiders defense for 276 yards and it appears that the Broncos running back is another in a legacy of great Denver backs. The game got out of hand early thanks to the struggling Raiders who never put up a contest. Denver gave up an early field goal and trailed 3-0, but that didn't last as the Broncos tallied 21 unanswered points in the first half and tacked on ten more in the third quarter for the 31-3 win.

Jake Plummer looked sharp and quietly the Broncos have become one of the top teams in the AFC. Plummer had three touchdowns all in the first half to different receivers on his way to 190 yards passing on the afternoon. With the great play at running back and Jake Plummer playing better than a manageable quarterback the Broncos it makes it that much easier for the leagues first ranked defense.

The defense continues to be the story for the Broncos. They continue to prevent other teams from scoring points and they give their offense every opportunity to be successful every week. The Broncos defense took the ball away from the Raiders twice on Sunday afternoon. But they spread it around on defense. Consider the fact that no defender had more than four tackles. That's balance on defense.

Denver gets to showcase their talents next Monday night with a game at Cincinnati to face the struggling Bengals. Last years darlings stand 1-4 this season and they desperately need a win. The Bengals lost this past Sunday to the Browns in Cleveland 34-17. They've certainly under achieved this season as they have not been as cohesive offensively with Carson Palmer at quarterback. Denver blew out Cincinnati in week one last season.

The Oakland Raiders have several issues and it appears to start at the quarterback position. The bad but expected news of the day came when Rich Gannon was declared out for the rest of the season. Gannon went out during the Tampa game when he and Bucs linebacker Derek Brook met head on near the goal line. That means Kerry Collins will run the show for the conceivable future. That could change if he continues to throw interceptions. He's thrown seven passes to the enemy the last three weeks. Raiders Head Coach Norv Turner can't continue to play Collins if he keeps turning the ball over. Eventually back-up Marques Tuiasosopo could get the call.

Beyond the quarterback the Raiders are hapless at running back. Amos Zereoue carried the ball only 15 times amassing 34 yards. Zereoue is the 26th best rusher in the NFL right and leads the Raiders with 257 rushing yards. With no solid threat at running back, defenses are able to focus on shutting down Collins.

The defense isn't helping the cause as they continue to give up yardage both in the air and on the ground. All in all it looks look like things could get worse before it gets better in Oakland. The team has yet to find any kind of identity and it has the makings of a long season. The Raiders get to look themselves in the mirror this weekend as they get another team that has not lived up to expectations. The Raiders will host the New Orleans Saints who fell to 2-4 after Sunday night's loss to the Vikings 38-31.

The San Diego Chargers missed a golden opportunity to keep pace with the Broncos after losing to the Falcons on Sunday. With a touchdown on the ground and two more through the air, Michael Vick won the battle of the trade that led to him jumping from the Chargers to the Falcons back in the 2000 draft. San Diego falls to 3-3 on the season, but this team has obviously improved and nobody thought they'd be a .500 team but they'll take it. Still the remain the closest pursuer to the Broncos.

Charger all-world tailback LaDainian Tomlinson was held in check for most of the afternoon by the Falcons defense. Tomlinson rushed for 65 yards on 23 carries with a one touchdown. Drew Brees played well, just not well enough to win. Brees three for 227 yards and a touchdown but he threw another interception.

The Charger gets the tough task of traveling across country two weeks in a row as they head to Carolina to play the hard luck Panthers. The Eagles annihilated the Panthers 30-8 on Sunday. Traditionally teams heading east always seem to have a hard time. Even though Carolina looks bad at 1-4 the Chargers will have a tough task this weekend.

After six weeks, the AFC West appears to be the Broncos division to win or lose. The Chargers are hanging on but the other two division combatants the Chiefs and Raiders will have to play near perfect football to stay close. Oakland looks pathetic and a loss this Sunday to the Saints and their season will officially be over. Kansas City is lucky in the sense that all of their division game come late in the season. They have to win every game or this season will be a bitter disappointment for the Chiefs and their fans.


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