AFC WEST REPORT: Denver Falling Back to the Pack?

Starting the season off strong the Denver Broncos sky rocketed past the rest of the division and looked to be running away from the pack. After losing the Monday night game in Cincinnati the Broncos find themselves only a game ahead of the Chargers and the Chiefs with a win on Sunday will officially have caught some momentum.

After a long Michael Vick run early in the first quarter in last Sunday's game against the Falcons, Chiefs fans may have become a little anxious as their Chiefs have yet to win a home game. The Kansas City defense held the Falcons to only three points in the red zone and that's the closest that the game would be. Capped off by four touchdowns apiece, Priest Holmes and Derrick Blaylock managed to set an NFL record with eight rushing touchdowns in the game destroying Atlanta 56-10.

The Chiefs now control third place and are the only team in the AFC West who have taken their bye week. Kansas City appears to be making a run, literally. The rushing attack leads the league, by far. The Chiefs average 161.7 yards on the ground a game at a rate of 4.8 an attempt. That makes Kansas City a dangerous opponent heading into Halloween and the cold months of the National Football League.

Priest Holmes leads the league in rushing with 690 total yards, 11 touchdowns and looking forward to more against an Indianapolis Colt defense that ranks second to last in the NFL. The Colts have been successful against the run but having to focus on the leagues leading rusher is sure to open up a passing game that is ready to explode.

The Colts have trouble stopping the pass and were torched by Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich last Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs still haven't put together a dominant performance through the air this season. They were highly successful against a good Baltimore Ravens team a few weeks ago so the offense has to be optimistic this weekend against the Colts.

The Chiefs are definitely on the outside looking in on the AFC playoff picture but they are on the cusp with ten games to play. The Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Houston Texans are the only other teams that have had their bye so Kansas City has the opportunity to play plenty of catch up for the race. The Chiefs also get an inconsistent New Orleans team in the "Big Easy" on November 14th the week Denver and San Diego are sitting home and that should help them in the division race.

For now it's the Colts, and the Chiefs have to show up on Sunday. The Chiefs stand just 2-4 and they still have a big hand they can play in the division but it has to start this weekend. Chiefs fans don't have to be reminded of the 38-31 loss last season to the Colts in the playoffs at Arrowhead in January, but those demons could reemerge Sunday with a loss. The Colts are a slight favorite heading into Sundays game with a forecast of 66 degrees and sunny. One more side note has Eric Warfield tied for the league lead in interceptions with four.

The Denver Broncos lost to the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday and they now find their comfortable lead shrunken down to a less than a mere couple of games against division foes. Denver appeared to move the ball with ease at time against Cincinnati and the leagues then first ranked defense would make a big play but somehow it didn't work out. Big plays by the Bengals defense and great performance by Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson along with a Rudi Johnson run was everything Cincinnati needed to roll over the Broncos 23-10.

Denver is a minus four in turnovers and that could be a problem down the stretch. The turnovers have already been a problem for this offense and it's apparent they are prone to give the ball away when Jake Plummer sits in the pocket. The first cost them the opportunity for a win at Jacksonville when Quentin Griffin fumbled the ball within field goal range, and Ruben Droughns gave the Bengals three points when he fumbled the ball right before the half killing a lot of the momentum Denver was beginning to build. Jake Plummer threw two picks to a pair of former Broncos, Deltha O'Neal and Tory James. The turnovers prevented Denver from getting back into the game.

It would seem just what the doctor ordered when the Atlanta Falcons come to Invesco Field on Sunday. As mentioned the Falcons were blown away by Kansas City but a dose of Michael Vick can be lethal at any time. The Falcons still have one of the better defenses in the league and may have caught the Chiefs at a bad time. With a loss Denver will be reeling and could jeopardize their AFC West lead.

Quentin Griffin is now lost for the season with a knee injury and the offensive line has nationally been criticized for their legal but cheap blocking tactics. Adding to the distraction has been recent rumors that head coach Mike Shanahan and the temptations of a highly touted college job at the University of Florida where Ron Zook was fired earlier in the week. Though Steve Spurrier is expected to return to the Gators, if negotiations break down with former Washington Redskins head coach, Shanahan could become more serious about returning to his roots a second time around. Broncos fans might not have realized how close Shanahan considered the Gator job before they settled on Zook.

This could be a vulnerable time for the Broncos and Shanahan has to real in his troops after a disappointing loss to the Bengals. The Falcons will come in a hungry bunch as they look to stave off any teams coming after their lead in the NFC South. Still the Broncos remain a seven point favorite.

San Diego takes a split in their back-to-back travels to the east coast. Newcomer Keenan McCardell showed up nicely for his first game of the season since being traded from Tampa Bay. McCardell set up a LaDamian Tomlinson score with a long pass completion that helped propel the Chargers to the 17-6 win over the Raiders.

Drew Brees was solid once again in the victory and as every week passes it looks to be less and less likely that Phillip Rivers will see any action as the starting quarterback. Brees has a 95.5 quarterback rating and is sixth best in the league for starters; one slot ahead of two-times Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady.

This weekend the Chargers could officially bury the Raiders with a win in Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers are one of the better teams in the AFC sitting at 4-3 but the Raiders have had their number in recent years. Perhaps the surprise team of the NFL, the Chargers takes aim at first place in the division with a Denver loss. The bye looms on the horizon with games against New Orleans and Oakland for the final time.

The beef of the schedule is down the road for San Diego. After Thanksgiving they'll have two games with Kansas City, including the season finale that could end up being a blockbuster. Other games include Denver, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and the Colts. Even with the hard road to come; the Chargers look primed to play a role in how the season shakes down.

For Oakland a win is a must. It doesn't look good for the Raiders as they were worked over by the Saints last weekend at home. The schedule is brutal and besides the Chiefs the only two teams that the Raiders will play below .500 are the Panthers and Titans.

The Chargers are a five point favorite heading into the game with Oakland. Top Stories