FanPost

So, How Did the AFC West do in Week 1?



Regular S&BP readers may remember the three, three-part series I did on the Raiders, Chiefs, and Chargers analyzing their moves in the off-season. I ended up not doing an analysis of the Bronco’s off-season because, well, they didn’t really have much of one. Autumnwind1960 had a great Fanpost on this, recently, basically asking just why everyone was saying the Broncos were going to be contenders this year when –with the exception of the addition of Bridgewater and a few moves on defense- the Ponies looked to be fielding pretty much the same team which went 5-11 last year.

So let me start by bluntly stating: The Bronco’s blew their off-season waiting on the possibility they could pick up Rodgers. That’s it, plain and simple.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at how all four AFC West teams did in Week 1.

Our Raiders. Look, you all saw the game. It was, in a word, fantastic. But step back a bit, consider what we did in the off-season, and ask yourself, "but was it really all that surprising?"

Missed by all the mediots during the off-season as they whined about what we were doing on the O-line was the fact we were shedding large salaries being spent on an O-line which ranked 24th last year and shifting the funds to improving one of the worst defenses in the league.

And that’s what we saw on Monday night. On the defensive side of the ball, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen such a performance from the Silver and Back. Pressure from the edges, solid play from Jefferson and Philon in the middle of the line, Abram looking like we all want him to look –hard-hitting yet playing under control- our LBs in position yet flying around the field, and our corners looking like actual NFL starters (o.k., Mullen only looked close to being a starter) –it was a thing of beauty. Sure, they gave up some big plays, but they also caused the turnovers which proved the difference in the game.

Yes, we were gashed for 189 yds. on 34 rushes by the Ravens. But almost half of that came from Jackson (86 yds. rushing) and we’re not going to be facing Jackson every week. It seems obvious our defensive strategy heading into the game was to make Jackson beat us with his legs and in the end, he couldn’t do it. Almost completely unnoticed in most post-game analyses, for example, was just how well our DTs played in the passing game. Jefferson and Philon scored 69 and 70.7, respectively, from PFF in pass rushing Monday night. We’ve all been wanting to see more push from the interior of the DL in the passing game. On Monday night, we saw it.

On the offensive side of the ball, once Carr figured out there were other receivers on the field besides Waller (somewhere around the beginning of the second half,) things really began rocking. Check out the receiving stats for his top six targets below:

Receiver

Catches

Yards

TDS

Targets

Darren Waller

10

105

1

19

Bryan Edwards

4

81

0

5

Hunter Renfrow

6

70

0

9

Kenyan Drake

5

59

0

5

Zay Jones

2

46

1

2

Henry Ruggs III

2

46

0

5

Carr would finish the game with a stat line of 34/56 for 435 total yds., 2 TDs and 1 Int. for a passer rating of 89.5.

About the only surprise came from a running game which can be described as anemic at best. Overall, the Raiders rushed for 82 total yards on 21 rushes but 31 of those yards came on the one rush from Mariota. Back that rush out and you’re looking at 51 yds. on 20 carries for an embarrassing 2.5 yards per rush. One suspects the game plan going in was for more Mariota packages in the run game, but his early injury took those potential run plays off the books.

Certainly, Jacobs looks hobbled. The MNF announcers were bandying about the term, "turf toe," which, if true, could limit his action for a number of weeks. Next man up –after Drake, of course- is Peyton Barber who’s a couple of years removed from that 2018 season when he carried for 871 yds. on 234 carries.

Just as certainly, the Raiders are going to want to lean more heavily on the run going up against Pittsburg this week –for two reasons. First, to slow down guys like Watt and Ingram in the pass rush. And second, because the Bills last week, specifically in the person of Devin Singletary, showed the Steelers D is a bit vulnerable to the run. Singletary ran for 72 yds. on 11 carries for an average 6.5 against the vaunted, "Steel Curtain 2.0." For the Raiders to have a chance in the game, they’re going to have to establish a serious threat in the run game, far more than they established in week 1

Two Keys to Beating the Steelers: The first I’ve already mentioned, we must establish the run both to protect our young, offensive line and also to open up the passing game. I’m not sure we have to come close to putting up last week’s 33 pts., though. Frankly, and this is the second key, if our defense can play as well as they did last week, then stopping the Pittsburg offense and holding them to a low score seems highly probable.

