Friday, December 10, 2010
Final Word: AFC West
By Bill Williamson
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 14:
Elements shouldn’t be an issue this time around: It is supposed to be a brilliant day in San Diego for the biggest game of the AFC West season to date. The forecast calls for a sunny day with the temperature expected to be between 75-80 degrees. Yes, perfect weather for a game in which the 8-4 Chiefs can move to the doorstep of the division title and the 6-6 Chargers must win to have any chance of keeping their four-year division championship streak alive. The conditions should be much different than when these teams played in Kansas City in Week 1. The Chiefs won the Monday Night Monsoon game, 21-14. Kansas City was able to adjust to the rain and the Chargers were clearly affected. It should be an even playing field this time.
Mike Tolbert has been the Chargers' go-to running back inside the 3-yard line, scoring seven touchdowns on 12 carries from that distance.
Better than the last time: The Raiders are 6-6 and still in the playoff race as they head to Jacksonville. The team has made progress and continues to climb out of a seven-year funk. Three years ago, Oakland played in a late-season game in Jacksonville. It was the first extensive playing experience for rookie quarterback JaMarcus Russell. The game was highly anticipated in Oakland because Russell was the No. 1 overall pick, but he was awful in a 49-11 defeat. He completed 30 percent of his passes and had a passer’s rating of 17.4. It never really got much better for Russell, who was finally cut by the Raiders in May.
Draft-pick bowl: The first game of what will likely be the four-game Eric Studesville era is a winnable game for the 3-9 Broncos at Arizona. But is it worth it? According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cardinals (3-9) are on pace to have the No. 5 overall draft pick. Denver -- which fired second-year coach Josh McDaniels on Monday -- is on pace to have the No. 6 pick. Thus, the winner of the game will be on pace for a worse draft pick. Of course, both teams will want to win to make this miserable season a little less, well, miserable. But in the end, a better draft pick means more drafting power in April.
Tolbert is a go-to player at the goal line: If the Chargers get to the goal line, the Chiefs will likely know the play, especially if it's a run. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Chargers’ running back Mike Tolbert is tied for the NFL lead with 12 carries inside the opponents' 3-yard line. He has scored seven touchdowns in those situations, second behind NFL leading rusher Arian Foster of Houston. The bowling-ball shaped Tolbert is a perfect goal-line threat because it usually takes multiple defenders to bring him down.
Raiders are traditionalists: According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Raiders lead the NFL in traditional two-running back, two-receiver and one tight-end sets. The Raiders have run 286 plays out of that basic set. The Jets are No. 2 in the league with 10 fewer plays than Oakland. The Raiders have been average using the set. They have gained 1,446 yards, which is far from the league lead. But it seems like Oakland’s offense is evolving as their receivers and tight end Zach Miller close in on regaining their health. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson called a very strong game Sunday against San Diego, and it seems like the unit may get more creative in the final quarter of the season.