2013 NFL: The rise of the AFC West

By: Jakeemthundah
By: Jakeemthundah

Through the first four weeks of the 2013 NFL season the worst division resides in the Northeastern part of the country (and somehow Texas). The NFC East is a combined 4-12, which is going to be a likely record for one or more teams in the division when the season wraps up.

In Week 4, the entire NFC East and AFC West faced off in a battle royal that was dominated by the teams on the Western side of the country. The combined score of the four games was 120-72 in favor of the four teams from the AFC West. The Broncos skewed the overall number by hanging 52 points on Chip Kelly’s Eagles (more on Peyton in a little bit). The Chiefs also contributed a nice 31 points to the overall total by blowing up the Giants in the second half.

So what is there to be made of this early season destruction of the NFC East? The media has dubbed the NFC Least nickname on the disappointing division, but this story should be more about the AFC West.

Sure the Broncos have been the main storyline during the first quarter of the season, but the Chiefs have been relegated to the, “they’re a nice story” role. The Chiefs offense might be an eyesore, but their defense is legit. They’ve allowed the second fewest amount of points through four games (41) and have given up the least amount of points per game (10.3). Playing Jacksonville and this version of the Giants obviously helps that number, but Philadelphia and Dallas are top 12 offenses in terms of per game scoring.

The secondary trio of Brandon Flowers, Eric Berry and Sean Smith have the capability to actually get physical with Denver’s receivers, which will throw the timing of their routes off. Even though Peyton looks unstoppable right now, there will be a point this season when a team makes him have to work hard and the Chiefs defense has the right players to make his life difficult for 60 minutes.

Let’s also not forget about the Chargers. The once broken Philip Rivers still looks broken mechanically, but at least he’s executing a solid gameplan. In-between the barrage of dinks and dunks, Rivers made some nice sideline throws to rookie Keenan Allen (who gave Morris Claiborne fits all game) and then eventually hit Antonio Gates over the top for the knockout blow.

Rivers has the second highest completion percentage among starting quarterbacks in the NFL and a ridiculous (for him) 11-2 TD-INT ratio. Remember when Rivers days as a starting quarterback appeared to be numbered? It’s clear now that Rivers had become stagnant in Norv Turner’s system and needed a change. Mike McCoy has breathed fresh air into Rivers’ career and his turnaround has made the Chargers easily one of the biggest surprises in the first quarter of the season.

As for the Raiders, Terrelle Pryor is fun to watch. That is all.

Here Comes the Pain

The Broncos did something on Sunday against the Eagles that has only happened one other time in Peyton Manning’s 15-year career. Back in Week 4 of the 2003 season, Colts backup quarterback Brock Huard made an appearance in the fourth week of the season. Huard served clean up duty in a 55-21 win over the Saints.

Sidenote: Manning torched the Saints that day, 314 yards and six touchdowns.

Thanks to a big drop by Eric Decker that would have more than likely put points on the board for Denver, the Eagles defense “held” the Broncos to 21 points in the first half, but only one of those came from the arm
of Peyton. In the third quarter, Manning actually looked like he was in cruise control as he crushed Philadelphia’s spirits with three touchdowns (two to Demaryius Thomas, one to Wes Welker).

Just when it looked like pressure might get to Manning, he found someone crossing over the middle for a quick six yards. This is the best Manning has looked in his entire career. The Broncos front office has given everything Manning could have wanted and he has responded by looking simply unstoppable. (I can’t wait to see the spread on the Broncos-Jaguars game at Mile High will be, 30 maybe?)

After a blocked punt attempt resulted in a special team’s touchdown for Denver, backup quarterback Brock Osweiler entered the game and played mop-up duty for the majority of the fourth quarter.

Think about how odd this is. This was the second time in Manning’s career that he was relieved by his backup quarterback this early and his backup’s name was Brock.

Strange right?

Seeing Osweiler take snaps from center was strange for me. I wonder if Manning was okay coming out of the game. He could have easily had six touchdowns against whatever the Eagles defense is at this point. If Peyton cares about stats, today is the equivalent of shooting an even par round of golf and then going back and figuring out how a 68 could have been shot.

We If the Broncos can get by the Colts three weeks from now in Indianapolis, Week 11 against the Chiefs will be appointment viewing. That game also marks the beginning of a really tough stretch for Denver: KC, @NE, @KC, TEN (if Jake Locker is back to 90% by then). If they can get through that stretch, especially the two games against Kansas City, the 1972 Miami Dolphins will have to save the champagne bottles for the postseason.

Follow me on Twitter @Scottdargis

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