Yesterday brought us three important AFC West games. They told us a lot about all four teams in the division: specifically, that the Raiders are the best team even when half the team is injured, that the Chargers and Chiefs should start planning their draft parties, and that Tebow Mania isn't slowing down anytime soon. Let's take the games one at a time.
Bears (20) @ Raiders (25): As expected, the Bears had trouble moving the ball and turned it over several times. Matt Forte could not get going at all, but the Bears still racked up the rushing yards due to Caleb Hanie's scrambling ability. The Raiders were unable to get into the end zone until late in the game, but due to Sebastian Janikowski's six field goals they were still able to rack up the points. Carson Palmer threw for 301 yards against a stout defense and without several of his best receivers, which is a promising sign for the future. The Raiders only committed six penalties in the game, another promising sign, as most of those were holding calls against a defensive line that was playing extremely well.
The Bears made a comeback late in the game to keep it close, but they failed to recover an onside kick, and Caleb Hanie ended the game with a brainless intentional grounding penalty. Don't let the score fool anyone, this had the feel of a 35-7 rout. The Raiders were a vastly better team yesterday.
Broncos (16) @ Chargers (13): Once again, the Chargers failed to contain Tim Tebow, except this time he didn't have any deficit to try to climb out of. The Chargers went ahead early with a Rivers-to-Gates TD pass midway through the second quarter, but that was about the only good thing Philip Rivers would do. He didn't turn the ball over but didn't have a very good day overall, throwing for less than 200 yards. Tebow also failed to pass for 200 yards, but he rushed 22 times for 67 yards and kept the defense off-balance. That strategy paid off in overtime when the read-option attack finally broke through for Denver, leading to a long Willis McGahee run that led to a game-winning field goal.
Tim Tebow isn't putting up gaudy numbers, but once again his WR corps dropped a ton of passes (four yesterday) and he threw a beautiful TD pass to Eric Decker just before halftime. Teams still appear totally unable to properly game plan for him. Until they do, he will continue to be effective.
Steelers (13) @ Chiefs (9): The Steelers did not play very well, mostly due to a good effort by Kansas City's defense, but Tyler Palko turned the ball over four times. It was a sloppy game and there isn't much noteworthy to say about it except that it marks the end of the Palko Era in K.C.