AFC West: Ryan Succop

Rapid Reaction: Kansas City Chiefs

December, 29, 2013

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the Kansas City Chiefs27-24 overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers:

What it means: The Chiefs have some good backup players. They took the Chargers deep into the fourth quarter before San Diego tied the score and then outlasted the Chiefs in overtime. Because the Chiefs were locked into the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs, a victory was meaningless. So coach Andy Reid rested 20 of Kansas City’s 22 starters, including all 11 on defense. With Chase Daniel making his first NFL start, the Chiefs put in a solid effort on both sides of the ball and almost denied the Chargers the AFC’s final playoff spot. The Chiefs finished the regular season at 11-5, an improvement of nine wins over 2012.

Stock watch: Rookie running back Knile Davis, playing for Jamaal Charles, started his first NFL game and delivered 81 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Daniel played about as well as the Chiefs could expect, completing 21 of 30 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. Daniel also ran for 59 yards. An offensive line comprised of four backups and rookie right tackle Eric Fisher kept Daniel from being under consistent pressure and opened some nice holes for Davis. Cornerback Ron Parker had an interception to set up a Kansas City touchdown. Kicker Ryan Succop was wide right on a 41-yard field-goal attempt with eight seconds left in regulation that would have won the game for the Chiefs.

What's next: Heading to Indianapolis. The Chiefs will play the Colts in the first round of the playoffs next weekend. The 11-5 Colts, winners of the AFC South, beat the Chiefs 23-7 at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 22 by forcing four turnovers while committing none of their own. The Colts have beaten the Chiefs all three times the teams have met in the playoffs, in the 1995, 2003 and 2006 seasons.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs needed all the points they could get in last week’s game against the high-scoring Broncos in Denver. But they made the proper decision in not having kicker Ryan Succop try a 64-yard field goal at the end of the first half.

In similar future situations, they should pass again.

The Chiefs sent Succop and the field goal team on the field for the last play of the half while trailing 17-10. They weren’t certain where the ball would be spotted because of a Denver penalty on the previous play.

Once they saw it would be a 64-yard attempt, they bailed. The Chiefs brought Succop and the field goal team back to the sideline and sent the offense on the field in its place.

The Chiefs weren’t necessarily afraid of the long kick. It was probably out of Succop’s range, but Denver’s altitude would have given it a chance.

They weren’t necessarily afraid of having a kick blocked because of the low trajectory a long kick requires. Succop had a 57-yard attempt blocked earlier this season against the Dallas Cowboys.

What the Chiefs feared, and what made the decision to not kick the field goal the right one, was that the Broncos sent Trindon Holliday back to return a possible short field goal. Holliday has returned a pair of kicks for touchdowns this season.

The thought of having a bunch of offensive linemen on the field to block for the kick trying to chase down Holliday if Succop missed was too much for the Chiefs to bear.

“That’s not a good situation to be in,’’ Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub said.

“I’d love to have a team try those long ones (against the Chiefs). We’d throw Dexter (McCluster) back there in that kind of situation. We have a return that we would run. It puts a lot of stress on the field goal unit when you try something like that. You’ve got to know you’d make it.’’

Locker Room Buzz: Kansas City Chiefs

October, 27, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Observed in the locker room after the Kansas City Chiefs' 23-17 win over the Cleveland Browns:

Momentum changer: Coach Andy Reid had no regrets about having Ryan Succop try a 52-yard field goal late in the second quarter, with the Chiefs ahead 13-0. Succop’s kick was long enough, but slightly wide to the left. It took Cleveland just two plays to use the resulting favorable field position to score its first touchdown to cut the deficit to 13-7. “He had been bombing those [kicks] before the game,’’ Reid said.

Home run hitter: Former Kansas City Royals infielder George Brett, a Hall of Famer, was in attendance. He grabbed a drumstick and beat on a big bass drum on the field shortly before kickoff to help fire up the fans at Arrowhead Stadium. “George Brett looked like he can still swing,’’ Reid said. “It was great to see him out there. I know he’s a big football fan.’’

Rookie mistake: Guard Jeff Allen had to wait for rookie tackle Eric Fisher to finish his postgame Q&A session with the media because it was conducted right in front of Allen’s locker. Asked whether Fisher’s move was worthy of a fine, Allen said, “It definitely is.’’

