Breaking Down The AFC West Playoff Race
The Kansas City Chiefs are back in first place in the AFC West but the division race is all but decided.
With 6 games to go, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are just a game behind the Chiefs and the Denver Broncos, though likely out of the running, will relish in playing spoiler the rest of the way.
Technically the Chiefs control their own destiny. They are in first place with a one game lead and 3 of their last 6 games are against the division. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they are currently 1-2 against the AFC West.
Looking at the standings these days brings very uncomfortable memories. It is hard not to think about KC’s losses to the Raiders and Texans. Had the Chiefs managed to close the deal in those games, they’d be 8-2 and would pretty much have the division locked up.
What makes the remaining schedule so intimidating for the Chiefs isn’t that their opponents are vastly superior. The Chiefs have played well enough to beat any of the 6 remaining teams on their schedule. No, what is most frightening isn’t the last 6 games for the Chiefs but the last 6 games for the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers have officially caught the Chiefs. At one game back, the two teams may as well be tied and San Diego is playing so well right now that if they somehow manage to get by the Indianapolis Colts this weekend, there is a very real chance that they could run the table.
Let’s take a look at the remaining games for each AFC West team and see if we can’t throw a little clarity on the final stretch of games.
San Diego Chargers (5-5)
This is a really favorable schedule for the Chargers. After their game at Indi this week, they get 3 straight home games.
In my opinion, the next three games for the Chargers will decide the division. If they fall to the Colts, the Chiefs will have an excellent chance to finish them off when they go to San Diego. I figure they’ll beat the Raiders at home, which would make them 6-6 when the Chiefs come to town. If KC can take them down, it would all but finish them off. If not, I can see the Chargers easily winning their last 3 against the 49ers, Bengals and Broncos. Sure there is always the chance that SD shoots themselves in the foot like they did multiple times early in the season but don’t count on it.
I think the worst they finish is 9-7 but they won’t do better than 10-6.
Denver Broncos (3-7)
I said after the Broncos aired it out on the Chiefs that they likely wouldn’t be able to get away with that type of game plan again. I felt the Broncos had made some major changes over the bye week and that their goal was to shell shock the Chiefs and get up on KC before the defense could make the proper adjustments. It worked like a charm but I figured once the element of surprise was gone, teams would be able to guard against that attack fairly well.
It looks like I was right. The Broncos came out and tried the same strategy on the Chargers last night. It worked on their first drive but it was obvious San Diego was expecting that type of attack because they quickly made adjustments and pretty much shut down the Broncos the rest of the way.
I think Josh McDaniels is a pretty talented offensive mind but he is a terrible head coach and talent evaluator.
Stick a fork in the Broncos in the AFC West because they’re done.
I worry about them coming to Arrowhead and once again testing our secondary but I think the Chiefs coaches will be ready for them this time. I just don’t see McDaniels getting the best of Romeo Crennel twice.
Oakland Raiders (5-5)
I like the Raiders’ heart but they’ve got no chance to win the division. Their schedule is too tough, their head coach is an idiot and they are starting the wrong QB. I think they’ll beat the Dolphins but lose to the Chargers and Colts and probably the Chiefs in the season finale. The Jaguars on the road is no gimme either but I think they pull it out on the strength of their running game. The Broncos game is a toss up but I’ll give the Raiders the edge.
They are improved but I think 8-8 is the best they’ll do.
Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)
It isn’t a daunting schedule for the Chiefs at first glance but it is deceptively difficult.
For starters, KC has not played well on the road and they will face veteran QB’s when they play the Seahawks and Chargers. The Broncos are just a terrible matchup for the Chiefs defense. I am counting on Romeo Crennel and the home field advantage to get the Chiefs by here but the butt kicking the Broncos gave KC is still fresh in my mind. The Titans are also going to be a tough game. They have a very physical defense and with Vince Young done for the season, KC will likely face veteran QB Kerry Collins who is no slouch.
In my estimation the Chiefs can lose no more than 2 of their next 6 but here is the catch: they have to beat the Chargers in San Diego.
I said earlier I think the Chargers will finish 10-6, probably losing to the Colts this weekend and then running the table. If they do that, they will finish with a 4-2 record in the AFC West.
If the Chiefs finish 10-6 and say, lose to the Chargers and the Titans, they will finish with a 3-3 AFC West record.
That means the Chargers would win the division in a tie breaker.
There are many, many scenarios in which the Chiefs could make the playoffs but their path to the AFC West Championship is very clear.
1. Go 5-1 the rest of the way.
2. Go 4-2 the rest of the way but sweep the last 3 AFC West games.
3. Go 4-2 the rest of the way, hope the Chargers stumble twice.
4. Win out.
That is pretty much it. Of all those choices, #2 and #3 are probably the most likely outcomes. Either way, it is very unlikely the Chiefs win the division at 9-7 and if they want to win it at 10-6, they are either going to have to beat the Chargers on the road or hope San Diego screws up.
What do you think, Addicts? Which of the above playoff scenarios do you think is the most likely to occur? Or do you have one of your own?