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AFC West Third Quarter Grades: Kansas City is pulling away

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs: 8-4

Grade: B+

Through three quarters of the season, the Chiefs have all but clinched the AFC West. No, it’s not official yet, but Sunday’s dominant performance showed just how far the Chiefs sit ahead of the rest of the division right now.

They still are quite flawed for a Super Bowl contender, however. While this team puts up gaudy offensive stats, their run defense is almost non-existent. That will definitely catch up to them once playoffs roll around and they need to get through New England or Baltimore.

Key Stat: 8.8

That’s Patrick Mahomes’ average throw depth this year, per Sports Info Solutions. Average throw depth tells a lot about a quarterback’s willingness to take shots downfield, and Mahomes sits at No. 4 in the NFL in said metric.

Meanwhile, Derek Carr ranks ahead of only Teddy Bridgewater among QBs who have thrown at least 100 passes this year with a 6.2-yard average throw depth.

Best Moment: Dominating the Broncos after Mahomes went down

Despite how much the Chiefs success has been tied to Mahomes, their best moment of the season came after his dislocated knee injury in Week 7 against the Broncos.

Matt Moore came into the game and led the team to a 30-6 victory, utterly dominating Denver in all phases of the game. Kansas City’s defense had easily their best performance of the season, picking up a ridiculous 9 sacks.

Oakland Raiders: 6-6

Grade: C+

Who is this Raiders team? At 6-4 they looked to be nipping on Kansas City’s heels and seemed like a potential playoff team. The past two weeks, however, they’ve looked like a bottom-feeder.

Still, a 6-6 record looks pretty good after last year’s dreadful 4-12 showing. The Raiders could lose every game for the rest of this season and the year would still be considered somewhat successful.

Over the season’s final quarter, Jon Gruden needs to try to let Carr sling it a bit more to truly evaluate him. Of course, Gruden being a little less obvious about his play calls in certain formations might help.

Key Stat: 27

The Raiders are giving up 27 points per game this season. That’s a bottom 5 mark in the NFL that ranks only ahead of the Giants, Buccaneers, Cardinals, and Dolphins.

Among all of the bottom 15 teams in points allowed, only Seattle has a winning record. Expect the Raiders to go extremely defense-heavy in the upcoming draft. Check out a few players they might consider taking here.

Best Moment: The 97-yard drive that knocked off the Bears

After giving up a 17-point lead in the “Khalil Mack Game” in London, the Raiders took over with 7:49 remaining in the fourth quarter on their own 3-yard line.

They proceeded to go on a season-changing 13-play, 97-yard drive that took 5:52 off the clock and culminated in a 2-yard touchdown plunge from Josh Jacobs inside the two minute warning. Grabbing this win in London has gone a long way in changing the narrative about the Mack trade. A trade that the Raiders very clearly won at this point.

Denver Broncos: 4-8

Grade: C-

I don’t feel bad for the Broncos, but it’s almost hard not to. They’ve lost three games by a combined six points and four games by a combined 10 points. It seems like they’re a competent quarterback away from being a playoff team.

Good thing John Albert Elway is in charge of deciding who is at the helm of the offensive ship over in Denver. The Raiders matchup with Denver in Week 17 in what may well be their last ever game played under the Oakland moniker. I am in no way prepared for that. Hopefully the boys come out inspired.

Key Stat: 2

One of the only positives to come out of this Broncos season is the number two. As in the number of Broncos starting quarterbacks to earn wins in their debut.

With Drew Lock following Brandon Allen’s lead in winning his debut, the Broncos are the only team in NFL history to have two quarterbacks win their debuts in the same season.

Best Moment: Ending Marcus Mariota’s Titans tenure

Midway through a 16-0 defeat of the Titans in Week 6, the Titans benched Marcus Mariota and never looked back. The former No. 2 overall pick had struggled for years, but his 7-of-18, 63-yard, 2 interception performance was finally the last straw.

Mariota will likely be forced to find a job as a bridge quarterback next season for a team looking to groom a young draftee. Considering how much worse he’s looked than Ryan Tannehill, it’s wild to think about how Mariota would’ve fared with the Dolphins over the past few years.

Who would you rather have, Mariota or Jameis Winston?

Los Angeles Chargers: 4-8

Grade: D

This is team is legitimately thinking of starting Tyrod Taylor next game. That’s all that needs to be said.

Key Stat: 15

Philip Rivers has tossed 15 interceptions this season. That’s why the Chargers are considering starting Taylor.

Coming into the season, people thought the Chargers could be a darkhorse Super Bowl contender. Now, it looks like they might have a new head coach and starting quarterback in 2020.

Best Moment: Dean Spanos claps back

“We’re not going to London. We’re not going anywhere. We’re playing in Los Angeles. This is our home, and this is where we are planning to be for a long time. Period.”

The fact that Spanos legitimately thinks the Chargers are going to draw in fans in the Los Angeles area is wild. What’s his rationale? The fact that the population in Los Angeles county is extremely high? The Raiders own Los Angeles and have for decades. Hope he’s prepared for 16 away games every year until he finally comes to his senses.