I know, I know. All the pundits, all the odds-makers have Pittsburg as the heavy favorite going into this weekend.

But I just don’t see it.

The Pittsburg offense was less than lackluster last week. I keep hearing about rookie running back, Najee Harris. But he only ran for 45 yds. on 16 carries for a 2.8 average last week. And Roethlisberger –truth be told- looked horrible. He only threw for 188 yds. total on 32 attempts for a PFF score of 38.2. That’s right -38.2!

Basically, here’s how I see it. The mediots, with their East Coast bias, have been anxious to elevate the Bills to elite status. Pittsburg came out and beat them last week, so, by their logic, the Steelers must be an elite team. NFL.com’s power rankings going into week 1 had the Bills as the third-best team in the league, the Steelers (ranked 10) beat them, so, of course, rather than reassess if their power-rankings regarding the Bills may be off, NFL.com, instead, simply moved Pitt up to #5.

Put simply, I see the Raiders easily outscoring a mediocre Pittsburg offense. Final Score: Raiders 28, Pittsburg 17.

Notes on the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos:

First, when I did my analysis of the Chiefs, I noted that if one is going to beat the Chiefs, their best option is to run the ball. I drew this conclusion by analyzing both our win over the Chiefs, last year, and Tampa Bay’s win over them in the Superbowl.

Well, the Browns almost proved my point on Sunday. They ran for a total of 153 yds. however, roughly 134 yds. of that was in the first, three quarters. At the end of 3 quarters, the Browns led the Chiefs 29-20. Then, inexplicably, they went virtually all pass in the 4th, couldn’t move the ball, and let the Chief’s claw out a 33-29 win on two, 4th quarter touchdowns.

A further test of the Chief’s run defense comes this weekend when they face Jackson and the Ravens. Should be a fun game for Raiders fans to watch.

Second, when I did my analysis of the Chargers, I emphasized that while they were bringing in the new, wunderkind, Staley as their head coach there was some question as to whether they were bringing in any talent to support Staley’s defensive philosophy in actual play on the field. Well, the WFT’s Fitzpatrick went down almost immediately last Sunday, yet the already-questionable WFT offense under Taylor Heinecke was still able to put up 16 pts. Only Herbert’s performance allowed the Bolts to squeak out a 20-16 victory.

Look for a revitalized Cowboy offense under Prescott to pick apart the Bolts D this coming Sunday.

Finally, it must be great to be a Bronco fan. The media is always there to convince you things are just wonderful in Ponyland, a place with cotton candy clouds and cream soda streams lined with gumdrops. You’ve all heard the buzz, the Broncs are going to take a leap this year, far outperforming last year’s 5-11 Pony edition. And all because they added…Teddy Bridgewater?

It’s actually kind of funny. Seriously, this should make you laugh at the anti-Raider bias over at NFL.com. Consider. The Raiders entered week 1 ranked #23 in the power-rankings. They beat the Ravens who were ranked #5. Meanwhile, the Broncs entered week 1 ranked one spot ahead of the Raiders at #22. They beat the #24 ranked team –the New York Giants.

If you picked the Raiders, you haven’t been paying attention. The Raiders, after beating supposedly the fifth ranked team in the league were moved up by NFL.com just five spots to #18 in the power rankings. Meanwhile, the Broncs, after beating a team who was supposed to be both a) worse than them and b) ranked in the bottom quarter of the league, were actually moved up SIX spots to #16 in the power-rankings.

Go figure.

Alas, the Bronco’s draw the hapless Jags this weekend, so we probably won’t see the Ponies exposed this weekend. But exposed they eventually will be.

.