It's been a whirlwind season for the Oakland Raiders, as the team has a record of 11-3, is in first place in the AFC West, and has also clinched its first playoff berth in 14 years. There are many contributing factors to the Raider' "Return to Greatness," from General Manager Reggie McKenzie's construction of the roster, to Head Coach Jack Del Rio's leadership, and of course the play of the Raiders players themselves.
Although they are currently the talk of the division, the Kansas City Chiefs remain a force to be reckoned with, and will be gunning for the Silver and Black over the final two weeks of the regular season..
Heading into Week 16, let's break down the AFC West and look at some popular headlines in the division.
At 8-6, the Broncos are on the cusp of the AFC Wild Card spot, currently holding down the ninth overall seed. Unfortunately for them, the loss to the Tennessee Titans set them back, as they now trail both the Titans (eighth seed) and Baltimore Ravens (seventh seed) in the wild card race.
Over the final two weeks of the regular season, the Broncos will be tasked with facing off against two division rivals. First on the slate is the Chiefs who defeated them earlier this season at Sports Authority Field in Denver, Colo. 30-27 in an overtime thriller. The team's pursuit of a playoff berth could ultimately come up short if they're unable to capitalize on the final two games.
The Broncos final matchup will be a New Year's Day showdown with the Silver and Black in Denver. This season the Broncos haven't been too successful in divisional matchups, as their division record sits at 1-3. Over the last five games, the Orange Crush have dropped two games in a row and have only won twice.
If the team is serious about making a playoff push, they'll have to give these last two weeks everything they've got, but it won't be easy considering both the Chiefs and Raiders are determined to win the division.
Kansas City Chiefs
After falling to the Titans at Arrowhead Stadium last Sunday, the Chiefs handed over sole possession of the division to the Raiders, and slipped back into the wild card spot. Similar to the Raiders, the Chiefs are focused on winning the division, and must win out – and get a little help – in order to achieve that goal.
As previously mentioned, the Chiefs and Broncos stand in each other's way of reaching their destination, and the teams will duke it out Sunday in what should be a physical battle. In the frozen tundra of Kansas City, the division rivals will be locked into a defensive showcase, as both feature an impressive secondary.
Going forward the Chiefs will officially be without Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles for the rest of the season, a player that could have been a difference maker for them in the playoffs. Injuries have been the biggest setback for the Chiefs this season, but with linebacker Justin Houston returning to form, and the defense peaking at a good time, this should be a tough group to defeat.
San Diego Chargers
The Bolts have mathematically been eliminated from the playoffs for some time now, but that doesn't mean they aren't competing at a high level. Most recently, the Chargers limited a potent Raiders offense to just 19 points Sunday, but failed to pull off the upset.
It's been a disappointing season for San Diego, no doubt about it, however, for Chargers fans, this shouldn't be considered a lost season by any means.
The emergence of rookie players on the team should give the organization and its followers hope as they should continue to shine for years to come. Tight end Hunter Henry has proved to be an athletic talent capable of stepping in when veteran tight end Antonio Gates decides to finally hang up the cleats. Not to mention, the team has found a standout talent in defensive end Joey Bosa who will join an already talented division loaded with pass rushers. Looking ahead, the Chargers are a solid group who are capable of being good if they can remain health.