West QBs Hold Key … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs

After seven weeks, the rest of the league has suddenly looked at the AFC West and decided that maybe the division is no longer the sole property of the Chargers of San Diego.

Yes, the boys with the bolts on their helmet still lead the division due to their 4-2 record and previous victories over the Broncos and Chiefs. But after San Diego blew a lead against the Jets in the Meadowlands, and the Chiefs dug themselves out of the grave with a three-game winning streak, it’s tougher to find experts and pundits convinced that San Diego is still in charge.

One reason is QB Philip Rivers. He’s the one player who always made the Chargers different from all the other teams in the league. He was considered one of those elite quarterbacks and gave San Diego an edge.

That no longer seems to be the case. Right now, the AFC West is up for grabs unless Rivers breaks out of his slump, one that in six games has produced nine interceptions and a pedestrian (for him) 82.3 passer rating.

The rest of the division hasn’t sat back at the quarterback position. Matt Cassel continues to get better and he’s one of the major reasons the Chiefs have won three in a row. Oakland’s QB situation was not very good last week when Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer combined to throw for six interceptions. But the addition of Palmer gives the Raiders a boost over Jason Campbell. If Palmer hasn’t lost his skills, he’s the equal to Rivers.

And then there is the legend – Denver’s Tim Tebow. He’s the guy who everybody says can’t be a winning NFL quarterback. Yet there he was last Sunday, helping the Broncos beat the winless Dolphins in his first NFL start.

Rivers, Cassel, Campbell, Palmer, Boller, Tebow, Kyle Orton – the position is not a strength for the AFC West. Here are the team-by-team passing and rushing numbers for the quarterbacks:

Team

Att

Cmp

%

Yds

Avg

TD

Int

Rt

Runs

Yds

Avg

TD

San Diego

218

141

64.7

1,715

7.9

7

9

82.3

17

34

2.0

1

Oakland

214

123

57.5

1,447

6.8

6

10

70.3

27

98

6.1

2

CHIEFS

171

108

63.2

1,106

6.5

8

7

80.7

12

31

2.6

0

Denver

192

108

56.3

1,219

6.3

11

7

79.3

20

119

5.9

1

Rivers and Cassel have all the numbers for their teams (Tyler Palko did throw a pass that’s included in the Chiefs total.) The statistics indicate that Rivers throws more often and gets more out of his attempts than Cassel.

Those 9 interceptions have and will continue to be a problem for Rivers and the Chargers. Some wonder if the San Diego QB is injured, still dealing with a bruised sternum that he suffered early in the season. It hasn’t helped him that TE Antonio Gates’ participation each week is always up in the air because of lingering foot/toe problems.

Rivers has thrown for a lot of yards, but he ranks among the worst passers in the league in touchdown percentage and interception percentage. His career passer rating is 95.9, but he’s just at 82.3 for this season. His last two interceptions set up 10 points for the Jets, enough to give New York the 27-21 victory.

It sounds a bit like what happened to Cassel in the fourth quarter of the Chiefs loss to the Chargers in San Diego over a month ago. With a chance to win or at least tie the game with less than five minutes to play, Cassel threw the interception that ended a comeback chance and left the Chiefs 0-3 on the season.

With 10 weeks of the season to play, there’s a wide open battle for the AFC West. The team that ends up on top will be the club that gets the best performance from its quarterback. For the first time in the last half-decade, there’s no guarantee that QB is Phillip Rivers.

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