AFC West Turns Into Three Horse Race

For the first seven weeks of the season the AFC West looked to be one of the weaker divisions in the National Football League but after all the games were completed on Sunday the Denver Broncos have let their division lead slip to San Diego and the Kansas City Chiefs are closing in quickly.

Lots of fireworks Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium as the Kansas City Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts played in the third highest yardage game in National Football League history amassing 1095 yards combined. The Chiefs got the better end of the deal on the afternoon winning 45-35 scorching a highly criticized Colts defense and improving their record to 3-4 and within spitting distance of the division lead for the first time since week three.

Priest Holmes continues to make his case for the leagues most valuable player award. Holmes play makes him the unquestioned leader of the offense racking up three more touchdowns on the season giving him seven in two weeks and thirteen on the season. Holmes is just about a game away from breaking the 1000 yard mark holding steady at 833 going into this weekend's game at Tampa Bay.

The Chiefs made their statement in the second quarter against the Colts putting up 24 points on their way to 31 by halftime. In the last two weeks the Chiefs have a combined 66 points in the first two quarters forcing the opposition out of their game plan and making the Chiefs able to control the rhythm, as they would like to play it.

Tony Gonzalez had his breakout game of the season with a pair of touchdowns and 125 yards receiving. Trent Green had the best game of his season as well as the veteran QB passed for 389 yards on 27 for 34 passing. On five of the six drives the Chiefs were able to get in the end zone from over 63 yards away. The high power offense appears to be back for the Chiefs and it seems to have shown up at the right time of the year.

Kansas City sits on the bubble for the playoffs and they have to avoid a let down when they travel to Tampa Bay this weekend for a showdown with the NFC's second rated defense. Buccaneers coach John Gruden knows the Chiefs well from his coaching days in Oakland. In a weak NFC the Bucs are still alive for a wild card but they must start to win now. Essentially every week for them will be a playoff game and it all starts against the Chiefs on Sunday. The Chiefs are an early field goal favorite.

Michael Vick led the Atlanta Falcons on a 31 point run through the second and third quarter against the Denver Broncos on their way to a 41-28 route. The loss slips Denver's record to 5-3 overall and they no longer hold the division lead by themselves. After starting out of the blocks with a 5-1 record the Broncos have now dropped two straight and Mike Shanahan's team is reeling.

The loss wasn't from a lack of offense. The Denver Broncos set a team record with 499 yards passing by Jake Plummer. The record was all for not as the win was certainly more important for Denver. Plummer threw for two first quarter touchdowns and the Broncos took an early 14-3 lead but it was short lived as Michael Vick shredded the Broncos defense on the ground and in the air. Plummer had four touchdowns and three interceptions on a day in which Ruben Droughns was held to just 50 yards rushing.

Two weeks ago the Denver defense was the best in the NFL. After the consecutive losses they fell to fourth in the NFL. Michael Vick passed for 252 yards and two touchdowns while gaining another 122 on the ground well on his way to setting the record for 100 yard rushing games by a quarterback. Running backs T.J. Duckett and Warrick Dunn combined for another 78 on the ground helping Atlanta to improve their season record to 6-2. Veteran safety John Lynch will sit out for two to four weeks with a tailbone injury.

Denver stays at home this week for a big AFC match-up against the Houston Texans. The Texans perhaps the hottest team in the NFL defeated the previously red hot Jacksonville Jaguars 20-6.

The loser of this game could be sitting on the outside looking in on the playoffs. The winner should find themselves in a comfortable position for the time being. If the Broncos falter in the division, this could be a key win for them as they try and battle for one of two AFC wild card slots. Denver is an early six-point favorite over Houston.

San Diego climbed into a first place tie for the division lead as they pounded their lifeless pounding of division rival Oakland 42-14. Drew Brees threw for five touchdowns on the afternoon and he now sits with the third best quarterback rating in the NFL. Not bad for a quarterback who will likely test free agency to many teams delight after the season ends.

Brees has a great one-two punch to throw at now with the addition of Keenan McCardell two games ago. McCardell and tight end Antonio Gates combined for three touchdowns and the young quarterback from Purdue now has a solid passing game and is primed to raise his stock in the off-season when he will become an unrestricted free agent. Combining that with LaDainian Tomlinson's rushing attack and the Chargers have the third highest scoring offense in the league.

For a team that was not supposed to be a contender the Chargers are finding themselves to be one. San Diego will host the New Orleans Saints, who are looking to salvage their season and stay in the NFC playoff hunt. As all the teams in the AFC West the Chargers control their own destiny with games at home against the Broncos and a pair still to come against the Chiefs in the second half of the season. San Diego is an early six-point favorite against the Saints.

The Raiders have an NFL high five game losing streak and it doesn't look to be getting any better. The team looks to have remolded itself to that of the Bill Callahan days. Warren Sapp had an ear full for head coach Norv Turner and just half way through the season the Raiders appear to have quit on their coach once again.

At this point owner Al Davis may want to take the San Francisco 49er's approach and scrap the whole team. Quarterback Kerry Collins threw two more interceptions in the game giving him eleven on the year with only five touchdowns.

The Raiders could be the worst team in the league. With huge off-season additions on both sides of the ball the team should be embarrassed. The Raiders have only two teams remaining on their schedule who have records below .500. Tennessee later in the year and they travel to Carolina this week in which they are a six point dog.


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