How I See It: AFC West Stock Watch

December, 29, 2010
12/29/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Norv Turner’s popularity: The Chargers have already said Turner will return as head coach despite the fact that the Chargers are 8-7 and they will not make the playoffs for the first time since 2005. But that doesn’t mean San Diego fans will be happy about it. Turner’s popularity was already wavering simply because he replaced the ever-popular Marty Schottenheimer. Now that Turner has given San Diego fans reason to doubt him, they will. This all means Turner will be on the hot seat in 2011. If he doesn’t lead the Chargers back to the playoffs, fans will completely turn on the franchise and essentially force the hand of San Diego ownership. The pressure is officially on.

2. Oakland’s defense: In six of Oakland’s eight losses it has allowed at least 31 points. Oakland is 2-4 in its past six games and it has allowed 137 points in the four losses. Oakland has made some strides this season, but Oakland’s inability to stop teams on defense is a reason why this season is not ending in the playoffs.

3. San Diego’s pass defense: San Diego’s pass defense was stout all season and the Chargers allowed a total of 259 yards of offense in the two games leading up to Sunday. But at Cincinnati, the Chargers saw their playoff hopes end at the hands of Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer. He shredded San Diego’s secondary for 269 yards and four touchdowns. In a year in which this unit was very good, the season ended when a mediocre passing attack tore it up.

[+] EnlargeKansas City's Matt Cassel
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesMatt Cassel and the playoff-bound Chiefs are heading in the right direction.
RISING

1. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs are going to the playoffs. They are the feel-good story of the NFL season. Kansas City won a total of 10 games in the past three seasons. The Chiefs are 10-5 in 2010. Who would have thought that the original Dallas Texans had a better chance of playing in the Super Bowl at Jerry World than Jerry Jones’ Cowboys?

2. Tim Tebow’s chances of starting in 2011: Unless Tebow totally implodes Sunday against San Diego; he has to be considered a near slam-dunk selection to be Denver’s starting quarterback in 2011. The original thinking was that the new coach in Denver would have to approve the idea of moving forward with Tebow. Now, the new coach may be the one who has to get on board with the idea or don’t come on board. Ownership knows how much excitement Tebow has created in Denver and it would be a tough sell to see Tebow’s development go on hiatus with him on the bench after an intriguing start to his career, which was highlighted by a furious second-half comeback against Houston on Sunday. There’s no doubt the subject of Tebow will be paramount in every interview with prospective coaches. Tebow hasn’t been flawless, but what young quarterback is? The key is Tebow has shown the game is not too big for him and that will likely earn him a starting job going into next season.

3. Jacoby Ford’s popularity: A lot of NFL teams should be kicking themselves for letting Ford slip to Oakland in the fourth round. How many teams? I’d say 31 teams. This kid is amazing. He is a big-league weapon. Ford has returned three touchdowns for scores since Week 9. He is also a playmaker on offense. This is highly-skilled, super-fast player who could have a DeSean Jackson, Devin Hester-like presence in a year or so. He was a serious draft gem.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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AFC WEST SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
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