In the past week, the Raiders and Chargers have saved their seasons through two unexpected victories. The Raiders put on the game of the year, taking down the Chiefs in one of the most intense finishes to a game since last season. The Chargers also did the unthinkable, shutting out the Broncos who had not been shutout since 1992. Will the Broncos slipping continue? Will the Raiders continue to rise? With the bottom two teams getting unlikely wins and the top two teams getting unlikely losses, what lies ahead for each of the AFC West contenders? We’re through seven weeks, so what will the AFC West look like after another seven?
AFC West Predictions: Broncos Slipping, Raiders Rising
Chargers: 3-4 overall; 2-1 Div.
The Chargers have been close in most of their losses, losing by one possession. After the Chargers were able to put on a clinic against the Broncos, have they actually fixed their perennial woes? Their schedule does not get any easier going forward.
At Patriots: The Chargers will keep it closer than people think, but the Patriots will get a critical stop on defense in the fourth quarter to hold on 24-20. After the defense nearly shut out the Falcons on Sunday night, it would be easy to say that the Patriots defense if back to full form. However, I am not sold.
At Jaguars: One defense I am sold on is that of the Jags. Expect Philip Rivers to throw two picks or more. Also, if Leonard Fournette plays, expect the Jaguars to run it through the Chargers’ 31st ranked rushing defense for big plays. I expect the Jags to win 23-10.
Versus Bills: Expect a defensive slugfest. I expect Tyrod Taylor’s scrambling ability to bail the Bills out on one or two critical plays to win the game 17-14.
At Cowboys: The Chargers are a perfect matchup for the Cowboys offense. Ezekiel Elliott will gouge the Chargers’ weak rushing defense for multiple touchdowns but the Chargers will be able to put up points against Big D’s less than stellar defense. Expect a 34-24 victory for the Cowboys.
Versus Browns: Another year, another woeful season for the Browns. The Chargers win this one 20-9.
Versus Redskins: This one is a toss-up. If the Redskins are fully healthy at this time, then expect them to win by two scores. However, if they’re beat up like they are now, (three of their five starting linemen are injured and Josh Norman is week-to-week) they’ll lose by about eight points.
Overall after week 14, expect the Chargers to be 4-9 and 2-1 in divisional games. While they are currently on a three-game winning streak, they beat a 0-5 Giants team in a game where their team was reeling from the loss of their receiving corps including Odell Beckham Jr. They beat a Raiders team without Derek Carr, and they shut out a Broncos team that currently has one of the worst offenses in the league. The Chargers have been on a nice run, but expect the Chargers to struggle during the next six games.
Broncos: 3-3 overall; 2-1 Div.
The Broncos are in free fall. After winning three of the first four games, the Broncos have put up a combined 10 points in the last two games. Their receiving corps and the offensive line is decimated with injuries. The defense has been keeping the Broncos in games, but their offense has not been able to come through. The next three games of the season make for arguably the toughest stretch by any team in the NFL. Can the Broncos fix it after losing two must-win games?
At Chiefs: One upside for the Broncos is that they play on Monday night, allowing an extra day for preparation and an extra day to get a little healthier. Expect to see a bit of improvement from the offense, but not enough to outscore the Chiefs, who have the second-best offense in the NFL. It will be a one-possession game until the fourth quarter, where the Chiefs get a game-sealing touchdown or two. Expect the Chiefs to win this one 27-13.
At Eagles: After the Broncos go to Kansas City, they have to come back to Denver and then go to Philadelphia to play the 6-1 Eagles at their stadium on a short week. The Eagles should be able to minimize the Broncos struggling offense, while Carson Wentz will likely be able to create a big play or two through his ability to scramble similar to what Tyrod Taylor did in week 3 against the Broncos. The Eagles will likely win this one 21-10.
Versus Patriots: At least the Broncos are home for this one. The Patriots’ number one offense will score points against the No Fly Zone and the Broncos will put up about twenty points on the Patriots defense. The Patriots will have the final laugh with a 27-20 victory.
Versus Bengals: This will be a defensive game. The Broncos defense will cancel out the Bengals 31st ranked offense and the Bengals’ number two ranked defense will cancel out the Broncos 26th ranked offense. The result is a game similar to the Rams-Seahawks game last year. The Broncos will win this one 9-6.
At Raiders: The Broncos offense will get some big plays against the struggling Raiders secondary. The No Fly Zone will slow the Raiders’ offense down a bit but not enough. Look for the Raiders to survive the Broncos 20-17.
