The AFC West went 2-2 this week, and this playoff race has heated up. Theoretically, all teams form this division are capable of taking first place with two weeks left to go. Let’s take a look at what happened and what’s to come.
Denver Broncos (8-6):
Looking Back: The miracle run has ended for the Broncos. Their six-game winning streak was shutdown in a 41-23 loss to the New England Patriots. In unusual fashion, the Broncos started fast, converting on their first three offensive possessions of the game. Then the second-quarter came around which was full of turnovers. One fumble came from Tim Tebow, one fumble from RB Lance Ball, and a muffed punt by Quan Crosby just gave Tom Brady more chances to work his magic. Tebow looked like a solid passing quarterback completing 50% of his passes for 194 yards. He also added 93 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Denver’s defense couldn’t slow the Patriots who racked up 451 yards of total offense.
Looking Forward: In a short week, the Broncos will travel to Buffalo to play the Bills on Christmas Eve day. The Bills have lost their last seven games after winning their first five of seven this season. Buffalo is middle of the road, offensively. Their troubles come from their inability to stop the run. If the Broncos come out with focus, don’t turn the ball over, and get their defensive strength back, this should be a road win they can chalk up on the board.
Kansas City Chiefs (6-8):
Looking Back: For a team that is two games below .500, there’s no better way to make week 14 headlines than to beat the previously undefeated Green Bay Packers. The Chiefs shocked the nation (and themselves?) by beating the Pack Attack 19-14 in Romeo Crennel’s first game as interim head coach. Kyle Orton went 23-of-31 for 299 yards and the Chiefs had 139 yards on the ground. The Packers beat themselves down by dropping passes, throwing bad passes, and missing field goals. Greg Jennings and James Starks sat out of this one, and the Packers squandered away their shot at the perfect season.
Looking Forward: Even though the Chiefs are in last place in the AFC West, they can win the division if they win out and if Denver loses out. The Raiders will visit Arrowhead in week 16 trying to keep their own playoff hopes alive. With a win over the Packers and a steady quarterback in Kyle Orton, the Chiefs are back on people’s radar screen.
Oakland Raiders (7-7):
Looking Back: There was no Mile High Miracle for the Broncos this week, but there was a miracle in Oakland when the Detroit Lions beat the Raiders by one point. Carson Palmer completed 80% of his passes for 367 yards and 1 TD and Michael Bush added 77 rushing yards on 18 carries, but Matthew Stafford’s 397 passing yards and 4 TDs were too much for the Raiders to overcome. When it came down to it, the biggest stars stepped up. Calvin Johnson caught a 6-yard TD pass from Stafford with 39 seconds left in the game to put the Lions up by one point. Then Ndamukong Suh (first game back since his two game suspension) blocked a 65-yard FG attempt from Sebastian Janikowski. The Raiders have lost their last three games.
Looking Forward: The Raiders are in Kansas City for what looks to be a very difficult matchup. The Chiefs have some horsepower with Kyle Orton under center and they’re riding high after their victory over the Packers. If the Raiders lose this one and the Broncos beat the Bills, Oakland’s season is as good as done.
San Diego Chargers (7-7):
Looking Back: The Chargers have found their stride too late in the season it appears. In what was a highly anticipated Sunday night game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Chargers put the pedal to the metal and had an early Christmas bird for dinner. They beat up on Baltimore 34-14 and made the Ravens’ defense look like a rag doll. Philip Rivers went 17-for-23 for 270 yards and one touchdown. Ryan Mathews kept the chains moving by running for 90 yards and 2 TDs. The Bolts scored on their first six of seven possessions. Antwan Barnes sacked Joe Flacco 4 times and the defense helped force 2 Flacco interceptions.
Looking Forward: The Chargers have won their last three games, but they must travel to Detroit to take on a 9-5 Lions team. The Lions are fighting for a wild card spot, so this one will be tough for the Bolts. The Lions are ranked 4th on offense, so they’re a team that can keep pace with Rivers. Their defense isn’t as strong and they’re a team that Mathews can run on. Turnovers will be key in this game. The Lions are 4th in turnover differential (+11) while the Chargers are -5.