Rapid Reaction: Kansas City Chiefs

October, 27, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A few thoughts after the Kansas City Chiefs' 23-17 win over the Cleveland Browns:

What it means: The Chiefs, the last of the NFL’s unbeaten teams, raised their record to 8-0 and assured themselves of retaining sole possession of first place in the AFC West regardless of how the Denver Broncos fare in their late-afternoon game against the Washington Redskins.

Stock watch: The Chiefs entered the game leading the NFL in sacks with 35 but were held without one by the Browns until the fourth quarter. Justin Houston got the sack, but even then it was the product of good coverage downfield more than great pressure by the Chiefs. Tamba Hali had been one of the league’s hottest pass-rushers, but matched up mostly against left tackle Joe Thomas, he rarely got close to Cleveland quarterback Jason Campbell. Cornerback Sean Smith had a rough game, first biting on a flea flicker to leave Josh Gordon alone for Cleveland’s first touchdown, and later getting beaten deep by tight end Jordan Cameron. Quarterback Alex Smith had one of his most productive games. He threw a pair of touchdown passes, his first in four weeks. Dexter McCluster had seven receptions, including a 28-yard touchdown.

Unproductive second-half offense: After rolling up 20 points in the first half, the Chiefs were scoreless in the second half until Ryan Succop kicked a field goal with 17 seconds left. The Browns had allowed 31 points in each of their previous two games. The Chiefs even got a break in the fourth quarter when Cleveland’s Davone Bess, who had possession at one point, fumbled a punt return without being hit. The Chiefs recovered near midfield, but couldn’t take advantage of the favorable field position. Smith was sacked five times in the second half.

What’s next: The Chiefs are back on the road for the first time in almost a month when they travel to play the Buffalo Bills next Sunday. The last time the Chiefs were undefeated so late in the season was 2003, when they beat the Browns at Arrowhead Stadium to go 9-0. They went on the road the following week and lost to Cincinnati.

Chiefs create more needed cap space

September, 12, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs recently restructured the contracts of cornerback Brandon Flowers and kicker Ryan Succop to create some much-needed salary-cap room. Following those moves, the Chiefs have about $2.75 million of available cap space.

That’s important for a couple of reasons. First, the Chiefs have a little to spend if injury strikes and they need to sign a free agent or make a trade for a replacement.

It also gives them a little freedom if they want before the end of the season to sign one or more of their upcoming free agents to contract extensions. Among the players in the last season of a contract and scheduled to be unrestricted free agents next year: left tackle Branden Albert, guards Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz, wide receiver Dexter McCluster, defensive lineman Tyson Jackson and free safety Kendrick Lewis.

Flowers saw his salary reduced from $7.35 million to $3.35 million. His cap number was reduced from $9.6 million to $6.6 million.

Succop saw his 2013 salary reduced from $1.95 million to $715,000 and his salary-cap number trimmed from $2.4 million to $1,473,750.

Chiefs roster predictions, part I

August, 28, 2013
Not much intrigue left to the preseason for the Kansas City Chiefs. Just trying to stay healthy through Thursday night’s final exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers at Arrowhead Stadium.

That, and the final round of roster cuts that loom afterward. The Chiefs, like all NFL teams, must trim their active roster from 75 to 53 players by Saturday evening.

Here’s my prediction on how their roster will look for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla., at offensive positions and in the kicking game. I’ll post defensive predictions later today.

Quarterback (3): Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray. This might be the only position where there is no intrigue. They are set and in this order on the depth chart.

Running back (4): Jamaal Charles, Anthony Sherman, Knile Davis, Shaun Draughn. The only real mystery here is whether the Chiefs keep Draughn or Cyrus Gray as the third halfback. Draughn has been more productive than Gray. The Chiefs don’t use their fullback enough to keep more than just Sherman.

Wide receiver (6): Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, Dexter McCluster, Junior Hemingway, Devon Wylie, A.J. Jenkins. This position has come into focus since the Chiefs traded Jon Baldwin and released Terrance Copper. Bowe and Avery are the starters, McCluster the slot receiver. Hemingway has been steady during camp and the preseason and deserves a spot. Wiley and Jenkins are fast, and coach Andy Reid likes speed. The Chiefs might also keep undrafted rookie Rico Richardson, who caught the touchdown pass in overtime in Pittsburgh last week, but I’m not going to predict that.