At Dolphins: The Dolphins are 4-3 right now, despite Ryan Tannehill missing the season. Jay Cutler had to come out of the game last Sunday after throwing two touchdowns and Matt Moore came in and threw for two more. The Dolphins offense was starting to click again until they ran into the Ravens on Thursday night, and the No Fly Zone will hold them to less than 15 points. Conversely, the Broncos offense should be continuing to improve as they should have most of their injured players back by now but they will be going up against a Miami defense currently ranked 6th overall. Expect the No Fly Zone to force a critical turnover and the Broncos will win the game 17-14.
Versus Jets: The Broncos will contain the Jets to 13 points while the Broncos will move the ball easily but will struggle in the red zone. The Broncos will win 16-10.
After 14 weeks, the Broncos will be 6-7 overall and 2-3 in Divisional play. They will be down, but not completely out of playoff contention. The Broncos offense has massive issues, more than can be overcome in the span of a couple of weeks.
Raiders: 3-4 Overall; 1-2 Div.
At Bills: The Bills’ defense is no slouch. The Bills will slow down Derek Carr while Tyrod Taylor will put up points on the Raiders secondary. The Bills will win this one at home, 27-20.
At Dolphins: The Dolphins are scrappy this year and will keep this game tight, but will ultimately fall short. Expect the Raiders to win 24-20.
Versus Patriots: This game will be a controlled shootout, with scores on almost every drive but long drives. The Patriots defense will stop the Raiders one time more than the Raiders will stop the Patriots. Patriots will win this one 30-24.
Versus Broncos: See “at Raiders” above.
Versus Giants: The Giants already had their “Super Bowl” moment this year, beating the Broncos at Mile High Stadium with no receivers and a tumultuous locker room. Expect the Raiders to win this one 34-17.
At Chiefs: Another tight, high scoring game. The Raiders will come out swinging. They’ll put up points on the Chiefs’ 30th ranked defense but they will only have a one-score lead going into the final possession. Kansas City will have the ball last and will run out of time. Raiders will survive 28-24.
Overall, the Raiders will probably be 7-6 overall and 3-2 in Divisional play going into week 15. They won’t be out of playoff contention, but they will need some things to go their way.
Chiefs: 5-2 Overall; 1-1 Div.
Versus Broncos: See “at Chiefs” in the “Broncos” section above.
At Cowboys: The Cowboys defense is struggling this year and against the number two offense in the NFL, it will be giving up serious points. However, the Chiefs will also give up points on the defensive side of the ball. Chiefs will win this one 32-23.
At Giants: The Giants have struggled on offense without Odell Beckham Jr. Without him, expect the Giants to not be able to keep pace with the Chiefs. The Chiefs win 34-10.
Versus Bills: The Bills will keep this one close. If there is a chance for an upset, it will happen in this game. Look for the Chiefs to survive the Bills 33-27. The Chiefs defense will give up some points but the Bills defense will slow down the Chiefs offense enough to keep the game tight.
At Jets: The Jets are at home, playing a struggling defense. On paper, it is a similar game to the Patriots at Jets game earlier this year. The Patriots had the number one offense but a defense sitting at the bottom of the league. For this game? The Jets play the number two offense and the 30th ranked defense. Expect a similar game to the Patriots at Jets game and expect a similar ending. The Jets will keep it close in the first three quarters, but the Chiefs will break away at the end. Expect the Chiefs to win 31-20.
Versus Raiders: See the Raiders section, “at Chiefs.”
Overall, the Chiefs will lose one more in the next seven weeks and rise to 10-3 overall but 1-2 in divisional games. The Chiefs will be in great shape to take the number one or number two seed in the AFC after week 14. The Chiefs offense has been rolling while their defense has been lagging a bit, with the offense making up for the defense.
And The Winner Is…
Seven weeks from now, the Chiefs will remain in first place in the AFC West at 10-3 overall and 1-2 in divisional play. Their offense has been clicking all season long, and even though they have lost two consecutive games, it’s hard to look at their schedule and say that they won’t rebound.
The Raiders, meanwhile, will continue to claw their way back slowly but surely into second place with a record of 7-6 overall and 3-2 in divisional play.
The Broncos have struggled since their dominant victory over the Cowboys in week 2, and with the team playing away at the Chiefs, away at the Eagles, and at home against the Patriots, the next three weeks are going to be rough for Broncos fans. Look for them to be 6-7 overall and 2-3 in divisional play after seven more weeks.
Finally, the Chargers will be bringing up the rear with a 4-9 overall record and a 2-1 divisional record. The Chargers are in a similar situation to the Broncos in that their next several weeks are tough. After starting 0-4, the Chargers’ schedule does not favor a comeback season.
Overall, the AFC West will certainly continue to have ferocious competition for second place, but it is highly likely that first place will belong to the Chiefs this year. As it is so early in the season, there is still a chance that a series of events could occur that would dethrone the Chiefs. However, at least on paper, the Chiefs will probably have a sizable lead at the beginning of week 15. Can one of the bottom teams make a push? We can only wait and see