By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
2 points. 7 points. 5 points. That was how close all the games for the AFC West were this weekend. The Week 9 matchups were stressful nailbiters for all 4 teams. At the end of it all, the standings pretty much stayed the same but proved this division could get fun down the road.
Carolina Panthers 31
Kansas City Chiefs 33
The Kansas City Chiefs held on for a 2 point win over the Carolina Panthers in an early game on Sunday, but it wasn’t an easy win in any way. The Panthers came into this game ready to fight. They had nothing to lose. They also had their superstar running back, Christian McCaffrey, back from injury. The entire team started off hot and kept the pressure on the Chiefs the entire game.
However, it was the creativity of the Chiefs that kept the team in the game and eventually pulling ahead. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes used inventive plays (how do you shift left then run right at the same time?) and his reliable weapons to put together a couple of good drives in the 2nd half to pull ahead in the 4th quarter. One of the most reliable weapons is tight end Travis Kelce, who while he didn’t have a touchdown, managed to get 159 yards in this game. He is quickly becoming one of the most productive TEs in the history of the game.
Mahomes broke another record this weekend. He became the fastest quarterback in NFL history to reach 100 touchdowns, beating former Miami Dolphins and Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino. While I would like to point out that Marino would have had a much harder time reaching that goal with the way the NFL was set up back in the day, it is still a fantastic feat for Mahomes to break a record that has stood for so long.
Denver Broncos 27
Atlanta Falcons 34
“I just tired of losing.” Yeah, we get it (WR) Jerry Jeudy. And to be quite honest, I feel really bad for the Denver Broncos. At the beginning of the season, I was all about this team getting so much better than they were in 2019, and giving this division fits. The football gods just didn’t see it that way and the injury bug has all but destroyed this team. However, when you watch them play, you can see why I may have been optimistic.
This game against the Atlanta Falcons was the definition of a slow start, not scoring any points until the 2nd quarters, and then just a field goal. In fact, it took until the 4th quarter for the team to heat up, and heat up they did. They scored 21 points in the 4th, with QB Drew Lock throwing 2 TDs and running one in himself. It was a great comeback, but just too little too late.
With multiple COVID-19 positive coaches, players, and yes…even the GM, over $40 million dollars of cap on injured reserve, and new injuries every week, this team could curl up and give up. But that doesn’t seem to be this team. Proof in point – defensive end Von Miller is trying to beat the odds and come back from an ankle injury that should have sidelined him for the season. The Broncos want to make it back to the playoffs. A place they haven’t been since they won the Super Bowl 4 years ago.
Las Vegas Raiders 31
Los Angeles Chargers 26
Two touchdown passes and the last 6 seconds of the game. That’s how close the Raiders came to losing to the Chargers on Sunday. Luckily for Vegas, both those passes were (after review) dropped. Yes, it was controversial. Yes, it determined the game. Yes, it was an exciting ending.
I’m telling you, the Chargers are the best 2-6 team in the NFL. Every week they take it to the end of the game, fighting and scratching for a win, but just can’t quite get there. While most in the media believe QB Justin Herbert is in the lead for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and he pushed that narrative with the game on Sunday. He threw for 326 yards and 2 TDs, and rushed for 24 yards.
The Raiders held their own and held their solid spot in 2nd place in the division. While their defense struggled some, the Raiders offense shined. The run game looked great, with running backs Josh Jacobs and Devonte Booker both have a strong day and both having a touchdown. QB Derek Carr proved why he has kept his job in Las Vegas, as he looked like a rockstar in the 3rd quarter with explosive drive after explosive drive. It was a lot of fun to watch.
The AFC West has been a lot of fun to watch this year. With Mahomes playing like a Hall of Famer, to the fight of the Broncos, the talented rookie QB in Los Angeles, to the Raiders proving everyone wrong, it’s a division that has caught the attention of a lot of people.
Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG