Kansas City Chiefs: 5-3
Patrick Mahomes going down with a dislocated knee during Thursday Night Football in Week 7, seemed like it could open the door for the Raiders to claw their way into the division champ conversation. But the Chiefs almost managed to beat Green Bay on Sunday night, and they might have Mahomes back before any of us expected. They’ve gone 1-3 in their last four, and if they can’t right the ship with games against the Vikings and Titans upcoming, we might have to rethink their place in the AFC.
Key Stat: 24
After initially being diagnosed with a 4-6 week knee dislocation, Patrick Mahomes is expected to be back Nov. 10 against Tennessee. That’s just 24 days post-injury and would mean that he’d only miss two starts. Considering how bad the injury looked at first, the Chiefs seem to be rushing their prized quarterback into action a bit too early. Though if the rest of the AFC West continues to play poorly, they could hold Mahomes off a little while longer.
Best Rookie: Mecole Hardman
When Kansas City drafted Hardman, most saw him as Tyreek Hill’s replacement. After all, Hill was mired in a domestic violence case that was expected to be the end of his Chief’s tenure. Instead, Hardman has simply been another dynamic toy for Andy Reid to scheme with. He’s on pace to finish with 40 catches for 748 yards and eight touchdowns on the season as the fourth option in the Chiefs offense.
Oakland Raiders: 3-4
Two tough losses to great teams shouldn’t shake the Raiders too much, but it does drop them from a ‘B’ to a ‘C’ grade. The good news is, the Silver and Black returns home to play in front of Raider Nation for the first time in six weeks. The bad news is, they’ve fallen behind the entire AFC South for the second wildcard playoff spot. The Lions will prove to be a tough task this weekend, but a win could catapult them toward a streak.
Key Stat: 8
The Raiders have only allowed eight sacks this season. *Drops mic*
That’s the second-lowest total in the NFL behind Pittsburgh’s seven. After giving up 52 last season, the offensive line has been one of the most improved units in the NFL. Kolton Miller’s added strength, the additions of Trent Brown and Richie Incognito, the steady play of the backups when Gabe Jackson and Rodney Hudson have gone down… It’s all adding up to propel this team to a No. 8 overall offensive DVOA. Jon Gruden has done well to get the ball out of Derek Carr’s hands quickly by giving him quick-hitting reads and limiting how long he must scan the field. The Raiders’ offensive line deserves much love for the limited sack totals, and Carr and Gruden deserve some too.
Best Rookie: Josh Jacobs, duh
Would you expect anything else? Jacobs is the highest graded overall running back this season, according to Pro Football Focus, posting a 90.8 grade, higher than MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey (88.8). The Raiders need to be careful not to overuse their workhorse back, as Jacobs has never been a bell-cow back and is dealing with a nagging shoulder injury.
Jacobs is a favorite for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award at this point, and it might be his to lose if he keeps up his performance. He’s on pace for 1,417 rushing yards and over nine touchdowns through seven weeks.
Los Angeles Chargers: 3-5
The Chargers haven’t lost a game by more than 7 points, yet their season feels like it’s in shambles. They just fired Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt after one of the most underwhelming wins you’ll ever see. The 23 remaining Charger fans were really on the edge of their seat when Eddy Pineiro missed a potential game-winning 41-yard field goal. The Chargers have injured starters than any other team in the NFL, but there are no excuses in the “next man up” NFL.
Key Stat: 2.5
Don’t laugh. Melvin Gordon is averaging 2.5 yards per carry. Okay, I lied, you can laugh.
Imagine holding out for a new deal and coming back to make your team worse? Any time Austin Ekeler comes off the field, defenses rejoice to know that the Chargers are probably pounding it between the tackles for a two-yard gain with Gordon. They reportedly tried to trade Gordon at the deadline but found no takers. Even Arizona would have likely preferred Kenyan Drake (whom they got for a sixth-rounder) to Gordon.
Perhaps next year, Gordon will work his tail off and find his previous form. Otherwise, his holdout will be a cautionary tale for years to come.
Best Rookie: Roderic Teamer
This is a major indictment of the Chargers rookie class as a whole. Undrafted out of Tulane, Teamer has become a starter due to the barrage of injuries the team has faced. It would help if they got any sort of production from the first-round pick Jerry Tillery (35.6 PFF grade), while second-rounder Nasir Adderley was underwhelming in limited time and wound up on IR with a hamstring issue.
Teamer has notched 39 total tackles with one sack and one interception — pretty solid numbers for an undrafted rookie.
Denver Broncos: 2-6
Joe Flacco said it all, didn’t he?
“We’re now a 2-6 football team, and we’re afraid to go for it in a two-minute drill… I just felt like, what do we have to lose? Why can’t we be aggressive in some of these situations?”
Fair point, Joe. He will likely be making many more points like that from a CBS Sports booth next season. After making those comments bashing the tepid nature of Vic Fangio’s coaching choices, the Broncos reported that Flacco suffered a mysterious neck injury. Considering that Drew Lock is hurt and the Broncos will be starting Brandon Allen (?!?!) for the foreseeable future, it seems like this team is in full tank mode.
Key Stat: 19
Who is Elijah Wilkinson and why is he starting for the Broncos at right tackle? Well, he’s a third-year pro who went undrafted out of the University of Massachusetts, who has started in six games for Denver this season.
He ranks No. 2 in the league in Sports Info Solutions’ Blown Blocks list, behind only Dolphin’s OG Michael Deiter. Blown blocks are considered as egregiously poor blocking attempts that result in a negative play or major disruption to a blocker’s offense. That means that on 19 different occasions, Wilkinson’s poor blocking has resulted in negative plays for his team. Pair that with Ronald Leary’s league-leading five offensive holding calls, and you start to understand why this Broncos offense is so dismal.
Best Rookie: Dalton Risner
As stated above, the Broncos offensive line is abysmal, but Risner is actually pretty damn good. The rookie second-rounder out of Kansas State has been the lone bright spot for a team that has given up 27 sacks on the year.
Risner has garnered a 66.1 PFF grade, good for No. 21 out of all qualifying offensive guards. His numbers against the pass are even higher (74.5 grade), and he looks like a potential building block for a unit that has struggled mightily for years.