AFC West: 2013 Week 1 QB Watch AFC

QB Watch: Chargers' Philip Rivers

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the San Diego Chargers' quarterback play.

Rivers
Rewind: Philip Rivers threw a game-tying interception in the fourth quarter of a 31-28 home loss to Houston on Monday night. The Chargers had a 28-7 lead in the third quarter, and Rivers and the Chargers’ offense had only 10 yards on their final five drives. But this was far from a bad overall game for Rivers. He threw four touchdown passes and was brilliant before the huge momentum shift. He was poised, and he was far from the mistake machine he had been the past two years.

Fast-forward: Rivers is seeing an unfamiliar foe. The Chargers are going to Philadelphia on Sunday; it is the first time the Chargers have faced the Eagles in four years. Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III gutted the Eagles in the second half on Monday night. There are passing yards to be had against Philadelphia.

McCoy effect: Even though it was a defeat, it seems like Rivers is getting a lot out of playing for new head coach Mike McCoy. Rivers looked more poised and comfortable. He wasn’t pressing Monday night as he often did in the final two years of the Norv Turner regime. It was a promising start to the Rivers-McCoy pairing.

Prediction: Rivers will go 21-of-36 with 273 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

QB Watch: Chiefs’ Alex Smith

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
12:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Chiefs' quarterback play.

Smith
Rewind: Alex Smith was tremendously efficient though not spectacular in his Chiefs' debut. He made almost exclusively short throws and got the ball out of his hand quickly. He completed 21 passes but for just 173 yards. He threw a pair of touchdown passes as the Chiefs scored a TD on each of their three trips inside the Jacksonville 20. His completion percentage of 61.8 was good but not great. He threw no interceptions, an important statistic given that the Chiefs played most of the game with a comfortable lead.

Fast-forward: Things should get more difficult for Smith on Sunday against the Cowboys. In Jacksonville, he was able to take advantage of several favorable matchups as the Jaguars frequently appeared confused on defense. In DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys have a premier pass-rusher capable of getting Smith out of his comfort zone. Dallas also has far more experience in the secondary than Jacksonville, which started two rookie defensive backs.

He was himself: In Jacksonville, Smith was every bit the quarterback the Chiefs thought he would be when they traded for him. He completed a high percentage of passes and committed no turnovers. Those were notable characteristics from his game the past two seasons with the 49ers. He also was able to get out of trouble on occasion with his running. Smith’s 9-yard run on a third down was a key play on one of Kansas City’s touchdown drives.

Prediction: Smith’s stats against Dallas might look a lot like those from the Jacksonville game. Put him down for 24-for-40 for 195 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.

QB Watch: Raiders' Terrelle Pryor

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Oakland Raiders' quarterback play.

Pryor
Rewind: Terrelle Pryor termed his play “awful.” His coach would not go that far. And, really, Pryor was closer to revelation than reclamation in the Raiders’ 21-17 defeat at Indianapolis. He said the loss was on him, after throwing two red-zone interceptions and taking a costly sack. But were it not for his play-making skill set, Oakland would not have had a chance to win at all. And with his 112 yards on the ground, Pryor leads the AFC in rushing.

Fast-forward: The knock on Pryor was his downfield passing, as he completed just one of seven attempts of at least 20 yards. Might visiting Jacksonville provide a tonic, especially with first-year Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson having worked with the Jaguars last season? The Jags gave up but 173 yards through the air to Kansas City’s Alex Smith on Sunday, on 21 completions, so he averaged just 8.2 yards per. Pryor averaged 11.4 yards per completion against the Colts. Expect Olson to call more short passing plays, at least early, to get Pryor comfortable. Pryor can always take off and run if he doesn’t like what he sees.

Reading the zone read: Speaking of taking off, Pryor did just that every time the zone read was called against Indianapolis. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Pryor kept the ball on all five of the Raiders’ zone-read option calls, gaining 33 of his 112 rushing yards that way.

Prediction: The Jaguars, like the Colts, reside in the AFC South, meaning that there’s not a lot of familiarity there with running QBs and the zone-read option. So the play should be there for Pryor on Sunday. Expect Olson to use it, and the threat of Darren McFadden breaking a long run, to set up the play-action for deeper Pryor throws later in the game.

QB Watch: Broncos' Peyton Manning

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Denver Broncos' quarterback play.

Manning
Rewind: After an offseason’s worth of questions about the relative strength of his right arm, Peyton Manning opened the regular season by adding another rather significant bullet point to his already Hall of Fame-worthy résumé. Manning finished with 462 yards passing against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens -- with seven touchdown passes, which tied an NFL single-game record.

Fast-forward: Manning will have to work his way past the obvious storyline Sunday when he faces younger brother and New York Giants counterpart Eli. The Giants didn’t surrender any pass plays longer than 23 yards in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, but they didn’t consistently pressure Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, either, letting Romo pick away with the short and intermediate stuff. That’s a bad recipe against Peyton Manning, who absolutely owned the intermediate routes against the Ravens: Four of his six completions of between 21 and 30 yards went for touchdowns.

Serve and protect: The Giants certainly hope defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul -- who looked somewhat rusty in 50 snaps against Dallas after being limited throughout the offseason and training camp following June 4 back surgery -- is ready for a little more impact against the Broncos. Left tackle Ryan Clady has to handle Pierre-Paul, the Giants' most threatening defensive playmaker, for Denver's offense to move the ball.

Prediction: The Giants configured coverages in their 4-3 look to keep the Cowboys from going downfield, and should be expected to do the same against the Broncos. Romo had 36 completions for 263 yards, just 7.3 yards per completion and 5.4 per attempt -- not the numbers of a dynamic passing attack. But the Broncos have more athleticism in the slot with Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas -- they sometimes even line Demaryius Thomas up there -- and Manning has a quicker release, so the catch-and-run opportunities will be there if Manning makes the right reads.

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