This week was a busy week for the Raiders and the rest of the AFC West. We learned a lot about each of the teams, but it is still difficult to tell how the division will end up as all the teams have several very difficult games remaining on their schedule.
Raiders 27, Vikngs 21: This game looked for all intents and purposes like a blowout, and it should have been, but the Vikings stormed back in the fourth quarter to pull within six. However, the Raiders defense clamped down and would let them get no closer. We may criticize the Raiders for playing extremely conservatively in the second half in only scoring three points and running the ball too much when Carson Palmer was having a lot of success throwing the ball, but we also have to remember the Vikings were shut out in both the second and third quarters and were only given new hope by a very rare Michael Bush fumble.
Other than that, the Raiders utterly dominated the Vikings and squeezed the life from them with straight ahead power football. The Raiders gained 162 yards rushing against a top-flight rush defense. Should the Raiders make the playoffs, they will face nothing but good rush defenses, so it's a good sign that they can run on anyone no matter how good the rush defense is. However, their prevent style will not work in the second half against teams better than the Vikings on offense, which is to say, almost all the teams. It is a concern that simply must be addressed by the coaching staff.
Broncos 17, Jets 13: This was a sloppy, poorly-executed, boring game from the start until the very last drive. The Broncos defense, Von Miller in particular, looked extremely good, but I'm uncertain how much of that is on the Broncos and how much is due to the Jets being criminally overrated. Mark Sanchez was simply dreadful and the Jets scored their lone touchdown on a fumble recovery by a lineman. The Jets are nowhere near as good as they think they are, or as the media seems to think they are.
The Broncos, on the other hand, are developing a pattern here. The pattern is that of a smothering, opportunistic defense and a grinding, tricky rush offense. Tim Tebow may be considered inaccurate if you just go by the numbers, but the reality is that his receivers were dropping his passes left and right when they were on target. The NFL Network crew had the gall to ask Tebow what he says to his receivers after he "doesn't get them the ball". He does get them the ball, they just can't catch and anyone who watched the game on Thursday night could plainly see that. Apparently the men paid to analyze the game neglected to watch it. That being said, we all know about the Tebow heroics on the last drive and how the game turned out. The Broncos have a difficult schedule the rest of the way, with the next two games on the road and then a Dec. 18 meeting with the Patriots. The next two games will tell us much about Tim Tebow's future.
Bears 31, Chargers 20: This was the fifth straight loss for the Chargers and the fifth straight win for the Bears. Philip Rivers continued his pattern of throwing for a lot of yards and a lot of interceptions. The Chargers' running game was nonexistent, with Ryan Mathews only rushing 13 times for 37 yards and a lost fumble. Rivers was forced to take to the air, and the results were predictable against a stingy Bears defense. Rivers' boneheaded plays (like trying to throw a ball away, only to have it fly directly into the arms of a defender five yards in bounds) made what had been a close game into an absolute laugher. The Bears looked really good until Jay Cutler broke his thumb chasing down a defender on an interception return, and then Cutler handed off almost exclusively. The Bears still didn't reach 100 yards rushing even under those extreme circumstances.
The Bears played a Raider-style conservative offense and a prevent defense late in the game, but unlike the Raiders, they have the defense to be successful with that strategy. It will be an interesting game when the Bears play the Raiders in Oakland without Cutler this Sunday.
Patriots 34, Chiefs 3: The first half of this game was a slugfest, with both teams looking stout defensively, Kansas City perhaps more so. They sacked Tom Brady three times in the first quarter alone. But then halftime adjustments were made, and the Patriots came out and absolutely dismantled the Chiefs. They intercepted Tyler Palko three times and Tom Brady hooked up with Rob Gronkowski four times for 96 yards and two spectacular touchdowns.
So which is the real Chiefs team, the first half or the second half? I'm inclined to think it's closer to the first half from a defensive standpoint and the second half from an offensive standpoint, The Chiefs got close to the end zone on a few occasions but Palko was not able to get them in for a score. I imagine they will have that sort of trouble the rest of the year, particularly against teams with a strong pass rush. Matt Cassel may not have been an upper-crust NFL QB, but he was extremely important to the Chiefs and without him they are slightly below mediocre.