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State of the AFC West after Week 14: Chiefs clinch playoff spot, Broncos playoff chances take major hit

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NFL: Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It was another strong week for the AFC West with both the Chargers and Chiefs continuing their winning ways in their respective match-ups along with the upset win for the Raiders. The lone team to lose this week was the Denver Broncos who were upset by the San Francisco 49ers, a crushing blow to their playoff chances after battling back to .500 last season.


Kansas City Chiefs 11-2 (DIV 4-0)

Los Angeles Chargers 10-3 (DIV 2-2)

Denver Broncos 6-7 (DIV 2-2)

Oakland Raiders 3-10 (DIV 0-4)

How we got here:

Kansas City Chiefs beat Baltimore Ravens 27-24 (OT):

The legend of Patrick Mahomes continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Forget leading the Chiefs to the game tying touchdown on a 4th and goal in the final minute of regulation, or his solid play on the game winning field goal drive in overtime. No, the play that everyone will remember from Mahomes was this no look, 17 yard pass:

I mean, are you freaking kidding me? Anyway, the Chiefs actually had an opportunity to end this game in regulation when Justin Houston strip sacked Lamar Jackson and recovered the fumble at the Baltimore 23 but they ended up missing the 43 yard field goal wide right. It didn’t end up mattering thanks to an 11 play, 58 yard drive in overtime to set up what ended up being the game winning 35 yard field goal.

The Ravens had one chance to respond because that field goal was on the opening drive of overtime, but Lamar Jackson got injured and they had to bring in Robert Griffin III for the final 2 plays of the game before turning the ball over on downs. The victory clinched a playoff berth for the Chiefs and also gives them a chance to clinch the AFC West, along with a first round bye with a win this Sunday against the Chargers. A win and a Patriots loss or tie and they will clinch the top seed in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Next Opponent: Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers beat Cincinnati Bengals 26-21:

The only reason the Chiefs haven’t already clinched the AFC West is because the Chargers are continuing to win right along with them. They are just 1 game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West right now and have the chance to make that up this Sunday with their huge match-up in Kansas City. It’s an uphill battle even after that though because the Chiefs would still hold the tiebreaker over the Chargers because of having the better division record.

None of that would have been likely to matter anyway if the Chargers hadn’t been able to beat the Cincinnati Bengals this past Sunday. Los Angeles actually started out this game with a 14-3 lead but the Bengals made it interesting by scoring a touchdown with 1:54 left in the 4th quarter but they couldn’t convert the 2 point conversion to tie the game. It likely wouldn’t have mattered anyway because the Chargers were able to get tack on one more field goal in the final minute anyway.

The Chargers offense wasn’t their normal high powered self as their star running back Melvin Gordon is still out with his MCL injury. Philip Rivers wasn’t as productive as normal completing 19 of 29 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown but he did get some help on the ground from Gordon’s replacement Austin Ekeler’s 15 carries for 66 yards and TD. The real star was actually Chargers kicker Michael Badgley’s 4-4 on field goals including a 59 yarder.

Next Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs

Denver Broncos lost to San Francisco 49ers 20-14:

This game was one of three big upsets of the week with all three 2-10 teams (49ers, Cardinals, Raiders) winning this week. The Broncos had been on a hot streak with 3 straight wins to claw their way back to .500 only to get bested by one of the bottom 3 teams in the league this season. It’s a huge hit to their playoff chances with there being 4 teams that are ahead of them at 7-6 and the Chargers at 10-3 in the AFC wildcard hunt.

The 49ers actually got all 20 of their points in the first half after jumping out to a 20-0 lead before the Broncos closed the gap with 2 2nd half touchdowns. The 2nd of those touchdowns came with 3:58 left in the game but the 49ers ran out the remaining clock with a 10 play drive to finish out their win. It was another impressive game for 49ers back up QB Nick Mullens who completed 20 of 33 passes for 332 yards and 2 touchdowns.

It was not a good game for the Broncos QB Case Keenum on the other hand, he finished with just 186 yards despite 42 passing attempts. He completed 24 of those throws for the 186 yards and 1 TD, but he the Broncos normally stellar running game was not much help for Keenum either. Rookie of year candidate Phillip Lindsay finished with just 30 yards (and a touchdown) on his 14 carries, an unusually small output for their talented back.

Next Opponent: Cleveland Browns

Oakland Raiders beat Pittsburgh Steelers 24-21:

As already mentioned, all three 2-10 teams won which included the Oakland Raiders. They got the surprising victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the last regular season game these two will play in Oakland. The Raiders got a great outing from Derek Carr who went 25 of 34 passing for 322 yards and 2 touchdowns and again did not throw an interception.

They also got extremely lucky on two parts; Ben Roethlisberger spent an inexplicably long time on the sideline before returning from a rib injury and the other was that Steelers kicker Chris Bowell missed both field goal attempts including the chance to tie when he slipped and fell on the kick. Roethlisberger still finished 25 of 29 passing for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns despite missing almost the entire 2nd half so it was huge not to have to face him all game.

Still, it was a great victory for the Raiders and their first against a winning team. They couldn’t have done it without star TE Jared Cook who finished the game with 7 catches for 116 yards. Cook didn’t have any touchdowns in those 7 catches, but each of his fellow TE’s Derek Carrier and Lee Smith had touchdown catches thanks to the attention being on Cook in the red zone.

Next Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals