Before the season began many pundits figured that the AFC West would be the weakest division in the NFL. A legitimate argument could be made that it has become the most competitive. This week, the teams of the division continued to their strong play. The teams play will certainly make for interesting storylines through the second half of the season.
They turned heads around the league and went 3-0 as the San Diego Chargers were idle on a bye week. Moving forward, there are several intriguing division battles slated to take place, and they figure to be every bit as epic as they’re shaping up to be.
But this is about reflecting on the Week 8 that was, and there was plenty to gush about throughout the division. Though there were plenty of flashy plays to speak of, it all begins and ends with defense.
Here were the Week 8 bright spots for the AFC West:
Oakland Raiders defense
The defense caused havoc for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line all day. They sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times and pressured him several more. Mike Jenkins came up with an interception and his tackle of Antonio Brown helped to cause another interception. Steelers’ wide receivers had trouble dealing with the Raiders man coverage and struggled to get open most of the day. Although the Steelers have struggled most of this season, that type of performance can help to give the defense confidence down the stretch.
Denver Broncos defense
The Broncos’ defense has been less than stellar this season but versus the Washington Redskins they may have played their best game.
Robert Griffin III was held to 50 percent passing, threw for just 132 yards, two interceptions, and a lost fumble. Kirk Cousins came in late after RGIII seemed to tweak his knee and he proceeded to throw two interceptions as well. The Broncos were down late in the game, but the defenses ability to get stops and turn Washington’s offense over gave Peyton Manning and the offense the chances they needed to take the lead.
On the negative side, Kevin Vickerson received a personal foul penalty for a needless late hit on the quarterback for the second week in a row. One has to wonder whether his playing time will begin to be limited if he cannot be trusted to make smarter plays.
Smith was his typical game manager self on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. He had zero turnovers and threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Those may not seem like standout numbers but consider the fact that No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe was held to just one reception for seven yards. Smith continues to figure out how to do just enough to win games. With the trade deadline looming this Tuesday, it’s fair to wonder whether or not the Chiefs look for another offensive weapon to make the offense more potent.
Smith would love to throw to some of the names that have been mentioned to be on the market. Players like Kenny Britt, Josh Gordon, and Marcedes Lewis are all said to be available according to NBCSports.com. A move of that magnitude would show that the Chiefs are going for it all this season. What may have been thought of as a rebuilding year this past offseason could now be the Chiefs’ best shot to win the Super Bowl in years.
Photo Courtesy: Tony Avelar