AFC West: 2013 Week 14 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: San Diego Chargers

December, 8, 2013

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the San Diego Chargers' 37-14 victory over the New York Giants.

What it means: San Diego recorded its largest margin of victory this season. The Chargers move to 6-7 and are tied with the New York Jets (6-7) and a game behind the Baltimore Ravens (7-6) and Miami Dolphins (7-6) for the final AFC spot with three games to play.

Manning sputters: In his first game back in San Diego since 2005, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning struggled, finishing 20-of-32 for 259 yards, a touchdown pass and two interceptions. Manning was loudly booed by fans at Qualcomm Stadium when he took the field. Manning, who spurned the Chargers in the 2004 draft, is 0-3 in his 10-year career against San Diego.

Melvin Ingram solid in return: In his first game in nearly a year coming off anterior cruciate ligament knee surgery in May, Ingram unofficially played 13 snaps. Ingram had trouble containing the run a few times and finished with just one tackle. But he left the game healthy, which is the most important thing for the Chargers.

Stock watch: Running back Ryan Mathews gained 103 yards on a season-high 29 carries, as the Chargers controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Mathews eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the fourth time this season.

What’s next: The Chargers travel to Denver for the team’s final road game of the season, a Thursday night contest at Mile High Stadium at 5:25 PT.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos

December, 8, 2013

DENVER -- A few thoughts on the Denver Broncos' 51-28 win over the Tennessee Titans:

What it means: With the win, the Broncos, in largely throw-first mode for much of the day despite a kickoff temperature of 18 degrees, kept their hold on the top spot in both AFC West as well as the race for home-field advantage in the AFC. The Broncos are 11-2, with the New England Patriots (10-3) and Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) right behind in the AFC. The Broncos have swept the Chiefs already this season.

Stock watch: It always seems to come down to a kicker at some point in the postseason for any Super Bowl hopeful, and the Broncos continue to feel good about the range and accuracy of Matt Prater, even in a season when the Broncos have scored so many touchdowns. His NFL-record 64-yard field goal on the last play of the first half was his 20th made field goal of at least 50 yards in his career with the Broncos.

Mix it up: With injuries starting to impact the depth chart on defense, the Broncos continue to search for answers on that side of the ball. They used a variety of personnel groupings that didn't include two of their starters much of the time. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard and safety Duke Ihenacho were replaced by Paris Lenon and Omar Bolden, respectively, much of the time in the base 4-3 defense. Woodyard and Ihenacho were not injured and played regularly on special teams. The Broncos also used Quentin Jammer at cornerback in the base defense in place of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Both sides of the coin: The Broncos keep hoping linebacker Von Miller can consistently be the kind of impact player he was last season. Miller took a terrible roughing-the-passer penalty in the second quarter, a clear helmet-to-helmet hit on Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick that likely will cost Miller some money. But he also tipped a pass in the third quarter that resulted in an interception and forced a Chris Johnson fumble in the fourth quarter that safety Mike Adams recovered. He added a sack.

What's next: A battered and bruised team gets a short week late in the season. The Broncos host the San Diego Chargers on Thursday, a game Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker is unlikely to play in after leaving Sunday's game with a concussion.

Rapid Reaction: Kansas City Chiefs

December, 8, 2013

LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Kansas City Chiefs' 45-10 victory against the Washington Redskins:

What it means: The Chiefs got back to playing the kind of game that produced a nine-game winning streak earlier in the season, even if it was against the lowly Redskins. After getting just two sacks in the last five games, the Chiefs dragged down Washington quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins six times. They also scored two special teams touchdowns. The 10-3 Chiefs snapped their three-game losing streak.

Stock watch: The Chiefs have been solid on special teams most of the season but had their best kicking game. Dexter McCluster returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown and set a team record for punt return yardage. Quintin Demps also returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. Knile Davis returned a kickoff for a touchdown last week against the Denver Broncos. After being shut out for the past four weeks, linebacker Tamba Hali had a pair of sacks. Rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper was picked on mercilessly by Denver quarterback Peyton Manning last week but bounced back with a solid game.

Incredible Charles: Jamaal Charles entered the game as the AFC’s leading rusher and had his best game of the season, rushing for 151 yards and one touchdown. He also caught a touchdown pass. Charles last week went over 1,000 rushing yards for the fourth time in his Chiefs career. That’s a Kansas City record. The Chiefs removed Charles from the game after the third quarter was finished, and that may have cost him another score. His backup, rookie Davis, scored on a 17-yard touchdown run early in the fourth period.

What’s next: The Chiefs continue their two-game road trip by playing the Oakland Raiders on Sunday in Oakland. The Raiders are 4-9 after losing Sunday to the New York Jets. They lost 24-7 to the Chiefs in October in Kansas City.

Rapid Reaction: Oakland Raiders

December, 8, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the Oakland Raiders' 37-27 loss to the New York Jets:

What it means: Try as they might to dismiss the gravity of the situation, the Raiders have now lost 13 straight games in the Eastern time zone, dating to Dec. 6, 2009, while getting outscored by a combined 416-225, and they are a combined 5-30 three time zones away since Dec. 15, 2002. And Oakland's defense allowed a heretofore struggling Jets offense -- New York had scored a combined 20 points in its previous three games -- to get on track to score a season high in points, while a blocked punt for a touchdown also helped the Jets. It was the Raiders' fifth defeat in six games.

Stock watch: Rising -- Marcel Reece. The purported “matchup nightmare” showed exactly why and how he garnered that moniker as the Pro Bowl fullback started at tailback, with Rashad Jennings, Darren McFadden and Jeremy Stewart all injured and inactive, and broke off a career-long 63-yard touchdown run. He finished with 123 yards rushing on 19 carries to become the first player to rush for 100 yards against the Jets this season, He also had two receptions for 38 yards.

A familiar face: The last time Terrelle Pryor saw the field, it was this field ... on Nov. 10 ... against the New York Giants. Ineffectiveness and injury sent Pryor to the sidelines and put Matt McGloin under center. But Pryor had one series in this game, after two ineffective series by McGloin, and moved the offense to the tune of five first downs and a field goal. It was the only action he saw, though.

Defense sans a D: Oakland's defense, having last played on Thanksgiving Day, should have been fresher, right? Alas, poor tackling reared its ugly head again and the third-down defense was atrocious. The Jets converted seven of their first 12 third-down conversions, which contributed to the Raiders' defense tiring late and contributing to the poor tackling.

What's next: The Raiders (4-9) play host to the Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) in only their second home game since Nov. 4. It will be the first of three straight games against AFC West opponents to close the season. On Oct. 13, the Raiders jumped to a 7-0 lead that would have been 10-0 were it not for a missed Sebastian Janikowski field goal. The then-undefeated Chiefs sacked Pryor nine times in a 24-7 Kansas City victory.