The Broncos have won back-to-back games with rookie quarterback Drew Lock starting. He won his first start on the road last Sunday by beating the Texans and Lock hopes to take that experience with him as the team travels once again – this time to take on a much tougher opponent in the Chiefs.
Kansas City has already won the division, and the rest of the AFC West does not look like they’ll be representing in the postseason. Sure, there are scenarios for every team in the division to make the playoffs, but realistic expectations have to be considered.
Simply put, the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders aren’t going anywhere in 2019. So in a way, we look ahead to 2020 during these final few games to see if any momentum can be gained on the rest of the division.
Let’s take a spin around the AFC West to see what the competition is up to.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have not lost to the Broncos in Arrowhead Stadium in a long, long time. In fact, in the month of December, the Broncos have a 3-17 record against the Chiefs in their house. Lock wants to be the first quarterback since Peyton Manning in 2015 to beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead.
In order for the team to win, they’ll have to slow down one of the league’s best offensive units and a superstar quarterback in Patrick Mahomes. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid put any doubts about Mahomes to rest earlier in the week during a conference call with us in the Broncos media.
Mahomes has a hand injury and has been somewhat limited in practice. “He can still throw, and it’s getting better,” Reid said. “So that’s the important thing.”
Earlier this year, the Broncos lost to the Chiefs, hammered by a score of 30-6. However, Mahomes was knocked out of the game in the first half by a knee injury suffered on a quarterback sneak. The Chiefs were able to get after a Broncos defense that was healthier and they did it with backup quarterback Matt Moore. Slowing down Mahomes is going to be much more difficult. Things have been great with Lock at quarterback over the last two games, but this contest may turn out much differently.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are notorious for surging late in the year – and sometimes that gets them into the postseason. They’re doing it again in 2019, but the playoffs are not in their future. It’s too little, too late for the team that plays 16 road games.
They have the same record as the Broncos (5-8), but are at the bottom of the division after getting swept by Denver. The Chargers are coming off a big win against the Jaguars, where they scored 45 points while holding Jacksonville to just 10 points. The offense seems to be finding a groove, but it might just be a last “hurrah” for quarterback Philip Rivers.
In the final year of his contract, Rivers is not playing at a high level. His interceptions are up (15) more than during the last two years. Set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2020, Rivers may be playing his final few games with the Chargers.
Perhaps over these next three games (two at home, one on the road), we could see the team turn things over to backup Tyrod Taylor. It wasn’t that long ago that Taylor was doing some Lamar Jackson-like things for the Bills. Perhaps the Chargers will take a look at revamping their offense like the Ravens did so they can compete with Taylor (who is under contract through 2020) as their starter.
The Raiders play their final home game in Oakland on Sunday. They are going to play a meaningless game against the Jaguars in terms of the standings, but it means a lot to fans that have been rooted in silver and black.
This marks the end to the Raiders second stint in Oakland. They played in Oakland from 1960-81 before moving to Los Angeles for the 1982-94 seasons. Since 1995, the Raiders have been back in Oakland and their stadium, while embarrassing with the top level tarped off and the baseball diamond remaining on the field, has been a wild place to play.
They are more than likely going to be very fired up to play in Oakland for the final time. The Jaguars are struggling to find their way after benching Nick Foles and going back to rookie Gardner Minshew. The Raiders mean a lot to the city of Oakland, and that crowd should be rowdier than ever before.
Next year, the Raiders move to their new $2 billion stadium in Las Vegas. While everyone will love to travel to Vegas to see their teams play, fans in Oakland will find the new location bitter sweet.
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