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AFC West Update: Broncos will be without a key defensive leader for the remainder of the season


Two more games to go.

The Oakland Raiders 2018 campaign is coming to a close, and the team will close out its final home game of the year this Monday night at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Regardless of the team's record, I expect Raider Nation to be in peak form, especially because the Silver and Black will face the division-rival Denver Broncos.

For a short window, the Broncos looked like they would make a late-season surge toward the postseason, but after the last couple weeks the team is reeling. Both the Raiders and Broncos have been eliminated from playoff contention, but bragging rights are on the line this week.

Monday Night Football can't get here soon enough, but until then, here's a breakdown of the recent happenings around the AFC West.

Denver Broncos

Like I said above, the Broncos have faltered the last couple weeks, and back-to-back losses has cost them a shot at the AFC Wild Card. While the Broncos will miss out on a trip to the postseason, the team has seen several rookies emerge this year as future cornerstone pieces for the franchise.

Both running back Philip Lindsay – who went undrafted, and didn't receive an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine – and defensive end Bradley Chubb have been named to the 2019 Pro Bowl roster; an impressive accomplishment in their first NFL season. Lindsay is fifth in the league in rushing with 991 yards, and Chubb is tied for eighth in the league in sacks with 12. The young standouts have proved they can compete at the NFL level, and the Raiders will need to limit these two on Monday night if they want to win their final home game of the season.

Rookies aside, the Broncos will be without one of their defensive leaders for the rest of the season, cornerback Chris Harris Jr.

Wednesday the team announced that it would be placing Harris on the Reserve/Injured list after he suffered a fibula injury during the team's Week 13 game.

This news is unfortunate for Harris and the Broncos, but it bodes well for the Derek Carr and the Raiders offense. We'll see if No. 4 can exploit the Broncos secondary in the absence of Harris; kickoff is set for 5:15 p.m. PT on Christmas Eve.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have lost two of their last four, and the coveted top spot in the AFC West is no longer a one-team race. The Los Angeles Chargers stormed into Arrowhead Stadium last week, and defeated the Chiefs at home 29-28. Both teams are now 11-3, and the race for the title of AFC West Champions is up for grabs.

Since the Chiefs cut dynamic running back Kareem Hunt a few weeks ago, the offense has struggled, specifically in the running game. Patrick Mahomes is still operating at a high level, and he's practically a shoe-in to be named the NFL MVP at the end of the year.

The Chiefs will make their final road trip of the year this weekend, as they travel to the Pacific Northwest for a battle with the Seattle Seahawks, and eventually finish the season at home against the Silver and Black. It's going to come down to the wire for the Chiefs, and it'll be interesting to see which AFC West team is crowned division champs.

Los Angeles Chargers

It pains me to say this, but the Bolts look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

The Chargers are on a four-game winning streak, which includes some impressive away victories, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs on the road. Derwin James has very much been the highly-touted prospect many NFL analysts suspected he'd be, and with Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa back in the mix, the Chargers defense is surging at just the right time.

Philip Rivers is also widely considered a dark horse MVP candidate, and is in the midst of one of his best seasons. At 37 years old, Rivers has thrown for 3,951 yards, 31 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. The veteran signal-caller to take his team on a deep postseason run, we'll see if he can get it done, but first the team's main priority is winning the division. The Chargers final two games are both winnable matchups, as they'll host the Baltimore Ravens at home, and travel to Denver for a battle with the Broncos.

Who knows what the future holds, but the Chargers are postseason bound one way or another.

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