With eight teams remaining in the quest for the Lombardi Trophy, two hail from the AFC West. The San Diego Chargers knocked off the Bengals 27-10 in Cincinnati, and Denver advanced to the second round with a bye week. The Chiefs renaissance season fell short, as a second half collapse in Indianapolis led to a 45-44 loss.
Denver: Bye Week
It’s a lot easier to win three games than four in the National Football League, so it’s safe to say the Broncos were enjoying their week of rest and preparation for the Divisional Round.
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Kansas City: Alex Smith
After losing his offense’s best player, Jamaal Charles, on the game’s first series, Smith led a Chiefs attack that put up 44 points on the road. The quarterback so often dubbed a “game manager” turned play-maker. Smith threw for 378 yards and 4 touchdowns without being intercepted once. He spread the ball around as he found eight different targets, and four different Chiefs caught the touchdowns. Smith also racked up 58 yards on the ground, and his lone mistake, a second half fumble, could have been nullified based on a different official’s interpretation of “surrendering.”
San Diego: Defense
The Chargers Defense was stout on Sunday in Cincinnati as they held the home team to 10 points, and shut them out in the second half. The San Diego defense forced four turnovers, as they intercepted Andy Dalton twice, and recovered two fumbles. What the stat sheet doesn’t show is how lost the Bengals signal-caller looked all afternoon, as the mix of defensive packages and the disguised blitzes rattled him from start to finish. The Chargers Defense held Cincinnati to a 25% third down conversion rate, and they struggled to sustain drives.
Denver: Drawing San Diego
The Broncos will be hosting the hottest team in the league on Sunday, as the Chargers have won five straight. Denver knows this well though, as they were a victim of the San Diego winning streak last month when the Chargers came to Mile High and knocked them off in a primetime game.
Kansas City: Defense
The word porous comes to mind. In the National Football League, it’s almost impossible to win a game, let alone a playoff game on the road, when your defense gives up 45 points. What is even more puzzling is that the Chiefs managed to do this despite generating four turnovers. The Colts were able to run 13 possessions in 22:27 (including 2 minutes of kneeling at the end) because they were running through the Kansas City defense faster than a hot knife through butter.
San Diego: Ryan Matthews
It’s hard to pick a negative aspect when you knock the #3 seed off on the road handily, but the Chargers’ feature back wasn’t much of a factor in this one. He only generated 52 yards on 13 carries, and wasn’t particularly explosive (his longest carry was for 8 yards). He wasn’t much of a contributor in the passing game either, only catching 2 balls for 12 yards in the contest. On a rainy afternoon in Cincinnati I expected to see more from the San Diego workhorse.
Denver: Hosting a team that knows them better than anyone.
Kansas City: Watching the rest of the postseason from home.
San Diego: Having to try to stop a record setting offense, again.