AFC West stock watch: Raiders to playoffs?

AFC West

The Oakland Raiders need four results to go their way on Sunday, but playoff dreams for Jon Gruden’s outfit remain real in Week 17.

Maybe, just maybe, the AFC West will have two playoffs teams for the second straight season.
But the Oakland Raiders need a ton of help. But as we head to the final week of the regular season, the AFC West is pointing upward.

The Kansas City Chiefs showed, again they are a legitimate Super Bowl threat with another dominant defensive performance. The Raiders remarkably stayed alive in the playoff hunt and the Denver Broncos continued to get hope for the future. Meanwhile, the Chargers continue to be a complete 2019 bust after winning 12 games last season.

Let’s look at the risers and fallers of the AFC West heading into Week 17:

Risers

Chiefs’ defense: We always think of the Chiefs as an offense-first outfit. With defending NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, speedy receiver Tyreek Hill and mastermind coach Andy Reid, it’s no secret why. But if the Chiefs have a chance to win their first Super Bowl trophy in 50 years, and they do, it’s because the defense is playing at a high level. The Chiefs haven’t allowed a touchdowns in their last 19 defensive series. They’ve allowed just 31 points in the past four games. This defense is playing incredible football.

Raiders’ playoff dreams: The mighty Jon Gruden’s are more than halfway home on a 10-team parlay that will get them in the playoffs. Will it happen? Well, the Raiders, a five-point underdog, must win at Denver and they also need a lot of help to get there. But it’s possible. The Raiders needed five things to happen in Week 16, and they are still alive. If the Raiders get into the playoffs, they will be one of the worst teams ever to make the NFL postseason. But it still works.

Philip Lindsay: The Broncos’ running back is quietly proving he was no one-year wonder. Lindsay was the first undrafted rookie to make the Pro Bowl last season. He is having another strong year. Lindsay had 109 yards rushing in a win over the Lions on Sunday. He needs 42 yards to get 1,000 yards rushing in both of his first two NFL seasons. Along with rookie quarterback Drew Lock, Lindsay represents a strong future in Denver.

Fallers

Chargers’ Costa Mesa memories: It was a pathetically fitting ending to the Chargers’ three-season stay at the Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday. There was, at least, 80 percent Raiders fans with plenty of empty seats at the 27,000-seat soccer stadium the Chargers have called home since they bailed out on beautiful San Diego. Every game in Costa Mesa was filled with fans of the opposing teams.

Sunday, after another Chargers’ defeat, quarterback Philip Rivers sounded disgusted about the whole thing. Really, will things change next season when the Chargers move into a grand new stadium in downtown LA as the Rams’ tenant? Probably not. But there will be more seats, so that means there will be more opposing fans at Chargers’ home games. This is one of the NFL’s biggest current problems.

Chargers’ heart: After the game, Chargers’ running back Melvin Gordon was quoted as saying the Raiders played with more heart than the Chargers. The Chargers are talented, but they just don’t have it.

Raiders’ defense and penalties: The Raiders’ defense has given opponents 47 first downs on penalties. It’s the most in the NFL. It happened three times – on the same drive – Sunday. But, hey, Oakland can still make the playoffs.

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