Tight end (4): Anthony Fasano, Tony Moeaki, Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris. The shoulder injury to Moeaki might lead the Chiefs to place him on the injured-reserve list. Either way, the Chiefs will need to keep another tight end now, and that’s likely to be Harris. A former basketball player who didn’t play football in college, Harris needs more time to develop, so the Chiefs might be in search of veteran help at this position.

Offensive line (8): Branden Albert, Eric Fisher, Donald Stephenson, Jeff Allen, Jon Asamoah, Geoff Schwartz, Rodney Hudson, Eric Kush. Stephenson is too good to be a backup for long. He and Schwartz will be the first reserves off the bench. Kush is a developmental player.

Specialists (3): Ryan Succop, Dustin Colquitt, Thomas Gafford. They’re the only players still on the roster at their respective positions.
Our positional rankings series continues with the best group of kickers and punters in the NFL:

1. Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland: One of the greatest weapons on the NFL. He’s getting better.

2. Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City: Veteran punter was finally recognized with a Pro Bowl berth last season.

3. Mike Scifres, San Diego: Typically overshadowed during his 10 years in the NFL, but he is a tremendous punter.

4. Matt Prater, Denver: His big leg is a perfect fit in the thin air.

5. Britton Colquitt, Denver: He’d be the best punter in most divisions.

6. Ryan Succop, Kansas City: A solid kicker who can get better.

7. Nick Novak, San Diego: Veteran has done a nice job for the Chargers.

8. Chris Kluwe, Oakland: Decent vet has early edge over green Marquette King to replace departed standout Shane Lechler.

Final Word: AFC West

September, 28, 2012
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

Chargers have had trouble in new Arrowhead: Sunday will be the Chargers’ third trip to Kansas City since Arrowhead Stadium was renovated. The first two games were disasters for San Diego. In 2010, in a Monday-night season opener, the Chiefs beat the Chargers in a monsoon. Last year, in another Monday-night game (on Halloween), San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers dropped a snap with the Chargers primed to kick a game-winning field goal in the final seconds of a game the Chiefs would take in overtime. Yes, it’s a new season, but the Chargers have to be wondering what can go wrong this year at Arrowhead.

[+] EnlargeJamaal Charles
AP Photo/Jonathan BachmanOne can hardly blame new Chiefs coach Andy Reid for being eager to work with RB Jamaal Charles.
Charles thrives on the outside: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles ran for 233 yards in a Week 3 victory over New Orleans and did most of his damage outside the tackles. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Charles averaged 11 yards per attempt on 11 carries outside the tackles in Week 3 -- another sign he is recovered from a torn ACL he suffered last year. Charles led the NFL in yards outside the tackles in 2010. Watch for San Diego to try to limit that this week.

Will Raiders blitz Manning? The Raiders haven’t had much of a pass rush this season, but I’m sure they were inspired by what Houston, which has a great pass rush, did to Peyton Manning on Sunday. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Manning completed just 37.5 percent of his passes when the Texans rushed five or more defenders. In the first two games, Manning was very good against the blitz, completing 65.2 percent of his passes.

Will Allen enjoy his Denver homecoming? New Oakland coach Dennis Allen returns to Denver, where he was the Broncos' defensive coordinator last season. The Raiders are trying to win in Denver for the fifth consecutive time; that would be the Raiders’ longest win streak in Denver since they took eight straight there from 1965 to 1972. One way Oakland can increase its chances is if Carson Palmer completes a pass thrown farther than 20 yards. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Palmer is 0-for-8 on such throws this season.

Chiefs would like to find the lead: The Chiefs are 1-2. Their win over New Orleans was secured in overtime, ending when Ryan Succop's field goal went through the uprights. Thus, a strange streak continues: According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chiefs have never had the lead during any game this season -- the only team in the league with that distinction. One of the reasons is the Chiefs’ inability to score a touchdown on their first drive of the game. They haven’t done it this year and didn't at any point last season.

