Well, two weeks ago the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, and Los Angeles Chargers were locked into a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West, but a lot has changed since then. The Silver and Black have gone on a two-game losing streak, the Chiefs have gone on a two-game winning streak, and the Chargers are still locked into the playoff hunt.
The Raiders are technically still in the mix, but a lot will have to happen in order for the team to make the playoffs, but stranger things have happened. Before the team departs for its Christmas showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles, let's catch up on what's occurred in the AFC West recently.
The Broncos were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs two weeks ago, so the evaluation process of younger talent has officially begun. With just two weeks left in the season, the question of who will be the team's quarterback going forward remains the biggest problem. For the entirety of their year, the Broncos have struggled heavily at the position, and finding a solution this offseason will be a major priority.
Until then, the team will have to make do with what they have on the roster, and right now that's either Brock Osweiler or Paxton Lynch. I'm sure by now you're tired of hearing the same old thing – and I'm tired of saying it – but the offense has been at the root of all the team's problems this season. Lynch has been a bit of a project, given his rookie season was spent playing behind Trevor Siemian, and he has dealt with injuries for a good portion of 2017. For the remainder of the season I don't see why the Broncos wouldn't want to see what Lynch is made of, and let him gain more experience in the NFL. The former University of Memphis Tiger is ready for another opportunity according to DenverBroncos.com, and if he gets his chance this week, he'll face the Washington Redskins on the road.
Kansas City Chiefs
I'll admit it, quarterback Alex Smith has never really been a guy I've thought as an "elite" playmaker, but it's hard to dispute how valuable he has been to his team this season.
Smith has set a new career-high in passing touchdowns with 25, and what's even more astounding is the fact he's only thrown five interceptions. The biggest knock against him is that he's a "game manager," but shoot, if that means not turning the ball over and helping my team win a football game I'd have no problem being called a game manager. Sure, Smith certainly won't finish the season averaging 300 yards per game, but he is averaging another career-high in that category with 267 yards per outing.
At 8-6 the Chiefs are in control of their own destiny, and have the opportunity to win the division. To keep their winning streak alive they'll have to knock off the Miami Dolphins at home on Christmas Eve.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Bolts are still in the hunt, and quarterback Philip Rivers, wide receiver Keenan Allen, cornerback Casey Hayward, and defensive end Joey Bosa are a big reason for that. The offensive and defensive duos have been monsters for most of the season, which is why all four of them have been selected to the Pro Bowl.
Per PFF, Hayward has been the highest-graded corner to this point of the season, and has helped locked down opposing wide receivers all season long. When you go up against someone like Allen in practice - who happens to have 1,197 receiving yards and five touchdowns on the year - it's only going to help Hayward prepare for other studs around the league.
Allen has also just punched his first ticket to the Pro Bowl, which for him must be a relief after dealing with multiple injuries the last few years. As any player will tell you, the individual accomplishments don't matter, and getting to a Super Bowl is the ultimate goal. If the Chargers want to get there, they'll have to make the postseason first, and this week, it's the New York Jets who are standing in their way.