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AFC West Update: The Race For The Playoffs Is On


We've almost entered the final quarter of the regular season, which means it's getting down to the nitty gritty.

The Kansas City Chiefs jumped out to a commanding lead in the AFC west earlier this year as they rattled off five consecutive wins, but have dropped five of their last six, and now only hold a one game lead in the division.

While the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers have made pushes towards the top, the Denver Broncos remain at the bottom, and things aren't looking up for them.

Before we kick off the final week of the third quarter, let's break down this week's AFC West update.


Denver Broncos

As the children's song goes, "ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down."

Now, that song might be about the Black Plague – not to compare the Broncos current situation to the plague – but the Broncos are dropping games like flies.

In second-year quarterback Paxton Lynch's first start of the season, which came against the Silver and Black Sunday afternoon, he finished the afternoon with a total of passing 61 yards, and was forced to leave prematurely because of a high ankle sprain. Also, falling a first quarter skirmish that resulted in multiple ejections,, cornerback Aqib Talib has been suspended one game followingto his altercation with Raiders wide receiver Derek Carr.

After kicking off the first quarter of the regular season with a record of 3-1, the Orange Crush have lost six straight, and certainly aren't crushing teams by any stretch of the imagination. The defense hasn't been the issue, considering the Broncos are third in total yards allowed per game (289.1). Head Coach Vance Joseph has been unable to settle on a quarterback with Lynch, Trevor Siemian, and Brock Osweiler all receiving starts in 2017.

At 3-7, I think it's fair to say the Broncos playoff hopes are hanging on by a string.

Denver will travel to Miami for their bout with the Dolphins this Sunday; kickoff is at 10:00 a.m. PST.


Kansas City Chiefs

Yet another baffling situation.

When the Chiefs opened the season with a Thursday Night Football showdown in Foxborough, Mass., against the New England Patriots and delivered a 42-27 beatdown, many were quick to assume the team had figured it out, and for five weeks it looked like they did.

Rookie running back Kareem Hunt went on a tear, establishing himself as one of the bright young stars in the league, but has fallen off since Week 7, as he's been unable to crack 100 total yards in four games.

Quarterback Alex Smith was also playing exceptional football, going eight weeks without registering an interception, but has thrown four since then.

With a record of 6-5, and in first place in the division, the Chiefs are still locked into their playoff run, but they've lost a step, and have the Raiders and Chargers nipping at their heels.

Kansas City will face the New York Jets on the road in Week 13; we'll see if they can snap their three-game losing streak.


Los Angeles Chargers

Opposite of the Chiefs, the Chargers have been surging lately winning five of their last six.

While Kansas City won five games to start the year, the Bolts lost four in a row, but have battled their way back into the playoff picture. To make matters better for them, the team will host the 0-11 winless Cleveland Browns at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., this Sunday, in what is a very winnable game.

Part of the reason the Chargers have been so successful is because of their dynamic pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Yes, I know I've brought them up repeatedly, but you can't talk about this team and not acknowledge the talent they possess.

As Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio has pointed out time and again, the key to a great pass rush is good pressure up front, complemented by sound coverage in the secondary. To assist the efforts being made by Ingram and Bosa, cornerback Casey Hayward has been solid in recent weeks, as he earned AFC Defensive Player of the Month.

When the Chargers host the Browns this weekend, they'll face wide receiver Josh Gordon who will be returning to the field for the first time since 2014.

Kickoff will take place at 1:05 p.m. PST.

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