AFC West is fancy in passing game

A theme of the AFC West through the first five weeks of the season has been the passing success in the division.

San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers leads the NFL with 1,759 passing yards. He leads Denver’s Kyle Orton by 26 yards. Both players are on pace to set the single-season NFL passing yardage record.

It’s no surprise the division is putting together some interesting statistics in the passing game. Let’s examine some interesting nuggets discovered by the talented folks at ESPN Stats & Information.

San Diego tight end Antonio Gates, who is having his best season at the age of 30, is tied for second in the NFL behind the Colts’ Dallas Clark in targets for a tight end. Both Gates and Oakland’s Zach Miller have been targeted 40 times.

Gates has 29 catches for 478 yards and seven scores. Miller -- the favorite target of both Bruce Gradkowski and Jason Campbell -- has 28 grabs for 340 yards and three scores.

San Diego also uses backup tight ends Kris Wilson and Randy McMichael in sets with Gates. In two or more tight end sets, the Chargers have used the second most plays with 163. But it has, by far, the most yardage and catches in the league while using the set. Rivers has completed 50 of 70 passes for 1,148 yards in the set. Meanwhile, here is an ESPN clip debating whether Gates can continue his special season. My guess is yes. The numbers don’t lie.

Denver is thriving in three-plus receiver sets. With the No. 1 ranked passing offense and the worst ranked running offense in the league, the Broncos have to get creative and the multiple receiver sets are working.

Denver is third in the league with three-plus-receiver plays with 208. It has completed and attempted the most passes in the league in the sets, though. Orton has completed 112 of 163 passes using three or more receivers.

These are all reasons the AFC West is becoming the premier passing division in the league.