A Battle Brewing: A big week in the race for AFC West

Dayna O’Gorman
Senior NFL Reporter
NFC West / AFC West

By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG

There is a battle brewing in the AFC West. A battle that not anyone, except the most die-hard silver and black fan, would have predicted. The Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) are sitting at the top of the division, just like those who do preseason predictions thought they would be. Yet, sitting right behind them are the Oakland Raiders (6-4). With the Chiefs on a bye week, could the Raiders pull even this weekend, setting up a race for the finish line? Week 12 in the AFC West may set the pace for that race.

The Chiefs beat the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday Night Football in Mexico City, putting them at 3-0 in the division. Both teams now have a desperately needed bye week. The Denver Broncos (3-7) are heading up to Buffalo to play the Bills (7-3), which with the way the Bills have been playing, will be a difficult task for the struggling Broncos.

That leaves the Oakland Raiders. They have not only kept themselves in the mix for the playoffs, but they are also threatening to win the division. When the Chiefs struggled at home and then lost superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes for a couple of games, it left the door wide open for Oakland.

This weekend, they face the New York Jets in New Jersey. The Jets (3-7) have won their last two games, but still don’t really feel like a huge threat to the Raiders. Although the Jets have beaten the Dallas Cowboys, and anything could happen, I expect the Raiders to win.

If the Raiders get that win on Sunday, they would still be in second place in the West due to division record. However, in week 13 the Raiders head to Kansas City. IF they go into KC with identical records, and IF they could pull out a win against the Chiefs, it would be Oakland that would be first in the West.

After that, both teams, overall, have very winnable schedules…but each has a game or two that could give them fits. In week 14, the Chiefs play the New England Patriots who are currently 9-1. Kansas City will be on fire to get revenge for last year’s AFC Championship game. It should be a good one. In week 14, the Raiders play the Tennessee Titans, and in week 15 they play the Jacksonville Jaguars. Two must-win games for Oakland.

Here is how I see it. If the Chiefs win against the Raiders, I think they win the division. They will have the upper hand on division wins. BUT if the Raiders win in KC, and can win, at minimum, one of the two games mentioned above, I feel like the Raiders will pull off the upset in the AFC West.

Now keep in mind, all of this depends on whether or not either the Chargers or Broncos show up in their divisional games. I don’t have a ton of faith in Chargers QB Philip Rivers right now, and not sure what is going on in Denver…they have flashes of good football… so I expect both the Chiefs and Raiders to win those games late in the season.

Any given Sunday, right? That’s what it will come down to. But the AFC West could be a lot of fun to watch down the stretch.

Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG
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