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State of the AFC West after Week 12: Broncos keep their playoff hopes alive with thrilling win against Steelers

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos kept their playoff hopes alive with a thrilling victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chargers kept their division championship hopes alive with a complete beatdown of the Cardinals, and the Raiders kept their 1st overall draft pick possibilities alive with a competitive loss to the Ravens. The Chiefs watched it all from the couch because it was their bye week, but they’ll be eager to show they are still top dogs in the division with their match-up in Week 13 against the cellar dwelling Silver and Black.


Chiefs 9-2 (DIV 3-0)

Chargers 8-3 (DIV 2-2)

Broncos 5-6 (DIV 2-2)

Raiders 2-9 (DIV 0-3)

How we got here:

Denver Broncos defeated Pittsburgh Steelers 24-17:

The game between the Broncos and Steelers was actually the highlight game of Week 12, it wasn’t decided until the Broncos managed to pick off Ben Roethlisberger in the endzone in the final minute of the game. The two teams matched each other’s production tit for tat in the first quarter with the Broncos getting a field goal first, then the Steelers kicking a field goal, then a touchdown by Denver that the Steelers matched afterwards as well for a 10-10 tie at half time.

The 2nd half started with both teams punting on their first possessions, and the Broncos made a great special teams play to down their punt at the 3 yard line. That didn’t stop Pittsburgh from having a one play scoring drive though. Roethlisberger completed a perfectly thrown deep ball while being knocked to the ground in his own endzone to JuJu Smith-Schuster who proceeded to outrun two Broncos defenders on his way to a 97 yard touchdown.

That huge play gave the Steelers the lead 17-10 and could have completely demoralized the Broncos, but they came roaring back a couple of drives later after their defense came up with a big interception. After the turnover it was former Steeler Emanual Sanders turn to show off his own formidable skills, he was the star of the two play scoring drive by making a spectacular sideline catch followed by a sliding touchdown catch to tie the game at 17.

The Broncos then had another huge turnover a couple of drives later when they forced a fumble from Pittsburgh’s new star running back John Conner which they recovered at their own 21. They then proceeded to have a clutch 11 play, almost 6 minute drive in the 4th quarter to take the lead on rookie of the year candidate Phillip Lindsay’s 2 yard touchdown run.

The two teams traded punts on their next two drives before the Steelers had their last ditch effort stall in the endzone with that game sealing interception. They had put together a 10 play, 54 yard drive but that didn’t matter when Roethlisberger tried to hit Antonio Brown to tie the game in the final seconds only to have former Raiders DL Shelby Harris get his hands up and intercept the ball at the line for the Denver win.

Broncos next opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

Los Angeles Chargers defeated Arizona Cardinals 45-10:

Any time your QB breaks the record for most completions to start a game, chances are your team did pretty well. In this case, Philip Rivers set the record with 25 straight completions to start the game and his Chargers did really well. Like 45 unanswered points well.

For those of you doing the math in your head, yes that means the Cardinals actually started out ahead 10-0 before being absolutely throttled by the Chargers 45-10. That’s the way to lose with conviction Cardinals! Nobody is stealing your 1st overall pick if you continue with massively horrible performances like this one. Go you. No seriously, Go. You suck. That’s coming from a Raiders fan.

The only downside in this one for the Chargers was that despite leading 28-10 in the 3rd quarter they continued to use star RB Melvin Gordon who eventually left the game with a MCL injury that has him sidelined in their big match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers next. Gordon had come into the game injured but played anyway, once the game was thoroughly in the Chargers hands they probably should have voluntarily shortened Gordon’s game instead of being forced to after he somewhat seriously injured himself.

As for their other star, Philip Rivers only missed one pass in the whole game with him going 28 of 29 passing for 259 yards and 3 touchdowns. Combine that with their 3 running touchdowns (2 from Melvin Gordon, 1 from Austin Ekeler) and you can see how the game got out of hand in a hurry. They also added a field goal with just over 3 minutes left in the game to finish off the Cardinals because their 42-10 lead needed the cherry on top I guess.

Chargers next opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers

Oakland Raiders defeated by Baltimore Ravens 34-17

The Raiders actually put up a lot better fight than the final score would have you believe. They even started out with the lead after their opening drive went 81 yards in 12 plays and ended in the endzone with a Doug Martin touchdown run. The play was inexplicably called a fumble at first, but the replay showed that Martin was clearly over the goal line before he had the ball ripped from his grasps.

In fact, Oakland actually led 10-3 after the two teams traded field goals in the first half as well. Unfortunately for them that lead didn’t last long though because the Ravens got a punt return for a touchdown (thanks to a bullshit no call on a blatant hold) and a field goal to go into half time with a 3 point lead.

After the half the Ravens came out the gates swinging with a 13 play, 75 yard touchdown drive but the Raiders were able to respond to that one with a 6 play, 75 yard touchdown drive of their own. It was the next drive after that which was the real killer though, Baltimore went 71 yards with a whopping 17 plays in nearly 9 minutes to retake their 10 point lead and never look back. They’d add one more touchdown after that demoralizing drive on a Derek Carr fumble that Terrell Suggs returned for a touchdown.

The 2nd half had the Ravens completely change their strategy and dominate the Raiders using almost entirely running plays. They imposed their will on the Oakland defense and there was nothing the Raiders could do to stop them. It was actually a very competitive game until that shift in strategy by Baltimore, but the Ravens dominant running game was too much for Oakland to handle in the end.

Raiders next opponent: Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs were on bye in Week 12

Chiefs next opponent: Oakland Raiders