November and December usually separate the good teams from the great teams in the NFL. In the AFC West there are just two teams that are currently vying for the division crown. Realistically it would take a lot for the Chiefs and the Chargers to make it into postseason play. Let’s take a look at what happened and what’s to come.
Denver Broncos (6-5):
Looking Back: The Broncos make it a clean sweep in the AFC West on the road this year. They’ve won four straight and their last five of six. Tebow Time has become cheering time because all of this has happened since he’s become the starter. The Broncos beat the Chargers 16-13 in an overtime thriller that put fans from both teams nearly into cardiac arrest. The Broncos defense held the Chargers to just 3 second half points while sacking Philip Rivers 3 times. The offense kicked it into gear led by Willis McGahee’s 117 rushing yards and Tim Tebow’s 143 passing yards (9-of-18), 67 rushing yards, and 1 TD. With this win, the playoffs (by way of division title or Wild Card) become a real possibility.
Looking Forward: The Broncos head out on the road for the second week in a row to play the 2-9 Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings’ strengths lie in their run game (9th in the league) while their passing game, led by rookie Christian Ponder, leaves a lot to be desired. It would be easy to overlook a team like the Vikings, but anything can happen on Sunday. If the Broncos can execute like they have been in the past four weeks, this should be a win in the bank. The only teams that the Vikes have beat are the Cardinals (4-7) and the Panthers (3-8).
Kansas City Chiefs (4-7):
Looking Back: The Chiefs put up their fourth straight loss last week when they fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 13-9. The Chiefs kept it surprisingly close despite playing without newly acquired quarterback Kyle Orton. It was a defensive battle, and the Steelers may not have won if Kennan Lewis had not picked off Tyler Palko with 29 seconds left in the game. Palko went 18-for-28 for 167 yards and 3 interceptions. Thomas Jones had just 37 yards on 13 carries. The highlight for the Chiefs was their defense forcing two Pittsburgh turnovers.
Looking Forward: It looks nearly impossible for the Chiefs to get on a roll. They have two away games in Chicago and New York (Jets), and then finish out the season against the Packers, Raiders, and Broncos. Their grave is carved out, it’s only an amount of time before the burial marks the end of this season.
Oakland Raiders (7-4):
Looking Back: It took six field goals for the Raiders to beat the Bears 25-20. Sebastian Janikowski can be credited for bumping the Raiders up to 7-4 and holding their one game lead over the Broncos. The Raiders intercepted Caleb Hanie (Jay Cutler’s replacement) three times as Carson Palmer threw for 301 yards. Michael Bush had 24 carries for 69 yards and a TD. Special teams did a great job of limiting Devin Hester’s return game. The team has now won three straight, and a fourth win looks to be on its way.
Looking Forward: The Raiders will make their way from the west coast to the southern coast when they play the Dolphins this week. The Dolphins put together a nice little streak of their own, winning three straight before falling to Dallas on Thanksgiving. The Dolphins are a team that is surging despite being 3-8. They have a lot of individual talent, but don’t have the quarterback that can guide them to wins. This will be a competitive one for the Raiders. Then it’s on to the toughest part of their schedule – Green Bay and Detroit.
San Diego Chargers (4-7):
Looking Back: The Chargers have not had a season like this in a long time. Usually they are the ones peaking in November and December. They won their first four of five games in the first weeks of the season, but it’s been five straight losses since. Against the Broncos, Philip Rivers went 19-of-36 for 188 yards and a TD, and Ryan Mathews led the team in rushing with 137 yards on 22 carries, but the Bolts couldn’t get points up on the board. Nick Novak had a shot to win it for them in overtime with a 53-yard field goal, but he missed and gave the Broncos the ball back with great field position. That was the game right there, and it looks like that was their season.
Looking Forward: The Chargers can look forward to a new head coach next season. Norv Turner is as good as gone. Next week the Chargers have the 3-8 Jaguars. The Tebow-less Jags just fired their head coach Jack Del Rio. This game should be a walk on the beach for the Chargers, but the way they’ve been playing, one never knows. Sometimes teams with a new coach will come out with a new fire. The Chargers needs this one if they even want to keep their playoff hopes alive.