A weekly update on the Oakland Raiders and the rest of the AFC West.
And then there was one. One game, that is, separating the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs and the Raiders and Chargers.
That’s what happens when you free-fall and lose five of six games.
At this point the Denver Broncos are an also-ran. Content only to play for pride and try and antagonize other teams, they’re out of the mix at this point. Perhaps if they rode out Siemian’s cold streak earlier…nah. QB’s are terrible, thus – done.
But things are suddenly much more interesting at the top. After starting 5-0, the Chiefs are now 6-5 and very much looking down the barrel of a surging Chargers team and a disappointing but still hungry Raider team.
Things are going to get pretty wild in the West over the last five games. The Raiders play the Chargers. The Chargers play the Chiefs. The Raiders have a tough schedule down the stretch – the Chargers not as much, and they’re on fire right now.
A division that looked like a lock for the Chiefs earlier is now going to come down to the wire.
That makes for much more exciting football down the stretch. So, let’s round ‘em up!
1st Place – Kansas City Chiefs (6-5)
Last Game – lost at home to Buffalo Bills (6-5) 16-10
Next Game – at NY Jets (4-7) Sun, Dec 3, 10 am PST
The Chiefs are reeling, suddenly inept on offense and now travelling to New York to face a better than advertised Jets team who are still thinly in the playoff mix.
In the past six games, Kareem Hunt looks very much like a rookie; Alex Smith very much a poor game-manager; and Tyreek Hill very much a flashy play once in a while without real consistency.
Travis Kelce has been steady Eddie, really the only consistent threat on offense for KC. Hunt has tailed off considerably. After averaging 6.3 ypc in his first five games, he’s down to 3.5 in the last six.
Longer down and distance situations has put more pressure on Smith, who was playing lights-out earlier when Hunt was smoking defenses. He led the league in passer rating after Week 6.
But as soon as D’s began to key on Hunt and make Smith beat them, he’s been unable to do so. It appears he’s incredible when unfettered with run support, but quite pedestrian when the pressure is on him to make things happen. Who knew? Oh yeah. Pretty much everyone. But he fooled a lot of people early 2017.
KC’s defense hasn’t played badly during this stretch – they haven’t been blown out. They’ve allowed 105 points in their five losses, or 20.1 points. They’ve lost three games where their opponent scored less than 20 points.
They lost to the Bills, who’d been absolutely destroyed by the Chargers and Saints in their previous two games. Everyone speculated the Chiefs would get rolling against a terrible Bills defense. Everyone was wrong.
Clearly, the defense is not the issue. The Chiefs need to get things fixed in a hurry, because the Chargers are playing some of the best football in the NFL over the past five weeks, and the Raiders, despite a disappointing showing thus far, are still right in the mix for the division title.
With a game on the road and then hosting the Raiders the next week, the Chiefs need this win. They need to maintain their lead and gain some confidence against a Jets team that’s better than most thought.
Over this stretch the Chiefs have been roasted through the air and Josh McCown and Robby Anderson are developing a special downfield connection in New York. This isn’t going to be easy – the Jets defense has been stout and the Chiefs offense has not.
The Raiders are playing a depleted and seemingly defeated Giants team, while the Chargers host the winless Browns. Suffice it to say a win in New York is imperative, or the Chiefs could see themselves in a three-way tie at the end of the weekend with the Raiders coming to town in Week 14.
Who would’ve thought this back in Week 7?
2nd Place – Los Angeles Chargers (5-6)
Last Game – defeated Dallas Cowboys (5-6) 28-6 in Dallas
Next Game – hosting Cleveland Browns (0-11), Sun, Dec 3, 1:05 PST
It’s truly not how you start, but how you finish. We’ve seen it time and again throughout NFL seasons; a talented team stumbles early, gets hot at the right time and surges into the playoffs.
The Chargers could very well be that team in 2017.
After struggling in close games earlier in the season and suffering through injuries – sound familiar? – the Chargers are getting healthier and leaving little to chance.
Their defense has the best turnover and sack differential in the NFL since Week 8. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are bookend beasts who disrupt nearly every passing down. Philip Rivers is still a mad bomber when he wants to be, and Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin are helping his downfield game considerably.
Then, there’s Keenan Allen. Always one of the most talented wideouts in the NFL, Allen has suffered some pretty devastating injuries in his five-year career. Still only 25, Allen is healthy and playing receiver better than everyone not named Antonio Brown on a weekly basis.
All this has led to a Chargers surge. While the Chiefs have lost 5 of 6, the Chargers have won 4 of 6. Their only defeats in that time were to New England (9-2) and Jacksonville (7-4).
That’s the trend you want going into the end of the season, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.
They’ve put up 82 points in their past two games and host a Browns team yet to win a game. They have the current tie-break with the Raiders, having beat them 17-16 back in Week 6. The Chargers still play the Chiefs and the Raiders, so they pretty much control their own destiny at this point, as the Chiefs are the only remaining team they play with a winning record.
Corky and the Gang are on a roll, and look to be the best team in this division since Week 8. As we’ve seen in this, and pretty much every other NFL season, things can change quickly. But with a favorable schedule and games against their rivals still on tap, the Chargers are in pretty good shape – and after starting 0-4, that notion was pretty laughable.
