A weekly update on the Oakland Raiders and the rest of the AFC West.
And then there were three. As in, three teams tied atop the tangled and mangled AFC West. A recurring theme for the past six weeks but again – who could’ve saw this coming?
The Chiefs are no longer dominant – it’s debatable as to whether they’re even good right now. The Raiders are showing improvement on defense and in the running game. The Chargers are surging on both sides of the ball, albeit against lower-tier competition.
With the Raiders visiting the Chiefs this weekend, the Chargers visiting them in Week 15 and the Raiders closing the season in Los Angeles, things are going to get very interesting over the next four weeks.
The Broncos? I think they’ve been destroyed after being deemed no longer viable to run.
1st Place (tie) – Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)
Last Game – lost at NY Jets (5-7) 38-31
Next Game – home to Oakland Raiders (6-6), Sun Dec 10, 10 am EST
And the Chiefs just keep losing. By virtue of tie-breakers at the moment they are the defacto first place team, but they aren’t playing like one.
Kareem Hunt has fallen off the Earth. But Andy Reid has given him a hefty push. Although the Chiefs offense got back on track on Sunday, they still lost. Because it was all Alex Smith. He played well, but, and check his entire career history if you don’t believe me – he CANNOT WIN GAMES BY HIMSELF! Yes, even when he throws 350+ and 4 TDs. He needs help.
Despite their third-down back, Charcandrick West, being out of the game and Hunt seeing increased snaps, the dynamic rookie still carried the ball a mere 9 times and had twelve total touches. His usage trend has become downright baffling.
The Chiefs, as they’re wont to do, got cute on a crucial 3rd & 1 play with a PA fake toss to an eligible tackle. What? This was while they had the lead, and could kill some clock. Like Travis Kelce’s ill-fated interception – just poorly timed and bad coaching.
Andy Reid is a great coach most of the time but he’s been outsmarting himself a lot in trying to turn this season back around. Like that play. Or Kelce’s. Or using Akeem Hunt and West in place of Hunt – not throwing him the ball out of the backfield. Until Sunday, ignoring Tyreek Hill downfield. Trying trick plays at ill-fated junctures.
Is it the playoffs already? Reid doesn’t usually pull these shenanigans until then. It is December though, I suppose.
Now the Chiefs host a Raider team that is steadily improving on defense and getting a running game going. Derek Carr torched the Chiefs for 417 passing yards and 3 TDs in their last matchup. Though he may be without Amari Cooper, the Chiefs will definitely be without Marcus Peters.
Peters was suspended by Reid for this week’s game after his unbelievably childish behavior at the end of last week’s meltdown against the Jets.
Marcus Peters fed tf up 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/WxgyF75r29
— Football Is Life (@FootbaIl_Tweets) December 3, 2017
I’d be fed up too if I gave the other team eight plays within my five-yard line due to penalty. Yikes. At least he won’t be on the field to get in another fight and get Beast Mode suspended again.
The game on Sunday is going to be hard-fought. The Chiefs are desperate. The Raiders are as well. These teams hate each other. Division on the line. December football – it’s fantastic.
1st Place (tie) – Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)
Last Game – defeated Cleveland Browns (0-12) 19-10 at home
Next Game – at home to Washington Redskins (4-7), Sun Dec 10, 1:25 PST
The Chargers, on the other hand, have won 6 of 8 and are surging at the right time. Still.
For weeks the Chiefs have been trending down and the Chargers trending up, so their meeting at the top was inevitable.
The Chargers play the Chiefs next week, and then host the Raiders to close out the season. With a loss to KC already and a win over the Raiders, the Chargers realistically control their own destiny here. Beat both the Chiefs and the Raiders, and the division is theirs.
Of course this is Corky Rivers and the Sunshine Gang, so things rarely go as they should. But they are, as I said, trending in the right direction.
Joey Bosa is coming on and making a case for defensive player of the year along Bobby Wagner. Melvin Ingram, his bookend buddy, is no slouch either. Bosa has three games (of 12) without a sack this season – he has nine sacks in his last seven games.
Not content to just rush the passer, he also has a combined 64 tackles. He’s vastly improved as an overall edge defender and the team is reaping the rewards.
The pass rush allows lockdown corner Casey Heyward and his back-end crew to do their thing – the Chargers haven’t allowed a 100+ yard receiver all season.
Combine this with a rejuvenated Corky, a newly trusted Hunter Henry, a healthy Keenan Allen and a rushing attack that is suddenly multi-dimensional and you have a team on fire and extremely dangerous moving into December.
The Chargers handled the Browns at home last week, and now get slumping Washington coming to town. Kirk Cousins has been sacked eight times his past two games, and the Washington o-line is decimated. Bosa and Ingram should feast and force Cousins into a negative game-script – expect a couple of picks.
If Washington can score early and put pressure on the Chargers they’ve got a chance. But if the Chargers get up early and can batten down the hatches and come after Cousins in full, it’ll be a long day for Washington.
1st Place (tie) – Oakland Raiders (6-6)
Last Game – defeated NY Giants (2-10) 24-17 in Oakland
Next Game – at KC Chiefs (6-6), Sun Dec 10, 10:00 am PST
It wasn’t pretty, but the Raiders took care of business against the dysfunctional Giants.
It was strange, and sad, to watch this game and see Eli Manning on the sidelines, a man who’s record and long-standing respect taken by his coach, who was a dead man walking anyway.
Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese were fired on Tuesday – so yeah, good job McAdoo. Your legacy is being the coach who, probably knowing he was out the door, sat Eli Manning down during an epic streak. Well done.
Playing without their top two receivers, the Raiders instead leaned on Marshawn Lynch and it was a wise move. He busted out an explosive 51-yard TD in the first quarter, and used his Beast Mode-ness to wear down the Giants in the fourth quarter as is his MO.
However, Carr still managed to put up a quietly good day despite missing his main weapons. Clive Walford was dusted off and brought out to play after Jared Cook was hurt early. He responded with 4 catches for 57 yards.
Cordarrelle Patterson made another big play on a sweet little screen. As @GipsySafety pointed out, this play works:
Did this play look familiar? pic.twitter.com/KJpdjDcfhq
— GipsySafety (@GipsySafety) December 6, 2017
Patterson was also is usual dynamic self on special teams, downing a punt deep in Giants territory and making a key shoestring tackle on another. The man is versatile and needs to stay on the field even with Crabs coming back and possibly Coop.
Coop is still dealing with his ankle injury – his concussion is cleared. He is officially questionable for Sunday’s game, and the Raiders could really use him. Coop hasn’t had his greatest season and has struggled with drops, but in Week 7 he torched the Chiefs for 11 catches, 210 yards and 2 TDs.
That’s tough to expect Sunday, but if Cooper can go he at least serves as a formidable decoy for the offense.
After the New England debacle in Week 11, DC Ken Norton Jr. was fired and John Pagano promoted. In the past two games with Pagano at the helm, the Raiders have eight sacks and three forced fumbles. They have an interception. They’ve made some plays.
Granted they played anemic offenses in the Broncos and Giants – with the resurgence of the downfield passing game last week don’t expect that against the Chiefs. This could and should be another shootout – but the Raiders defense is more equipped to handle it than previously.
Khalil Mack is looking like his old self again, with two sacks in two games and a beautiful and savage strip sack of Geno Smith last week:
Khalil Mack just casually ripped the ball away from Geno Smith. pic.twitter.com/qiv4mpZOPJ
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) December 3, 2017
This came at an ideal time, after the Raiders had fumbled away the ball and gave the Giants a scoring opportunity late in the first half.
Bruce Irvin and Denico Autry each have 3 sacks in the past two games. Irvin is playing inspired football recently, with eight tackles and a sack against the Giants and three tackles and two sacks against the Broncos.
Irvin was upset when Norton was fired, Tweeted out his anger and skipped practice. Yet he’s played his best two games as a Raider since it happened, showing he’s not only a professional but a man who makes a huge difference when he’s playing well.
He’s also a really, really good dude:
For his work in the community and impact off the field, @BIrvin_WVU11 has been named our nominee for the Walter Payton Man Of The Year award.
