Third quarter checkpoint

The third quarter of the AFC West season is complete. As we did after the first and the second quarters of the season, let’s look at some key developments:

Story of the quarter: It has to Tebowmania. Denver quarterback Tim Tebow was arguably the story of the NFL in the past four weeks. Tebow and the Broncos went 4-0 in the quarter and became a major playoff contender. Tebow has improved weekly and everyone has an opinion on his current play and whether it can last in the future.

MVP of the quarter: Tebow deserves consideration, but I’m going with his backfield mate, Willis McGahee. The key to Tebow’s success has been the running attack both by Tebow and McGahee. He was hurt for much of the first half of the quarter, but he was dominant in the past two games. He had 228 of his 885 yards this season in the past two games. Most importantly, McGahee’s hard running allowed Denver to stay true to its new offense, which maximized their value. It wouldn’t have worked without McGahee.

Rookie of the quarter: Denver linebacker Von Miller. He is becoming a complete player. Miller has been a pass-rushing star all season, but he has made big strides as a run stopper. He had 27 tackles in the first three games of the quarter before missing the Minnesota game with a thumb injury. Miller has 10.5 sacks on the season.

Coach of the quarter: Denver coach John Fox. The Broncos are 7-5 and in the mix in the AFC West and AFC wild-card races. This is a team that won four games all of last season. Fox is doing a brilliant job in his first season in Denver. He adjusted the offense to Tebow, his team is dominating on the ground and it is much improved on defense.

Disappointment of the quarter: The San Diego Chargers. Yes, they won Monday night in their most impressive outing of the season, trouncing Jacksonville, 38-14. But the Chargers went 0-3 in the first three games of the quarter and they are 5-7 with faint playoff hopes. The result will likely be the firing of coach Norv Turner and perhaps general manager A.J. Smith.

Biggest unanswered question of the quarter: Who will win the division? Denver and Oakland are both 7-5. The Chargers and Chiefs have a pulse at 5-7. Still, this race is all about Denver and Oakland. The Broncos, who currently hold the tie-breaker edge over Oakland, have three home games remaining, while Oakland has two home games left. Denver’s remaining four opponents have a combined record of 26-22. Oakland’s remaining opponent’s combined record is 29-19.

Fearless prediction for the final quarter: Denver and Oakland will both make the playoffs. I think we’ll see a wild card team from this division for the first time since 2006 when San Diego won the division and Kansas City went to the playoffs as a wild card.