Still, the Chargers do have a way of slipping up when it matters most and would do well not to overlook the Browns – again.
3rd Place – Oakland Raiders (5-6)
Last Game – defeated Denver Broncos (3-8) at home 21-14
Next Game – home to NY Giants (2-9), Sun, Dec 3, 1:25 PST
A much-needed win against an opponent they should beat. Something the Raiders have had a tough time with thus far this season, but came through on Sunday.
This game started out with some fireworks, as you may have heard. The history between Aqib Talib and Michael Crabtree boiled over in this one, and when Talib snatched Crabtree’s chain for a second time, it was on.
Crabtree aggressively but cleanly blocked Talib on a play – Talib snatched his chain. Crab continued to block him out of bounds and went at him, and threw a punch. Things settled a bit, until Talib, still with his own helmet on, came at a helmetless Crab with a punch of his own.
He missed badly, Crabs raked his eyes and Talib was done. Talib had a good reason, though…
BREAKING: Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib finally delivers a logical explanation for stealing every necklace Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree owns. pic.twitter.com/0PBvpq0Sjy
— Drew Soicher (@DrewSoicher) November 28, 2017
Yeah, if what you do is try and punk out other players. You do it well, because now, both are suspended for a game.
Crabtree has no history of this type of behavior, Talib makes a living off of it. Yet they got the same punishment. Okay NFL. Nice consistency. Still, Crabtree deserves a game for his role in this. Some are angry with him – I am not. You cannot let that type of behavior happen repeatedly in any situation in life without checking someone.
Regardless, Amari Cooper was also lost in the Denver contest with a concussion and sprained ankle. He won’t go against the Giants, meaning for only the second time in their three years together Crabs and Coop will miss the same game.
Isaac Whitney, a big bodied talent, has been signed from the practice squad and Seth Roberts and Cordarrelle Patterson figure to see a lot more opportunities against the Giants. Ah…the Giants.
Watching the Eli Manning interview in front of his locker was sad and painful. This guy is the defitinion of humble and kind, always doing for his team, community, teammates and organization without question or complaint. Playing 210 straight games, nearly 14 seasons, clearly hurt or even injured at times but giving his all for his team.
It’s going to be interesting to see what Giants team comes out this weekend. If Ben McAdoo hadn’t lost the locker room before, how could he not have with this debacle? Geno Smith has actually played the Raiders well in his career – but he’s got few pieces around him to work with.
The Raiders should win this one going away and keep the pressure on KC and LA at the top. If the Raiders lose this game, they absolutely unequivocally, no matter how bad the AFC happens to be, do not deserve to be in the playoffs at all.
The Raiders play the Chiefs in Week 14, and the Chargers to close the season out. In between are tough tilts with the Cowboys and the NFL’s best team, the Eagles. If the Raiders win this game as they should, they will be back at .500 with four games left to play. In this AFC, 9-7 could do it.
They’re still in it, but if they can’t beat the dumpster fire of in-fighting and decision making that is the NY Giants, then they certainly don’t deserve to be. They need to show fight and dedication with a difficult schedule remaining.
4th Place – Denver Broncos (3-8)
Last Game – lost to Oakland Raiders (5-6) 21-14 in Oakland
Next Game – at Miami Dolphins (4-7) Sun, Dec 3, 10 am PST
The Broncos also travel across country for a 1 pm EST game. That’s all they need after losing yet another game, this time to the Raiders in the failed Paxton Lynch experiment.
Lynch doesn’t look like an NFL quarterback. He’s terrible. His decision making is slow, his willingness to run – which should be his strength – is nil, and his instincts for the game are lacking in every way.
He never seemed to be the smartest guy in the world, and that’s manifesting itself in his struggles in picking up the game. He’s physically gifted at 6’7, 235 and with speed and a solid arm. His head just doesn’t seem to match – whispers are that his effort and attitude don’t either.
It’s feasible to wonder if the Broncos could’ve won the Raiders game if Trevor Siemian, who came in and threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, had started. I don’t think so, as the Raiders game-plan would’ve been slightly different and the defense was playing well.
Still, the decision to switch from a struggling Siemian to an even worse Brock Osweiler to a completely inept Lynch definitely cost the Broncos any semblance of a positive season. Now there is speculation – very early mind you – of bringing in Eli after the New York shame. We shall see.
There isn’t much to say right now. Talib is a punk who has targeted Crabtree repeatedly, and Crabs decided not to take it anymore. That’s how you handle bullies, which Talib has been often not only on but off the field as well.
That’s really all the Broncos can hope for the rest of the year, to antagonize their opponents and entertain themselves. Because their putrid offense doesn’t entertain anyone else, and their defense has fallen off drastically the last few weeks.
Simply put, this is a bad team that made things worse with repeatedly bad decisions. Now it’s time to play out the string – unfortunately for the Raiders and Chargers, they host the Chiefs in Week 17.
Meaning a terrible Broncos team could hold the fate of the AFC West title in their hands. That just seems right this season, doesn’t it?