AFC West midseason report: Raiders, Chiefs poised for runs

AFC West

The AFC West has been wildly inconsistent through nine weeks, but the division is trending up as we head into the season’s second half.

It took nine weeks, but the AFC West, expected to be perhaps the best division in the NFL this year, finally ran the table.

Yes, all four teams in the division won in Week 9, and all in impressive fashion. It sets up an interesting second half of the season.

But it also affords us a chance to deviate a bit from our typical weekly AFC West stock Watch with no teams pointing down after the week. We are going to take a look at what’s working and what’s not working for each AFC West team heading into the second half of the season:

Kansas City Chiefs, 6-3

What’s has worked this season: It’s been an odd season for the Chiefs. However, with seven games remaining, it can’t be considered a disappointing season for Kansas City that went 12-4 and earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs last year.

The Chiefs still are well-positioned to be in good shape in the AFC playoffs, although getting the home-field advantage again may be a stretch. However, MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes is poised to return after missing two-plus games (with a dislocated kneecap) and the Chiefs are 2-1 without him. The defense has improved and the team is getting healthier. Again, this been a good season in Kansas City, all considered.

What hasn’t worked this season: The Chiefs have lost three games at home. That is uncharacteristic and downright brutal. The defense took a while to adjust to new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system as well.

Oakland Raiders, 4-4

What’s has worked this season: The Oakland offense is much better in Year Two of Jon Gruden’s return. Quarterback Derek Carr has been pretty good. The offensive line is also much-improved. Carr has been sacked just nine times this season, which is the second-fewest times in the NFL. Last year, Carr was sacked 52 times.

Additionally, the Oakland running game is much better, led by NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Josh Jacobs. Tight end Darren Waller also has 48 catches and been a stalwart.

What hasn’t worked this season: The issues still start on defense. The team’s pass-rush and issues in the secondary persist. Oakland is still lacking impact play on defense, especially against quality quarterbacks. The Raiders have yet to prove they can compete with top competition.

Los Angeles Chargers, 4-5

What’s has worked this season: The Chargers’ 26-11 victory over the Green Bay Packers was, by far, their best moment of the season. It’s been another rough campaign, but there is enough talent on both sides of the ball that the Chargers are still in the mix. If they can win at Oakland on Thursday, it will be their third straight win and perhaps it will set up a strong stretch run for a team that went 12-4 last year. It helps that the team is getting healthier.

What hasn’t worked this season: The Chargers have dealt with what they often deal with – injuries and heartbreaking defeats. None was worse than a last-second defeat at Tennessee when the Chargers had two game-winning touchdowns reversed and then lost a fumble at the goal line. The Chargers have lost to lesser teams this season too often.

Denver Broncos, 3-6

What’s has worked this season: The Broncos have stayed somewhat competitive. They are not a good team, but there are a lot worse teams in the league than Denver. The Broncos are developing some good young players, including top draft picks Noah Fant (who played well in a Week 9 win over Cleveland) and guard Dalton Risner, who looks like a mainstay.

What hasn’t worked this season: The offense was lacking under quarterback Joe Flacco, who is now on the injured reserve list. He may have played his final game as a Bronco. Denver has blown a couple of games and it could have won. Incredibly, the Broncos could have a winning record with a couple of friendly bounces.

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