Once again the Denver Broncos were the only team to emerge from the AFC West winners. The rest of the division is simply a garbage dump. In fact, with a win next week or a San Diego Chargers’ loss, the Broncos will clinch the division title. Here’s a look at what happened and what’s to come.
Denver Broncos (8-3):
Looking Back: It was far from pretty, but in a dirt-under-the-nails type game, the Broncos beat the Chiefs 17-9 at Arrowhead. For the second time all season, the Broncos kept their opponent from scoring a touchdown. The Chiefs even made it down into the red zone three times. Peyton Manning went 22-for-37 for 285 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he also threw a first half pick. His main target was Demaryius Thomas who had 4 catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. Thomas eclipsed the 1,000 receiving yard mark for the first time in his NFL career. The Broncos only big issue was the base defense stopping the run. The team gave up 148 yards on the ground including 107 yards to Jamaal Charles.
Looking Forward: The Broncos’ run defense is up for a far greater challenge this week as they take on rookie Doug Martin and the 6-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Martin is putting up 95.5 rushing yards per game, and the Bucs have won their last four of five games. The one recent loss they had was to the 9-1 Atlanta Falcons, and they lost by just one point. Usually known for his interceptions, Josh Freeman enters this game with 21 touchdown passes and just 7 interceptions. At this point the Broncos are playing for playoff positioning.
Kansas City Chiefs (1-10):
Looking Back: The Chiefs started the game by running 8 times in their first drive while passing just twice. The plan was clear from the outset. The Chiefs simply wanted to keep Manning off the field. The ground game was red hot, but when in sniffing distance of the end zone, the Chiefs simply faded. They went 3-for-14 on third down, and former Bronco Brady Quinn went 13-for-25 for 126 yards and an interception, which occurred on a desperation throw at the end of the game. The Chiefs haven’t passed for a touchdown since week 8.
Looking Forward: The Chiefs host the 3-8 Carolina Panthers in week 13. At this point, they’re simply playing for pride. The Panthers are coming off of a Monday Night win against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Chiefs are like a kite without a flyer. Their coach isn’t taking control of the reins on the sideline, and the team doesn’t have a stable quarterback on the field.
Oakland Raiders (3-8):
Looking Back: It was a very rough homecoming for Carson Palmer. He was sacked 4 times in the Raiders’ 34-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Raiders were down 24-0 at halftime, and allowed Andy Dalton to pass for 210 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was a rough day all around for an offense that went 3-for-12 on third down, and for a defense that couldn’t apply any pressure to Dalton or stop the run. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 129 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown for the Bengals. The Raiders have now lost four straight.
Looking Forward: The Raiders head back home to host the 3-8 Cleveland Browns. The Browns beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-14 last week. Brandon Weeden suffered a concussion in the win, and it’s unknown at this point as to whether he will be available to play on Sunday. With their season all but over, it may be worth giving quarterback Terrell Pryor a look.
San Diego Chargers (4-7):
Looking Back: This wasn’t the Baltimore Ravens game to win as much as it was the Chargers’ game to lose. With the Ravens down by 3 points, and facing a 4th-and-29 at their own 37-yard line, the Chargers let Ray Rice explode for the first down. Just like that, the game went into overtime, and featured the Ravens’ Justin Tuck kicking a 38-yard field goal with 1:07 left to win it. Philip Rivers went 23-for-36 for 228 yards and a touchdown. The defense gave up 443 yards of total offense, but it was that long play on 4th-and-29 that will be remembered for a long time.
Looking Forward: The Chargers will welcome the 6-5 Bengals in a game that the Chargers have nothing to lose. If it’s 4th-and-2 in the first quarter, the Bolts might as well go for it. For the Chargers to have a shot at the playoffs, they have to win out while the Broncos have to lose out. Norv Turner’s farewell party can really start to get underway.