Making a case for Raiders, Chiefs, Chargers to win AFC West

The AFC West might be the NFL’s weakest division, but it could deliver the most drama with four weeks left in the regular season.

The Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders are tied for first with 6-6 records. Kansas City holds the tiebreaker with a 2-1 division record. The Chargers and Raiders are each 2-2 against AFC West teams.

Here’s a case for how each team can win the AFC West:

Kansas City Chiefs

Games remaining: vs. Raiders, vs. Chargers, vs. Dolphins, at Broncos

The Chiefs blew a 5-0 start to the season during a nightmare seven-game stretch that included inexcusable losses to the Giants and Bills at home.

Despite the free fall, the Chiefs still remain in first place and have the easiest remaining schedule among the three contenders in the AFC West. Kansas City plays its next three games at Arrowhead Stadium, ending the homestand against the lackluster Dolphins. The Chiefs end the regular season at the Broncos, who have lost eight straight games.

But before getting to the Dolphins and Broncos, the Chiefs must find a way to at least get a split against the Raiders and Chargers. Kansas City probably can’t afford to lose a second time to the Raiders, especially if the division comes down to a tiebreaker, making Sunday’s matchup a must win.

Quarterback Alex Smith saved his job by turning in a solid performance against the Jets a week ago. The Chiefs still have the best offense in the division with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce making plays.

The Chiefs can easily right the ship if Kareem Hunt can get back on track during the final stretch. But the offensive line will need to create holes for Hunt, who hasn’t rushed for more than 100 yards or found the end zone since October.

There’s probably not much hope for a defense that has struggled all season. But Tamba Hali recently said don’t give up on the Chiefs. He can prove people wrong by returning from his knee injury and applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks with teammate Justin Houston.

These next four games are vital for Smith and coach Andy Reid. They’re known for folding down the stretch. It’s time to change the narrative.

Los Angeles Chargers

Games remaining: vs. Redskins, at Chiefs, at Jets, vs. Raiders

The Chargers had the opposite start the Chiefs had. Los Angeles opened the season with four straight losses but is 6-2 since.

The Chargers are viewed as the favorites to win the division because of their defense. They have arguably the best pass-rushing tandem in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. To go with the dominant front seven, they have a shutdown corner in Casey Hayward to defend Hill and the Raiders’ Michael Crabtree.

Los Angeles’ season turned around when quarterback Philip Rivers and the offense got hot. Wide receiver Keenan Allen is finally healthy from a torn ACL and has gone three straight games with at least 10 receptions, 100 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Rivers and Allen could have big outings against the poor secondaries of the Raiders and Chiefs. But they have a tough matchup Sunday against Josh Norman and the Redskins. If the passing game has an off day, the Chargers still have Melvin Gordon in the backfield.

But the biggest concern for the Chargers is not being able to close out games. They’ve lost close games to the Dolphins, Broncos, Eagles and Jaguars. The Chargers can’t fall for the trap game against the Redskins before a massive game against the Chiefs next week.


Games remaining: at Chiefs, vs. Cowboys, at Eagles, at Chargers

The Raiders have arguably the toughest schedule among the three teams with three road games, including one at Philadelphia on Christmas night.

But let’s say the Raiders do lose that game in Philly. Winning the division at 9-7 is still a possibility.

First, the Raiders need to beat the Chiefs a second time to get the tiebreaker. Then they face the Cowboys in Oakland. Win those two games, and the Raiders just need the Chargers to lose once more before getting to L.A. for the regular-season finale and the division possibly on the line.

Just imagine, the tiny StubHub Center filled with Raiders fans as the Silver and Black clinch the division at their home away from home. A nightmare scenario for the Chargers, who have yet to be accepted in Los Angeles.

There’s no fixing the bad Raiders secondary, but the front seven will need to continue to produce at the high level they have the past two games. Yes, it was against the Broncos and Giants, but NaVorro Bowman’s production has allowed Bruce Irvin to rush the quarterback, giving Khalil Mack much needed help.

The Raiders won last season despite a bad defense because of a high-scoring offense. The offense seems to be finally getting it together with Cordarrelle Patterson and Johnny Holton stepping up. That’s two more weapons for Derek Carr to go with Crabtree, Amari Cooper and Jared Cook.

Oh, and Marshawn Lynch is starting to hit Beast Mode at the right time.

Contact Gilbert Manzano at Follow @GManzano24 on Twitter.

