Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC West [Print without images]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
How I See It: AFC West Stock Watch

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

1. Denver Broncos’ playoff hopes: A month ago, it seemed like a certainty that Denver would make the postseason for the first time since 2005. Now, it’s starting to look like a stretch that Denver will end up in the postseason at all.

The Broncos have lost four straight games after winning their first six games of the season. After losing by 29 points at home to San Diego on Sunday, the Broncos are a game off the pace in the division. They are in danger of becoming the second NFL team since 1978 to start 6-0 and not make the playoffs.

2. Denver’s run defense: Nothing like facing Denver’s defense to spark an anemic run game.

San Diego has been near or at the bottom of the NFL’s rushing rankings all season. Yet, the Chargers ran for 203 yards Sunday in their win. Denver has been ravaged by the run for the past three weeks.

3. Denver’s team chemistry: Losing creates friction and there was plenty of it on the sideline Sunday after rookie Knowshon Moreno lost a fumble at the goal line late in the first half with Denver trailing 13-0.

Denver receiver Brandon Marshall got in Moreno’s face about the fumble. Moreno, a rookie, responded by shoving the veteran. Moreno then tried to get at Marshall again. After the game, Marshall said he was frustrated by the fumble.

Rising

Studebaker
1. Andy Studebaker, Chiefs linebacker: Studebaker made the most of his first NFL start.

The linebacker had two interceptions and four tackles in Kansas City’s stunning overtime upset win over defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh. Studebaker was playing for the injured Mike Vrabel.

The Chiefs have been excited about Studebaker, so expect him to get more playing time down the stretch.

2. Norv Turner, Chargers coach: Fans love to pounce on Turner when the Chargers aren’t playing well. So, Turner deserves credit when the Chargers are playing well.

San Diego is playing top-notch football these days. The Chargers have won five straight games and are now in first place in the division.

In his third season, Turner has turned around his team after slow starts every season. He deserves kudos for that.

3. Bruce Gradkowski, Raiders quarterback: Gradkowski did what he was promoted to do -- he led Oakland to a win. When he replaced JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007, with Gradkowski, a career journeyman, for the rest of the season last week, Oakland coach Tom Cable said it was because Gradkowski gave Oakland a better chance to win.

In his first Oakland start, Gradkowski overcame shoddy play by leading the Raiders to a game-tying touchdown in the final seconds of a 20-17 win by the Raiders. Gradkowski may not be the future in Oakland, but the Raiders are playing hard for him and he has given the team some hope for the immediate future with his energized play.