Friday, September 24, 2010
AFC West: Final Word
By Bill Williamson
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 3:
The Chiefs haven't started a season with a 2-0 record since 2005.
Numbers favor Kansas City: There’s real meaning to Kansas City’s fast start. It extends beyond the fact that the Chiefs are 2-0 for the first time since 2005 and that they won a total of just 10 games in the past three seasons. A 2-0 start means a team is on the right track. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 167 teams have started 2-0 since 1990. Of those 167 teams, 107 (64 percent) have made the playoffs. Only 28 teams (17 percent) have finished with a losing record. These stats don’t necessarily mean Kansas City is on to something -- remember, Denver started 6-0 last season and ended up 8-8 -- but it is a meaningful start as the Chiefs prepare to host San Francisco.
San Diego’s secret weapon: The Chargers are excited about first-round pick Ryan Mathews as a primary back. And there’s the dynamic but tiny Darren Sproles, who is a fine change-of-pace back and a weapon as a receiver. But the Chargers’ running game doesn’t stop at Mathews and Sproles. Teams must account for Mike Tolbert, who will likely start Sunday because of an ankle injury to Mathews . At 5-9 and 243 pounds, Tolbert usually requires multiple defenders to bring him down. The Chargers plan on using him often near the goal line, but I also expect to see him play more snaps in general, starting Sunday at Seattle. Tolbert has 108 yards on 18 carries in two games. In Week 1 at Kansas City, the third-year player had a 29-yard run. He added a 23-yard run in San Diego’s win over Jacksonville last week. A combination of Mathews, Sproles and Tolbert will be a major headache for defenses.
The Asomugha-Fitzgerald show: The Raiders are committed to using star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha more aggressively this season to use his immense ability. Asomugha has moved around and even has played safety. The Raiders will need Asomugha at his best Sunday at Arizona. He will face Larry Fitzgerald, by far the best receiver Oakland has faced this season. The Cardinals’ offense may be in disarray, but Fitzgerald is still a difference-maker.
Can Kansas City continue to make the key play? In their two wins, the Chiefs have come up big when it counts. Will they continue their streak against the 49ers on Sunday? In Week 1, Kansas City’s defense had a great goal-line stand against the Chargers. The Chargers’ threat ended at the Kansas City 6-yard line with 39 seconds to go. In Week 2 in Cleveland, the Chiefs’ offense closed the deal. On a gutsy call by coach Todd Haley, Kansas City converted a 4th-and-inches run play at the Browns’ 36-yard line at the two-minute warning with the Chiefs holding a a 16-14 lead. Good teams win close games.
Is Thomas ready to replace Marshall? When Denver drafted Demaryius Thomas, it did so hoping he’d be a replacement for Brandon Marshall, who was traded to Miami. Like Marshall, Thomas is a big receiver who possesses many skills. Thomas showed a glimpse of how good he can be when he had eight catches for 97 yards and a touchdown catch in his NFL debut during a Week 2 win over Seattle. The Colts certainly must account for Thomas on Sunday. Still, the Colts are probably relieved they won’t be facing Marshall. Last December, when Denver roasted Indianapolis, Marshall set an NFL record with 21 catches against the Colts. Thomas is very likely not ready for that type of show, but after a strong debut, expect Denver to continue to go to its new receiver.