Final Word: AFC West

December, 17, 2010
12/17/10
4:00
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15:

Chiefs are keeping their hands on the ball: One of the reasons Kansas City has exceeded expectations this season -- at 8-5 it leads the AFC West with three games to go -- is its superior ball security. Kansas City has given up only nine turnovers. It is tied with New England for the fewest in the NFL heading into the Chiefs’ critical game in St. Louis. The Chiefs have 18 takeaways.

[+] EnlargeJosh McDaniels
AP Photo/ Jack DempseyA 45-point loss to the Raiders earlier this season was the beginning of the end for Josh McDaniels.
Revisiting the beginning of the end of the McDaniels era: The cries for Josh McDaniels’ firing began in October when the Oakland Raiders ripped apart the Broncos at home in a 59-14 laugher. McDaniels was booed off the field and he apologized for the loss after the game. But the damage was done. All of McDaniels’ previous misdeeds were magnified by the loss to the Raiders. You just can’t get beat by 45 points at home by your rivals and survive. So, it’s no surprise the rematch in Oakland will be played without McDaniels. He was fired last week and replaced by interim coach Eric Studesville.

Will the road team win again? The road team in the Oakland-Denver series has won the past five games dating back to the season opener in 2008. Other than Oakland’s one-point win at Denver last season, the games have not been close. They’ve all been at least 20-point wins for the road team. Will the road mastery continue in this series Sunday in Oakland? You never know, but the Raiders have something to play for and Denver is in disarray. It would be a shocker.

Coach of the year battle: When the Chiefs visit the Rams on Sunday, both teams will be playing for something. The Chiefs have a half-game lead in the AFC West and the 6-7 Rams are tied for first place in the NFC West. A lot of credit to goes to the two coaches, Todd Haley of the Chiefs and Steve Spagnuolo of the Rams. The two second-year coaches have made great progress and both probably will receive coach of the year votes.

Chiefs bring heat from way back: The Chiefs lead the NFL in corner and safety blitzes. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of only 51.9 when the Chiefs blitz, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Chiefs have pressured the quarterback with defensive backs on 38 pass attempts this season. Opposing quarterbacks have completed only 14 passes in those situations and Kansas City has six sacks. The Chiefs haven’t overused blitzes from the defensive backfield and perhaps that’s why they have been effective. Opponents don’t always expect it. Against a rookie quarterback like Rams’ Sam Bradford, the Chiefs may want to unleash the pressure from secondary to take advantage of Bradford’s inexperience.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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