Raiders Videos
Vegas Nation: Raiders Cut Ties With Smith, Ellis Gets Contract
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken go over the Raiders cutting ties with Sean Smith and Justin Ellis' three-year contract.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Cut Ties With Aldon Smith
Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken goes over the Raiders cutting ties with Aldon Smith due to allegations made against him.
Vegas Nation: Reggie Mckenzie's Son A Potential Candidate For Raiders
Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken goes over how Reggie McKenzie's son Kahlil McKenzie is a potential draft pick for the Raiders.
Vegas Nation Stadium Show: Parking, other topics closer to resolution
Ed Graney and Rick Velotta are joined by Las Vegas Stadium Authority chairman Steve Hill to discuss the latest developments around the Las Vegas Stadium.
Vegas Nation: Raiders lose 9th pick to San Francisco 49ers
Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken provides an update from the NFL scouting combine about the Raiders and 49ers coin toss to determine which team will get the 9th or 10th pick of this years NFL Draft.
Vegas Nation: Lynch, Crabtree future with Raiders pending
Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken provides an update from the NFL scouting combine on the future for Marshawn Lynch and Michael Crabtree with the Raiders.
Vegas Nation: Several documents approved
Ed Graney and Rick Velotta discuss the latest developments from the Las Vegas Stadium Authority meeting, including news on parking and the total cost of the stadium.
Vegas Nation: Raiders looking to keep key veterans
Vegas Nation video host and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken discuss the Raiders plans this offseason with free agency approaching.
Vegas Nation: Raiders awarded four draft picks
Bryan Salmond goes over the news that of the Raiders being awarded four draft picks.
Vegas Nation: Vontae Davis Visiting Raiders
Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken goes over Vontae Davis visiting the Raiders in Alameda California.
Vegas Nation Stadium Show: Estimated Cost Remains at $1.9 Billion
Ed Graney, Rick Velotta and Bill Bradley discuss updates around the Las Vegas Raiders stadium, scheduled to be completed by 2020.
Vegas Nation: Las Vegas could host NFL Draft
Bryan Salmond and Michael Gehlken talk about Vegas' chances to host the NFL Draft.
Vegas Nation: Eagles take down Patriots in Super Bowl LII
Bryan Salmond, Ed Graney, Michael Gehlken and Sam Gordon talk about the Eagles Super Bowl win over the Patriots.
Vegas Nation: Eagles win Super Bowl LII
Bryan Salmond recaps the Eagles Super Bowl victory over the Patriots.
Las Vegas, Raiders aim to host Super Bowl as early as 2023
Las Vegas and its $1.9 billion stadium project won’t be forgotten when nine NFL owners and team presidents, together wielding influence over an adjusted Super Bowl bid-selection process, meet in the coming months. Raiders owner Mark Davis serves on the Super Bowl and Major Events Advisory Committee, positioning him to have an active role in where Super Bowl LVII will be located on Feb. 5, 2023. Las Vegas, upon hosting the game, would be the latest NFL city to which league owners have awarded a Super Bowl following a stadium construction. There is no guarantee the game is coming to Las Vegas then. A combination of recent history and comments from an NFL executive, however, indicate the opportunity should arrive in the next eight years.
Vegas Nation: Minnesota running an efficient Super Bowl
Bryan Salmond and Ed Graney talk about Minnesota running a good Super Bowl and a Raiders rookie making an impact.
NFL Commissioner Goodell gives updates on hot topics with the Raiders
At a press conference ahead of Super Bowl LII, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded to questions about the Raiders hiring process with Jon Gruden and about the team having many home games played abroad.
0130 sb wrap with mention
Bryan Salmond, Michael Gehlken and Ed Graney talk about Tom Brady's Minnesota ties, Jon Gruden's advantage in coaching as well as the Patriots demanding respect.
Vegas Nation: Here's how the RJ will cover Super Bowl LII
Ed Graney, Michael Gehlken and Sam Gordon preview their coverage plan of the Super Bowl in Minnesota.
Vegas Nation: Pro Bowl edition
Bryan Salmond recaps the NFL Pro Bowl, including how Raiders quarterback Derek Carr performed.
Vegas Nation: Jon Gruden Does Not Attend Senior Bowl
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken discuss what the Raiders coaching staff are doing at the Senior Bowl.
Vegas Nation: Raiders announce several coaching hires
Review-Journal Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and reporter Michael Gehlken talk about the Raiders coaching hires as well as a significant omission.
Vegas Nation Stadium Show: Construction of stadium on schedule
Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney and reporter Rick Velotta talk about how the Raiders' stadium construction is progressing and the complications that might occur due to pricing.
Raiders hire Paul Guenther as defensive coordinator
Paul Guenther is the new defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. Guenther spent the past four years as the Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive coordinator. Guenther, 46, worked with the Bengals from 2005 to 2017. He will call defensive plays in 2018, a role that Ken Norton Jr. handled the first 10 games last season before being fired. Guenther expressed his interest in working with Raiders defensive backs Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu. “I really like both of them,” Guenther said. "(Conley) was probably my favorite corner coming out last year." "We just need to get these guys on the grass, keep them healthy and teach them the system," Guenther said.
McKenzie shares memory of Gruden coaching in Green Bay
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie shared one of his memories of working alongside head coach Jon Gruden back when they were both in Green Bay.
Vegas Nation: Raiders introduce Jon Gruden as head coach
Bryan Salmond, Ed Graney and Michael Gehlken discuss the Raiders introduction of Jon Gruden as their new head coach, including the unique atmosphere and how Gruden will work with Derek Carr.
Former Raiders discuss what the team and fans can expect from Jon Gruden
Following a press conference to announce Jon Gruden as the Oakland Raiders head coach, former players discussed what it is that he'll bring to the team and the fans.
Jon Gruden news conference highlights
The Oakland Raiders announced Jon Gruden as their head coach on Tuesday at the team headquarters in Alameda, Calif. Gruden previously coached the team from 1998-2001. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mark Davis says the Raiders' edge will come from leadership and coaching
Following a news conference announcing Jon Gruden's return as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, team owner Mark Davis said the Raiders' edge will come from leadership and coaching.
Vegas Nation: Raiders hire Jon Gruden
Michael Gehlken talks about the Raiders decision to hire Jon Gruden as their new head coach.
Vegas Nation: Gruden to be named Raiders head coach
Bryan Salmond and Ed Graney discuss the Raiders hiring of Jon Gruden as their new head coach.
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like