Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, August 16, 2014 at 7:00 PM
The window of opportunity for the “Peyton Manning Era” in Denver is closing quickly. He’s old, fragile, and nearing retirement. The Broncos made it to the Super Bowl last year, only to be swamped by Seattle in an uncompetitive blowout. Can they go the distance this season? Or, are Kansas City and San Diego now such dynamic threats in the AFC West that the Broncos aren’t even sure to win their division?
Our eighth and final divisional preview from our summer series features the AFC West. Here are the numbers from our key indicator stats…
2013 AFC SOUTH STANDINGS
Denver: 13-3 (+5 turnovers, #16 rated schedule)
Kansas City: 11-5 (+19 turnovers, #24 rated schedule)
San Diego: 9-7 (-2 turnovers, #14 rated schedule)
Oakland: 4-12 (-6 turnovers, #15 rated schedule)
Notebook: A legitimately strong division until you get down to Oakland. Denver was Super Bowl caliber against a league average schedule. If you dock Kansas City a game or two for its schedule, you still get a winning record. San Diego was a Wildcard team that was playing some of its best ball when it mattered most at the end. So far we’ve noted that the AFC East and South were soft…and the AFC North was very probably worse than realized because they played such poor schedules last year. The West deserved its playoff appearances, and may earn three of the six again. Denver is far from safe in terms of earning a bye and home field in January.
Denver: 6.3 on offense, 5.3 on defense
San Diego: 5.9 on offense, 6.1 on defense
Kansas City: 5.2 on offense, 5.5 on defense
Oakland: 5.3 on offense, 5.7 on defense
Notebook: On the other hand, San Diego and KC better figure out how to outgain their opponents! You’ll see in a moment that the Chargers made up for this stat in third downs. Kansas City did so with that gaudy turnover differential you just looked at. There are skill sets involved with third downs and the risk/reward ratio…so the YPP differentials aren’t season killers. In terms of climbing the ladder…they probably are killers in terms of surpassing Denver and/or reaching the Super Bowl. Manning may be aging, but he’s still lethal. Only elite offenses can make it to at least 6.0 in offensive yards-per-play.
2013 THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
San Diego: 49% on offense, 39% on defense
Denver: 46% on offense, 38% on defense
Kansas City: 35% on offense, 34% on defense
Oakland: 35% on offense, 43% on defense
Notebook: The experience of Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning really jump off the page here, as do the fear of throwing downfield for Kansas City and Oakland. Alex Smith can’t make a case for “star” status at quarterback until he starts moving the chains more effectively than that in the weaker conference! Kansas City’s defense sure came through though. Even though the Chiefs were the divisional runner-up in the final 2013 standings, it looks like San Diego is the more dangerous threat to Denver in 2014.
2014 PROJECTED WIN TOTALS IN LAS VEGAS
Denver 11.5 wins
San Diego 8.5 wins
Kansas City 8 wins
Oakland 5 wins
That’s pretty close to last year’s final standings with a little bit of regression toward the .500 mark mixed in. If Manning and Rivers stay healthy, there’s no reason their teams can’t make it past those thresholds. Kansas City is less dynamic at quarterback, but does have a head coach in Andy Reid who should continue to excel in the regular season in the weaker conference. Oakland didn’t do much worth talking about last year, and will have to make serious improvement to get on the radar this season.
We didn’t run the AFC West today because we were saving the best for last. We chose Sunday for this division because the top two 2013 finishers are both in big TV games! Denver visits San Francisco in a potential Super Bowl preview at 4 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. Kansas City visits Carolina in a preview of Super Bowl darkhorses at 8 p.m. ET on FOX. You can purchase the top plays from that twinbill (and baseball) right here at the website with your credit card Sunday morning. If you have any questions about longterm service in football or baseball, call us in the office Saturday or Sunday before first pitch at 1-888-777-4155.
Our summer previews are in the books. Please check the archives if you missed those earlier write-ups. From this point forward…it’s big game previews and handicapping analysis. Here’s this week’s NOTEBOOK schedule of marquee matchups in football and baseball…
Monday: NFL TV Preview: Cleveland at Washington on ESPN
Tuesday: MLB Big Game Preview: Atlanta at Pittsburgh
Wednesday: MLB TV Preview: LA Angels at Boston
Thursday: NFL TV Preview: Pittsburgh at Philadelphia on NFL Network
Friday: NFL TV Preview: Oakland at Green Bay on CBS
Saturday: NFL TV Preview: New Orleans at Indianapolis on CBS
Sunday: NFL TV Preview: San Diego at San Francisco on CBS
Back tomorrow to talk about Johnny Football vs. RGIII! Then, football resumes Thursday with dress rehearsal weekend. The most important full betting week of August is about to begin. DON’T MAKE A MOVE UNTIL YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!