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Raiders once battled for AFC West supremacy, now just trying to stay out of cellar

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While the Chiefs have stayed atop the AFC West, the Raiders, who made a run at it are now fighting to stay relevant.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Last season the Raiders and the Chiefs were in a dead heat right up to final game of the season. Even with the Raiders getting swept in their season series with the Chiefs, they were still in line to win the division right up to the end.

Those hopes faded, of course, with the injury to Derek Carr. The Raiders would lose the season finale in Denver to finish with a 12-4 record. Then that sweep at the hands of the Chiefs came into play and they took the division.

What we saw was two teams that looked like they were shaping up to have another hard-fought battle for division supremacy in 2017.

The season started out as most expected. After two weeks, the Raiders and Chiefs were among the league’s unbeaten. Since then they’ve gone in opposite directions.

After five weeks the Chiefs are the league’s only remaining unbeaten team and unquestionably the best team in the NFL. The Raiders have lost three straight, have fallen below .500 and are scrambling to find the magic they once possessed.

The magic is all happening in Kansas City. The long labeled game manager Alex Smith has been on fire, throwing for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions and is third in the NFL with 1391 passing yards while completing an incredible 76.6% of his passes. He’s doing this despite the team letting go of Jeremy Maclin this offseason.

Smith has some help from rookie super star Kareem Hunt who leads the league with 609 rushing yards, giving them the league’s second ranked offense.

On the defensive side, Justin Houston is back to form with 5.5 sacks already this season and their 14.0 team sacks is 8th in the NFL right now.

Then you have the Raiders with the league’s 30th ranked offense, Derek Carr is 28th in yards per game (188.2), Marshawn Lynch is 25th in rushing (194), Amari Cooper is leading the league with 7 drops (!), Michael Crabtree is the team’s top receiver and he’s still 36th in the league in receiving yards (252).

They have the 23rd ranked defense, have just two defensive takeaways on force fumbles without a single interception, are 24th in the league with 10.0 sacks despite Khalil Mack with 4.0 sacks all by himself.

That team is heading into this weekend trying to keep from dropping to the bottom of the AFC West.

At 2-3 the Raiders will face the 1-4 Chargers coming off their first win of the season. The Chargers may have started the season 0-4, but were in most of those games late, including the first two coming down to their former Younghoe kicker (that’s really his name) missing a potential game-winning field goal.

All this means the Chargers are very capable of coming to Oakland and getting the win, and if they do, it would drop the Raiders to 2-4 and to the bottom of the division officially.

Derek Carr is expected back this week from his back injury. That’s good news for the Raiders, but Carr wasn’t playing well even before he left, so his return is no guarantee the Raiders will suddenly be dominant again. That was the case last season.

Might the Raiders have been able to take down the reeling Ravens last week had Carr been starting instead of EJ Manuel? We just don’t know. How they perform against the Chargers Sunday should help answer that question.

We know the Chiefs are the best team in the AFC West. They are looking like the best team in all of football. But what of the Raiders? How far have they fallen? Ahead of this Sunday’s battle for the bottom makes it official, let’s hear from you.


Which team is the worst in the AFC West?

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