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) December 8, 2017
Autry will be key against the Chiefs. Often overlooked by non-Raider fans, Autry is a complete lineman who just makes plays. He doesn’t just sack the QB though that is his strength:
#Raiders DI Denico Autry has surpassed MEJ in total pressures (22) and pass-rush productivity (6.9) to lead OAK's interior defensive line.
— Austin Gayle (@AustinGayle_PFF) December 4, 2017
He stuffs the run too. And he’s easily the best Raider lineman – and one of the best in the NFL, quietly – at batting down passes at the line. He’s got five passes defensed this season – the Raiders leading DBs Dexter McDonald and TJ Carrie each have – five.
Autry was back at practice in full on Friday, with a wrapped left hand but says he’s good to go Sunday. He is listed as questionable, which is a little iffy. The Raiders need him and his versatility to keep Alex Smith in check.
Irvin needs to chip and smash Travis Kelce like he did in the first meeting and rattle him. Kelce is a million-dollar player with a ten-cent head, so that’s not so hard to do. Take him out of his comfort zone and make him frustrated, and you’ve got him.
The Chiefs are missing some significant pieces. Peters out. LB Dee Ford is out. Safety Eric Murray is out. Lineman Tamba Hali and Allen Bailey are questionable, with Hali likely out.
The Raiders are banged-up but collectively far healthier than the Chiefs. If Cooper can go, the worries are mostly defensive. Autry’s hand, as well as David Amerson’s foot (questionable) and Cory James’ knee (doubtful) are concerning. James, in particular, is playing well this season. Bowman mitigates his loss.
Backup lineman Jon Feliciano is out, and Jihad Ward (who is a healthy scratch 95% of the time) is also doubtful.
This is the biggest game of the season thus far. Early on it was unfathomable this game would mean anything – now, at this juncture, it means everything. It is imperative for the Raiders to concentrate on stopping Kareem Hunt and the downfield passing game. Make Alex Smith beat you with intermediate throws, and it’s unlikely to happen.
4th Place – Denver Broncos (3-9)
Last Game – lost at Miami Dolphins (5-7) 35-9
Next Game – home to NY Jets (5-7) Sun Dec 10, 1:05 PST
The Broncos. What to say, really? I mean the Paxton Lynch experiment failed miserably, and is likely over.
Trevor Siemian plays well at times – and against the Raiders – but he really just sucks, ultimately.
Brock Osweiler didn’t play even with Lynch’s injury and Siemian throwing three picks. ‘Nuff said.
This team is a mess right now. The scariest thing about them are John Elway’s giant horse teeth. I wouldn’t want to be in that building right now, because he’s looking to sink them into someone to deflect blame from his horrible mismanagement of his former position.
The Broncos defense has quit. The offense mustered 9 points against the DOLPHINS folks. The defense, about four weeks ago, looked at the QB and running game situation and said yeah, we’re out.
The only thing about the Broncos that matters is that they play the Chiefs in Week 17. So despite being terrible – possibly the worst team in the NFL over the past six weeks – for a long stretch, they may still, through ironic schedule-making, hold a key role in determining the AFC West champion.
That’s just downright wretched for Raiders and Chargers fans. Of course, with a rivalry game and the Chiefs playing poorly lately anything could happen. But I mean – the Broncos are absolutely awful.
There isn’t much to say right now – I mean, the Broncos may as well tank the rest of the season and get a better draft pick. Will they? Who knows? It sure looks like they began the process against Miami last week.
Either way 2017 is over for this team. It’s just unfortunate they will likely affect the playoff race. But, that happens. Heck, if the Jets beat them on Sunday the Jets are suddenly right back in the race.
Unfortunately the Raiders don’t play them again.
Things are going to get very, very interesting over the next four weeks. When the dust settles, one of these teams will be AFC West champion. All teams have 6-6 records and four games left – it’s likely 9-7 does it. With games against the Chiefs and the Chargers remaining, the Raiders can control their fate.
With games against the Raiders and Chiefs remaining, the Chargers can control their fate.
Honestly right now it looks like it’s coming down to Week 17 and Raiders @ Chargers, with Broncos @ Chiefs in the mix. Stressful, last-second, intense.
Just the way it should be.