The Oakland Raiders are currently tied for first in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos, and will face off this Sunday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The race for the division title has begun, and the Kansas City Chiefs are nipping at their heels with a record of 5-2. Both the Broncos and Chiefs have lost their featured running backs due to knee injuries, thus placing their stars on the injured reserve list. The loss of significant players isn't anything new to the San Diego Chargers who have managed to conjure a 3-5 record through the first half of the season with a depleted roster.
With the second half of the 2016 season ready to begin, let's take a look around the AFC West.
In Week 9, the Silver and Black will play host to their division rival, the Denver Broncos. Dating back to 1960, the Raiders own the head-to-head series 60-49-2, and will have a chance to add to the win column this Sunday. This rivalry could potentially become even more heated, considering the Raiders are a team on the rise, and the Broncos are currently the dominant team to beat. To add fuel to the flame, Broncos safety T.J. Ward spoke with reporters Wednesday about the matchup, and didn't mince words about his opponents.
"I feel like they have two good receivers," said Ward. "I don't feel like they have two elite receivers."
The comments are interesting considering wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree currently lead the NFL in combined receptions (99) and receiving yards (1,356). Regardless, Ward continued on about his strong dislike of the Raiders franchise, and made his feelings apparently clear.
"We never liked the Raiders," said Ward. "We just don't like them."
Not only are the teams clashing in Week 9, but the primetime game will take place on Sunday Night Football. This game may not define the outcome of the division further down the road, but expect a physical battle between the Raiders and Broncos nonetheless.
Denver will also be playing without their feature running back C.J. Anderson, who suffered a knee injury on Monday Night Football against the Houston Texans. He underwent knee surgery and was placed on the Broncos injured reserve list following the diagnosis, and could potentially miss the remainder of the 2016 campaign.
Kansas City Chiefs
Jamaal Charles finds himself back where he concluded his 2015 season, on the injured reserve list. For the majority of this season, Charles has been attempting to recover from his ACL injury suffered a year ago, but never seemed to be 100 percent healthy. His return to the field was delayed and he only appeared in three games since being cleared for game participation.
His absence will be missed even more after backup running back Spencer Ware has been in concussion protocol all week. Although he should return in the near future, Ware has contributed 511 rushing yards this season and two touchdowns. He's been a valuable asset to the Chiefs offense, but the team will need to look elsewhere for the time being.
Quarterback Alex Smith left Sunday's game also with a potential concussion, and was replaced by fifth-year signal-caller Nick Foles. According to Chiefs.com, Smith had a chance of playing this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but instead the team opted to roll with Foles.
The Chiefs will take on the Jaguars this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.
San Diego Chargers
Since making his NFL debut in Week 5 against the Raiders, rookie defensive end Joey Bosa has been a wrecking ball against opposing teams. His athleticism and speed off the edge present issues for all trying to stand in his way. Through the first four games of his career, Bosa has tallied a total of four sacks and been aggressive in his pursuit of the quarterback. He's only played in half of the Chargers games this season, but leads the team with 11 quarterback hits. His performance thus far in the NFL has earned him this month's defensive rookie of the month.
Although the Bolts sit at the bottom of the AFC West, they're a far better team than what their 3-5 record represents. In the wake of all the team's injuries, quarterback Philip Rivers has remained productive and efficient in the first half of the season. Rivers has made a living of slinging the ball during his career, and is currently ranked sixth in passing yards (2,285).
The Chargers are a battle-tested group and have shown on multiple occasions that they still have a lot of fight left in them. The Bolts will host the Tennessee Titans this Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, kick off will start at 1:25 p.m. Pacific Time.