Wrap-up: Chiefs 27, Saints 24 (OT)

September, 23, 2012

A look at the Kansas City Chiefs' huge 27-24 win over the New Orleans Saints:

What it means: The Chiefs are off the snide in a big way. Kansas City fought its way back to win in overtime in a game between two desperate 0-2 teams. The Chiefs were trailing 24-6 late in the third quarter. A win like this can change things for this talented team.

Second chance: On third-and-12 in overtime, Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel hit inexperienced running back Shaun Draughn for 12 yards. Instead of marching for a winning field goal, Draughn fumbled and it was picked up by Roman Harper, who ran 57 yards for a touchdown for the game winner. But the play was reserved on a challenge, giving the Chiefs new life.

Succop nails winner: Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop hit a 31-yard game-winning field goal. It was Succop’s sixth field goal of the game and his fourth after the start of the fourth quarter. I smell the AFC special teams player of the week.

Charles is back: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles had 233 yards on 33 carries. This yardage explosion was fueled by a 91-yard touchdown run. He added 55 yards on six catches. It is a sign that Charles is back from the torn ACL he suffered 53 weeks ago. It’s great to see. Charles is one of the NFL’s bright, young running backs. His explosion is special and it’s nice he still owns it.

No problem, Houston: Chiefs second-year pass-rusher Justin Houston had a monster game. He had three sacks, including a sack for a safety. Houston is a star in the making.

Defense improved: After allowing 75 points in the first two games. The Chiefs improved, especially late in the game. There is talent on this unit and it showed Sunday.

Still starting slow: Last season the Chiefs didn’t score a touchdown on their opening possession. That trend has continued through the first three games of this season.

What’s next: The Chiefs host San Diego on Sunday in a big AFC West game.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- This isn’t a training camp for the leisurely.

Armed with the best roster the franchise has seen in years, the Kansas City Chiefs are moving quickly under new coach Romeo Crennel. For those who visited the Chiefs camp last year, this pace is foreign.

“There are no wasted moments,” said quarterback Matt Cassel.

The final training camp under former coach Todd Haley will live in infamy in the Heartland. Last season's camp was essentially a three-week walk-through exercise. Haley chose to go that route because he wanted to ease the players back into the program after a lost offseason due the lockout. The plan didn’t work, because the Chiefs were physically and mentally behind the rest of the league. They suffered several major injuries early in the season, were drubbed in early games, and it set the tone for a disappointing season.

However, speed is back in vogue as Crennel tries for success in his second go-round as a head coach. The tempo change has paid off so far. The Chiefs have looked crisp in practices and they were dominant on both sides of the ball against Arizona in the preseason opener last week.

The idea is to keep the forward tempo moving into the season as Kansas City tries to win the AFC West for the second time in three seasons.

“It’s exciting to see what is happening here,” Cassel said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we are all on the same page and all want to have success together.”


1. The ACL Club: In addition to bringing in several free agents, the Chiefs are getting back three standouts. Safety Eric Berry, running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki all suffered torn ACLs last September, but all are on pace to be major contributors this season.

“All of those guys look great,” Cassel said. “They’re going to help us a lot.”

2. Dwayne Bowe’s absence: It is over now. Bowe signed his franchise tender Friday, a day after camp ended. The Pro Bowl receiver did not participate in the offseason workouts, either. Bowe likely reported in time to learn the system of new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and get into football shape. With him being out, the Chiefs' offense clicked and it gained a lot of confidence. Having Bowe back heading out of camp should only make this unit stronger

[+] EnlargeKansas City's Romeo Crennel
Denny Medley/US PRESSWIREChiefs coach Romeo Crennel has the respect of his players.
3. Good vibrations: This team is in a good place. The players love playing for Crennel. One of the reasons Crennel was promoted from interim coach was the players’ respect for him. It has continued now that he is the permanent coach. He is the polar opposite of Haley, who was known as somewhat of a loose cannon. Crennel offers a calm, steady hand. Players love that he’s organized and up front. There is a lot of trust.

“They’ve worked hard and they know the possibilities this team has," Crennel said. “Every team feels good about itself this time of year, but this team’s attitude is in the right place.”


