We all know by now: The AFC West is the weakest division in football against the run.
Now, how do we exploit that fact? I've taken a look at each of the four teams' schedules, to get an idea of which running backs are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to pad their season stats against the AFC West.
There is a way to quantify which backs have the best opportunities to succeed against this division. The Chargers are 18th, the Raiders 24th, the Broncos 29th, and the Chiefs 32nd against the run in the league.
Because of this, they will represent those numbers as points (Chargers = 18, etc.); the more points a team has, the more "Western hospitality" they can expect for the rest of the year.
The points do not take into account the rest of the team's schedule. Therefore, if a team has 98 points (the equivalent of playing the Chargers once, the Raiders twice, and the Chiefs once), then they have a very favorable AFC West-packed schedule.
However, if the other teams that they are facing are all in the top-10 in rush defense, you may want to consider landing a complementary back. More on those at a later date.
There are also a couple of special bonuses. If a team has an AFC West opponent in Week 16, it gets 10 more points, because a lot of leagues' championship week is 16. If a team has an AFC West opponent in Week 15, it gets five more because of the same logic. Conversely, if a team has an AFC West opponent in Week 17, it loses the full amount of points for that matchup (the Bengals are eliminated from this assessment because of this, as they play the Chiefs in Week 17 as their only AFC West matchup).
Let's get started.
16./17. Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers: 18 points
Both the Steelers and the Colts have one matchup against the Chargers in back-to-back weeks (11 and 12, respectively).
Probable Beneficiaries: Joseph Addai (IND), Dominic Rhodes (IND), Willie Parker (PIT), Mewelde Moore (PIT).
15. Baltimore Ravens: 24 points
The Ravens have a date with the Raiders this week as their lone AFC West opponent from here on out.
Probable Beneficiaries: Willis McGahee, LeRon McClain
14./13. New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns: 29 points
The Patriots see those same Raiders, but in Week 15, giving them a five-point bonus and an edge over the Ravens.
The Browns get the Broncos in Week 10.
Probable Beneficiaries: Sammy Morris (NE), Kevin Faulk (NE), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (NE), LaMont Jordan (NE), Jamal Lewis (CLE)
12. Houston Texans: 34 points
Another team that gets to face the Raiders, the Texans get the Silver and Black in Week 16.
Probable Beneficiaries: Steve Slaton, Ahman Green
11. New Orleans Saints: 50 points
Unfortunately, Reggie Bush misses a favorable matchup against the Chargers (in London) in Week Eight. He may or may not be back from his knee injury in time to face the Chiefs in Week 11, but if he is, you should get him in your lineup.
Probable Beneficiaries: Deuce McAllister, Aaron Stecker (Reggie Bush)
10. Denver Broncos: 56 points
This is why it's advantageous to be in a division that is so terrible against the run. The Broncos have two more intradivsion matchups this year host the Raiders and the Chiefs in Weeks 12 and 14, respectively.
Probable Beneficiaries: Michael Pittman, Andre Hall (Selvin Young, Ryan Torain)
9. Carolina Panthers: 63 points
The Panthers also have two matchups remaining against the AFC West. They travel to Oakland in Week 10 and play host to the Broncos in Week 15.
Probable Beneficiaries: Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 60 points
The Bucs actually have more AFC West opponents remaining on their schedule than do the Broncos. They're number eight on the list because their matchup with the Raiders is in Week 17, so if that's your championship week, they get an upgrade. They also host the Chargers in Week 16, and visit the Chiefs in Week Nine.
Probable Beneficiaries: Earnest Graham, Warrick Dunn, Cadillac Williams (Week 16)?
7. New York Jets: 61 points
The Jets host the Chiefs and Broncos in Weeks Eight and 12, respectively.
Probable Beneficiaries: Thomas Jones, Leon Washington
6./5. Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons: 71 points
The Bills are on the road for both of their matchups, at Kansas City in Week 12, and at Denver in Week 16.
It can be just as good to be the Falcons, who have three matchups against the AFC West. They get Oakland in Week Nine, Denver in Week 11, and San Diego in Week 13.
Probable Beneficiaries: Marshawn Lynch (BUF), Fred Jackson (BUF), Michael Turner (ATL), Jerious Norwood (ATL)
4. Oakland Raiders: 79 points
The Raiders have three intradivison matchups in three straight weeks, right in the thick of the fantasy playoff race and the fantasy playoffs. They visit the Broncos in Week 12, host the Chiefs in Week 13, and visit the Chargers in Week 14.
Probable Beneficiaries: Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas, Michael Bush
3. San Diego Chargers: 93 points
Now you know why I say don't bail on L.T. just yet. The Chargers jump in at No. 3, with two games remaining against the Chiefs (home in Week 10, away in Week 15) and a matchup in versus Oakland at home in Week 14. They also have a Week 17 date with the Broncos.
Probable Beneficiaries: LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles
2. Kansas City Chiefs: 94 points
In the spirit of noticing the AFC West's shortcomings, I would like to note that the Chiefs are No. 2 on a list that doesn't start with "Most" and end with "Allowed."
The Chiefs have four AFC West matchups before Week 17.
They visit the Chargers, Raiders, and Broncos in Weeks 10, 13, and 14, respectively, and host the Chargers in Week 15.
Probable Beneficiaries: Larry Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Kolby Smith
1. Miami Dolphins: 95 points
A clutch matchup against the Chiefs in Week 16 puts the Dolphins in the No. 1 spot. They also go to Denver in Week Nine and host the Raiders in Week 11.
Probable Beneficiaries: Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams
Good luck in your games and thanks for reading.