Now that we’re past the midway point of the season, each week we’ll take a look at one division and examine the situation, any surprises and look forward to the playoffs.
Pre-Season Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
Well, we were wrong about the nature of this division as a whole, but we nailed it on two key points; the Chiefs won, and the Raiders took a big step backwards for exactly the reasons we thought they would. I saw this division being among the AFC’s best, but every team in the West has shown deep flaws that have made the grouping a muddy mess. Kansas City came out of the gate hot, beating the champs up in Foxboro and generally looking like the best team in football until week six. Alex Smith was playing with bravado and Kareem Hunt was looking like an unstoppable force on his way to the rookie of the year award. Then
came a week six loss to the Steelers that took the wind out of their sails and brought them down to earth, losing six of their next seven games. Among those losses were sad performances against the Jets, Giants, Cowboys and Raiders, none of whom are even in contention for a wildcard slot. The Chiefs have righted the ship somewhat with wins the last three weeks, including two crucial divisional matchups that kept them ahead of the Chargers for the division title.
At 9-6, the Chiefs can’t be caught for the division title, but the Chargers have put in solid performances as the season wore on, and if Tennessee stumbles against a Jaguars team that has already indicated that it won’t rest its starters, the Chargers are in prime position to steal that sixth seed and earn a wildcard matchup against those same Jaguars. Philip Rivers has been his usual self this season, throwing for over four-thousand yards and twenty-five touchdowns for good reason, he’s been protected much better than in previous years, being sacked only once per game. If not for some bad placekicking early and downright terrible luck over the first few weeks of the season, this Chargers team could have been among the AFC’s best. At 8-7, they’ll have to beat the Raiders and then hope for some help.
The Raiders are exactly who we thought they were. A team that over performed last year and looked hot before Derek Carr’s injury. Carr has thrown fewer touchdowns and twice as many interceptions than last year, just as we predicted. The defense isn’t really improved to any meaningful degree. It’s a recipe for mediocrity. You know it’s not good when your biggest highlight of the season is a fistfight. The Raiders simply weren’t as good as their record last year, but honestly, they aren’t too far away from contending. I’m not sure what Jack del Rio will need to do to get this squad back among the AFC’s elites, but he’ll need to make some moves in the offseason. A few smart acquisitions and a solid draft could get this team back to the top of a winnable division.
Speaking of a lack of highlights, let’s discuss the Denver Broncos. What happened guys? I mean, seriously. The talent level on this defense is extraordinary, led by Von Miller and Aqib Talib. This should have been a top unit, but they simply haven’t been able to answer the bell this season. We knew they might struggle offensively, and neither Trevor Siemian or Brock Osweiler could help the Broncos find the end zone. The duo has both thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns and neither was able to complete more than sixty percent of their passes. I think a total rebuild is likely to begin starting next Monday.
Image source: twitter.com/chiefs
Tom Capo writes about sports, parenting, food, wine and travel; but seldom all at once. He’s currently working on his first novel and collection of shorter fiction. He lives in the Bay Area with all of his girls; wife Allison, daughter Liliana and dog Artemis.