This is the best overall roster in the AFC West. It is one of the deepest rosters in the AFC. There is proven talent throughout the roster and the team has the right mix of veteran and young players. Still, the Chiefs are the youngest team in the NFL. They are the only team in the league not to have a player over the age of 30.

“When I was on my visit, I just looked up and down this roster and saw so much talent,” free-agent pickup, tight end Kevin Boss said. “It is just loaded with talent.”

When you look at this roster, there isn’t much not to like.


The Chiefs will be dismissed as playoff contenders until Cassel proves otherwise. Many don't believe in them because they don’t believe in Cassel, even though he has already delivered a division title in Kansas City. Many scouts don’t think he can be a difference-maker, and that because he is the least talented of the four quarterbacks in the AFC West, he will not be able to overcome the other teams in the division. I believe there is enough talent on the roster to help Cassel lead the Chiefs deep into the playoffs, but he must prove his mettle.


  • The rap on No. 11 overall pick Dontari Poe is that the defensive tackle wasn’t productive at Memphis. The Chiefs didn’t feel that way. They reviewed every college snap he ever played and were impressed that he played 60 percent of the snaps at 346 pounds. For what it’s worth, Poe’s college statistics and combine measurables compare favorably to Green Bay’s B.J. Raji, who has become a star after being the No. 9 overall pick in 2009. Poe is two inches taller and nine pounds heavier than Raji, yet he ran a 4.9 40-yard dash at the combine compared to Raji’s 5.23. Poe had nine more tackles and four more quarterback hurries than Raji in college despite the fact Raji played 16 more college games. This is not to suggest Poe is going to be a better NFL player than Raji, but it does take some steam out of the argument that Poe wasn’t a productive college player.
  • [+] EnlargeKansas City's Dontari Poe
    John Rieger/US PRESSWIREThe Chiefs like what they've seen from first-round pick Dontari Poe so far.
    When Bowe held out, Jon Baldwin thrived under the professional guidance of veteran receivers Steve Breaston and Terrance Copper. Some folks in camp think Baldwin is making strides because he is taking cues from Copper and Breaston.
  • Defensive ends Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey are plus players for the Chiefs. Neither is spectacular and they will always get grief for not living up to their draft billing. Dorsey was the No. 5 overall pick in 2008 and Jackson went No. 3 a year later. But both players are excellent run-stuffers and are among the best in the league in that area.
  • While the focus is on Poe at nose tackle, Anthony Toribio and 2011 draft choice Jerrell Powe are also in the mix.
  • Inside linebacker Brandon Siler looks good after missing all of last season with an Achilles injury. He could push Jovan Belcher for playing time.
  • While Haley was known for his ranting and raving on the field, Daboll is also fiery. He scoots around the field, barking instruction.
  • His new teammates love running back Peyton Hillis. His toughness and competitiveness have created buzz during camp.
  • Left tackle Branden Albert is quietly becoming the player the former Kansas City regime thought it was getting when it took him No. 15 overall in 2008. I expect the Chiefs to try to extend the pending free agent at some point. He’s been stellar.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brady Quinn-Ricky Stanzi battle to be Cassel’s backup continues all season, but with Quinn winning the job initially. The Chiefs like where they stand with both players.
  • The Chiefs are excited about the potential of tight ends Moeaki and Boss. Expect both to have high-profile roles in the offense.
  • Second-year pass-rusher Justin Houston has been terrific, and the Chiefs are bubbling over at what kind of pass-rush combination Tamba Hali and Houston can become.
  • The team appreciates the flexibility of third-year player Dexter McCluster, who has bounced from receiver to running back to receiver again. McCluster may never have a classically defined role, but he will have a role in this offense.
  • Undrafted rookie receiver Josh Bellamy still has a chance to make the 53-man roster, but in a numbers game, he could wind up on the practice squad.
  • So far, so good for new center Rodney Hudson. The second-year player looks comfortable playing with Cassel and vice versa.
  • Camp observers believe kicker Ryan Succop has gotten bigger and stronger, which will help with his field goal range.
  • The team's fourth-round pick, receiver/returner Devon Wylie, is explosive. He will be given a chance to contribute.
  • Keep an eye on defensive end Ropati Pitoitua. He has outplayed 2011 third-round pick Allen Bailey and he may be a keeper.
  • Brandon Flowers’ foot injury has allowed second-year cornerback Jalil Brown to blossom. I expect Brown to be on the field often in the regular season.
  • Fourth-string quarterback Alex Tanney is a curiosity because of his YouTube trick throwing video. But Tanney isn’t making much real football tread in this camp. The best he could hope for in 2012 is the practice squad.
We conclude our AFC West positional rankings series with the kicking specialists. Friday, I will wrap up the ranking madness with my top 40 players in the division regardless of position. Now onto the best group of kickers and punters in the NFL. I’m not blowing smoke here. This is one deep group. Even the players at the bottom of this list are standouts:

1. Shane Lechler, Oakland: You could call him the greatest punter to ever and have a strong argument.

2. Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland: Janikowski is getting better with age. He has found consistency to go along with his spectacular leg.

3. Mike Scifres, San Diego: Always overshadowed by Lechler, Scifres is a standout himself.

4. Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City: He’d probably be the best punter in five or six divisions.

5. Matt Prater, Denver: He has a big leg and he’s clutch. He’s excellent.

6. Britton Colquitt, Denver: Dustin’s little brother is making a name for himself.

7. Ryan Succop, Kansas City: He has a long career ahead of him.

8. Nate Kaeding/Nick Novak, San Diego: This will be a battle to watch, Novak kicked well after Kaeding was injured in Week 1. Both are quality kickers.

AFC West notes

December, 31, 2011
Agent David Canter announced on Twitter that injured Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Brandon Siler has signed a one-year extension. He had signed a one-year deal in the summer with the Chiefs after leaving San Diego.

Siler had a chance to win a starting job, but he blew out his Achilles on the final play of a preseason practice. It was Kansas City's second re-signing in two days. They signed kicker Ryan Succop to a five-year extension Friday.

Jon Gruden said he will remain at ESPN after a report stated he could have ended up in St. Louis with Chargers general manager A.J. Smith if Smith is fired in San Diego.

Tim Tebow will get a chance for a different kind of payback on Kyle Orton Sunday.

Pioli keeps another key Chief

December, 30, 2011
Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli continued his trend of locking up key players, this time it was reliable kicker Ryan Succop.

Succop, the final pick of the 2009 draft, signed a five-year extension worth $14 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. He received a $2 million signing bonus and $2 million in guaranteed salary for 2012.

Schefter reports Succop can max it out at $14.675 million if he is voted to the Pro Bowl and team makes playoffs every year.

Succop is having an excellent season. He has made 24 of 29 field-goal attempts. He had a string of 22 straight field goals until last week when the Raiders' Richard Seymour blocked a pair of 49-yard attempts; including one at the end of regulation of an Oakland overtime win in overtime.

Pioli has been aggressive in signing players since he joined the Chiefs three years ago. The Chiefs’ biggest free agents this winter are receiver Dwayne Bowe and cornerbacks Brandon Carr.

In other AFC West notes:

ESPN’s experts predicting both Denver and Oakland will win in crucial Week 17 games.

This is respect: The Chargers voted quarterback Philip Rivers as their team MVP even thought he didn’t have his great season ever. Rivers' teammates love him.

AFC West Stock Watch

December, 27, 2011
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


1. Norv Turner’s revival: After the first three games of December, there was talk that Turner may be saving his job. The San Diego Chargers were 3-0 for the month and were dominating opponents. Well, the domination is over and so is Turner’s new-found job security. The Chargers were eliminated from the playoff picture with a 38-10 loss to the Detroit Lions Saturday. The Turner-is-going-to-be-fired watch is on full alert again.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Luc Leclerc/US PresswireDespite the loss to Buffalo, Tim Tebow and the Broncos will make the playoffs with a win over Kansas City Sunday.
2. Tim Tebow's ball security: Tebow’s best attribute was his ability not to turn the ball over. His glaring deficiencies had been excused for much of this season because Tebow wasn’t throwing interceptions. That is no longer the case. Tebow was picked off four times in a 40-14 loss at the Buffalo Bills. Two of the interceptions were brought back for touchdowns in a 19-second span. His vision appeared to be bad and he was rushing passes. If this continues, Tebow’s long-term sustainability as Denver's starter will be re-examined.

3. Kyle Orton in the red zone: One of the reasons why Denver moved away from Orton in favor of Tebow was Orton’s inability to make plays when it counted. That was a problem for Orton Saturday in the Kansas City Chiefs' 16-13 overtime loss to the Oakland Raiders. He threw two interceptions in Oakland territory, including one in the end zone. The Chiefs are 2-for-9 in the red zone in Orton’s two starts. If Orton has any chance of being the Chiefs’ quarterback in 2012, the free-agent-to-be must perform well in the red zone Sunday when he tries to knock his former team out of the playoffs.


1. Denver-Oakland tension: One of these two old rivals will snap a long playoff drought. Oakland hasn’t been to the playoffs in nine years and it’s been six years since Denver has made it. Denver will make the playoffs with a home win over the Chiefs. Oakland -- which also has wild-card hopes -- will win the division with a Denver loss and a home win over San Diego. Both of these games will be played at the same time Sunday and it will be a tremendous ending to an unpredictable season in the division.

2. Richard Seymour's impact: Oakland’s defensive lineman has been dealing with injuries and he hadn’t made much of an impact in the past several weeks. That changed in a big way at Kansas City. Seymour blocked two 49-yard field goal attempts by Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop, including one at the end of regulation.

3. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders, receiver: In his third season, the No. 7 overall pick in 2009 is putting together a strong statistical line. Heyward-Bey has 55 catches for 845 yards. He had 35 catches for 490 yards in his first 26 games. Finally, Heyward-Bey looks like a legitimate NFL receiver.

Wrap-up: Raiders 16, Chiefs 13 (OT)

December, 24, 2011

A look at a thrilling 16-13 Oakland win:

What it means: The Raiders are still alive. The Chiefs are not. When Sebastian Janikowski’s 36-yard field goal went through the uprights, the Raiders became 8-7 and tied with Denver for first place in the AFC West. Denver owns the tiebreaker and can win the division title with a home win against the Chiefs next Sunday. Oakland will win the division with a home win against San Diego and a Kansas City win at Denver. If the Chargers lose at Detroit on Saturday, and if Denver and Oakland both lose in Week 17, Denver will win the division. Oakland is a game out in the wild-card race. It will need to win next week and hope for some help to make it as a wild card. Kansas City fell to 6-9 and was eliminated from playoff contention. It won the AFC West last year. It was Oakland’s fifth straight win at Kansas City, which is a team record. The Chiefs have gone eight straight games in which it has scored 19 points or less.

Big arm at the right time: After winning the coin flip to open overtime, Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 53-yard reception deep in Kansas City territory to set up the game-winning field goal. Palmer was decent on Saturday, but he came up big when he was most needed.

Seymour is a chip off the old block: Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour blocked two Ryan Succop 49-yard field goal attempts, including one at the end of regulation. Succop had tied a team record of 22 straight field goals made before the first block.

No shame for Romeo: I wouldn’t think this loss severely damaged Romeo Crennel’s hope to become the permanent head coach. Kansas City beat Green Bay last week to help Crennel’s chances. The Chiefs played hard on Saturday under Crennel and that will go a long way in helping his cause when the Chiefs evaluate the situation after the season.

Orton not great: In his second start as the Chiefs’ quarterback, Kyle Orton was just OK as he compiled 21 of 36 passes for 300 yards. Orton, though, threw two interceptions with the Chiefs driving that ending up killing Kansas City. The Chiefs are 2-for-9 in the red zone with Orton.

Penalties pile up: There were 26 penalties for 180 yards. Oakland was penalized 15 times for 92 yards. The Raiders are on pace to set an NFL record for penalties and penalties yardage in a season.

Wasting a fake: A penalty wiped out an Oakland touchdown on a fake field goal. That’s terrible. Sooner or later, opponents are going to catch onto Hue Jackson’s penchant for fakes. To waste a touchdown on a penalty is horrible.

Good defense: Both defenses failed late, but they both hung in for the most part. Oakland came into the game allowing 13 touchdowns in the past three games.

Bowe comes up big when it counts: Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe was great at the end of the game and he tied the game with a short touchdown reception; it was his first score in 53 catches.

What’s next: Oakland hosts San Diego and Kansas City plays at Denver.