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AFC West Spin cycle: Week Two

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By PFW staff

Updated Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 12:01 p.m. ET

The Chiefs and Raiders not only failed to bounce back from Week One losses, but looked miserable in Week Two blowouts. The Chargers, without Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates, rolled past the Titans to advance to 2-0. The Broncos continued their gauntlet of an opening schedule, losing to the Falcons on Monday night.

BRONCOS
 
What we learned: Peyton Manning may have some cobwebs to sort out, and his return to the field isn’t going to be as smooth as one could have presumed from the season opener. He made poor decisions early in Week Two, tossing three interceptions in the first quarter. The big concern for the Broncos is his arm strength — some of the throws did not look pretty, though Manning said they were simply poor decisions. Manning helped bring the Broncos back late, like we saw him do so many times with the Colts, but a lot of credit also goes to Willis McGahee, who continues to run well.
 
What’s in store next: The Falcons’ defense was aggressive and caused major problems for Denver early on, and the Broncos face an even better unit in Week Three, hosting the Texans. The running lanes that McGahee found on Monday night may not be as readily available against Houston, and DE J.J. Watt will cause problems for the Broncos’ O-line as he tries to get to Manning. The Texans’ rushing attack will provide a test for a Broncos run defense that has performed well up to this point.
 
What the heck? After using a heavy dose of two-TE sets in Week One, the Broncos mainly relied on TE Joel Dreessen, who was on the field for 77 percent of offensive snaps, while Jacob Tamme only saw 35 percent of snaps. They each had two catches, but the Broncos’ offense focused on McGahee and WR Demaryius Thomas in this one.

Kevin Fishbain

CHIEFS

What we learned: This team is not ready for prime time. Not close. Many folks’ sleeper picks to win the AFC West, the Chiefs have allowed 68 points on defense (75 total) and have rolled up a minus-6 turnover ratio in an 0-2 start. Sunday’s blowout at Buffalo was especially haunting because the Chiefs never were in a game against a team that was smoked by 20 points (and it wasn’t that close, really) in Week One. The offensive play-calling has been curious at moments, but that’s hardly the biggest issue. It’s Romeo Crennel’s “D” that has been a little shorthanded, sure, but hardly devastated by absences. It has failed to stop the hurry-up passing attacks of both the Falcons and Bills in almost any fashion and has looked mostly toothless.

What’s in store next: Uh oh. The Chiefs head to New Orleans to face an 0-2 Saints team that appears to be angry. Maybe the Chiefs can get more going offensively and avoid the turnovers — the two fumbles prior to the half, including Peyton Hillis’ fumble at the Bills’ goal line, killed any chance of a comeback. But they are going to have to do something about the pass defense. They allowed the Bills to gain 9.4 yards per pass play a week after permitting 9.1 per throw to the Falcons. Getting CB Brandon Flowers back is a good thing, and S Eric Berry is playing into form. But the Chiefs might seriously regret not spending to keep Brandon Carr, especially with the extra salary-cap space they currently possess. That doesn’t make fans too happy to hear.

What the heck? The Chiefs, lest we forget, were 0-3 last season and a total mess. And yet by some strange fortune and some improved play, they almost stole the division, finishing a game out. The expectations were elevated this season in what appeared to be a wide-open AFC West race. That same thing could happen in this volatile division this year. But the Chiefs were supposed to be beyond this type of chaotic play under Crennel. He was brought back as head coach because of his calming influence and his rapport with the players. The roster was said to be talented and deep, with the talents matching what the coaches were seeking to achieve offensively and defensively. But right now, it looks like a total mess. Can it be fixed? Sure, but with the Saints, Chargers, Ravens and improved Buccaneers up next on the slate before the bye that’s tough sledding.

Eric Edholm

RAIDERS

What we learned: The reeling Raiders do not have anything to hang their hat on, and it’s fair to wonder when, perhaps even if, they ever will this season. It’s still early, but time is not the problem for first-year head coach Dennis Allen. Talent and scheme might be, though. Oakland is ranked 31st in points per game and 24th in points allowed per game, and, after taking a three-point lead into halftime on the road coming off a short week, the Raiders were walloped in the second half of their 35-13 loss to a mediocre-at-best Dolphins team on Sunday.

What’s in store next:n Oakland returns home to host the Steelers, who bounced back from a Week One loss to the Broncos by shutting down the Jets in a 27-10 win Sunday. Allen will tell his players not to look beyond their next opponent, but it does not get any easier for the Raiders after Pittsburgh. After Week Three, they travel to Denver, have a bye and then travel to Atlanta. That difficult schedule could put them in a 0-5 hole if they don’t solve their problems quickly.

What the heck? RB Darren McFadden is gaining only 2.1 yards per carry (54 yards on 26 carries) through two games and he has yet to score a touchdown. His longest rush is for eight yards. The Raiders simply cannot expect to win games that way. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp needs to go back to the drawing board and find ways to spring the team’s best and most valuable weapon. The Raiders do not have enough at the other skill positions to make up for McFadden being kept so quiet.

Dan Parr

CHARGERS

What we learned: The depth that GM A.J. Smith focused on this offseason worked out well in a dominant victory over the reeling Titans. Free-agent additions RB Jackie Battle and TE Dante Rosario combined for five touchdowns, helping fill in for Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates. The front seven on defense remains a strength for this team, holding Chris Johnson to 17 rushing yards on eight carries.

What’s in store next: We’ll learn a lot more about the Chargers in a big Week Three matchup with the Falcons and their high-powered offense. San Diego’s defense has been very stout, but Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White are a whole new challenge. We also haven’t seen the Chargers’ offense really open things up to its potential, and we could see that if Mathews and Gates return for Week Three. Both are expected to be back.

What the heck? Monitoring the wide receivers will be a common trend with this Chargers team as we wait for the free-agent additions of Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal to not only get comfortable in the offense and gain a rapport with Philip Rivers, but also to make an impact. Royal got talked up in the spring, but he was only on the field for 30 snaps on Sunday. The Chargers may be using more two-TE sets, but would Vincent Brown be out there more in the slot? As for Meachem, he saw a spike in his playing time — likely because Antonio Gates was out — getting 59 snaps, only four fewer than Malcom Floyd, but Meachem had zero catches on four targets while Floyd produced six catches for 109 yards.

Kevin Fishbain

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