The race for the AFC West is far from over. There is no team with a losing record in the division, setting for up an exciting final stretch of the regular season.
The Chiefs (7-4) began the season as clear favorites to win the division, but they’ve failed to create the distance they’d hoped for between themselves and their divisional foes. Kansas City’s first five games were defined by shootouts in which its defense struggled to contribute to team success, leading to an opening record of 2-3. After the Chiefs’ 27-3 loss to the Titans in Week 7, their defense seems to have found its footing. The Chris Jones-led unit is allowing 11.75 points per game since then en route to a four-game win streak.
In Los Angeles, Justin Herbert has benefitted from having healthy weapons in running back Austin Ekeler and receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, an improvement from the 6-4 Chargers’ injury-riddled 2020 season. Much like the Chiefs, though, the Chargers’ defense has struggled to turn that success into wins as they’ve only managed to hold two opponents under 20 points this season.
The Raiders (6-5) have been a team of streaks this season. They began the year 3-0 with impressive wins over the Ravens and Steelers. They then lost two, won two, and lost three in a row through their next seven games with concerning losses to the currently reeling Bears and Giants. Las Vegas rebounded with an impressive Thanksgiving Day win in Dallas. The Raiders’ current winning record is all the more impressive when you consider the off-the-field controversies that have rocked the franchise.
Over their first eight games of the season, the Broncos (5-5) were fairly easy to decipher. They beat teams currently under .500 — the Giants, Jaguars, Jets and the Football Team — but they could not get past teams currently over .500 (Ravens, Steelers, Raiders, Browns). They did buck this trend in their past two games by beating the Cowboys (7-4) and losing to the Eagles (4-6). They certainly hope that trend is over, as the Lions represent the only team they face over the rest of the season with a sub-.500 record. Offseason pickup Teddy Bridgewater leads an offense that has seen the return of Pro Bowler Courtland Sutton, though Denver’s latest run of injury misfortune involved second-year receiver Jerry Jeudy missing most of the season’s first half. The running game has been split pretty evenly between seven-year veteran Melvin Gordon and second-round rookie Javonte Williams.
With seven weeks remaining in the regular season, potential for divisional chaos remains. The Chiefs don’t have any remaining opponents currently under .500. The Raiders are set to play just one — the Washington Football Team. The Bolts potentially have a softer route, with two teams remaining under .500 in the Giants and Texans. In addition, there’s plenty of divisional play left to ensue before the playoff field forms.
So who do you see taking control of the AFC West? Do the Chiefs regain their supremacy and claim the division for the sixth straight year? Or do any of the other contenders take advantage of Kansas City’s four early-season losses? Vote in our latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
November 26th, 2021 at 4:53pm CST by Zachary Links
Former Broncos cornerback Mac McCain was a popular player on the waiver wire. Before he was awarded to the Eagles, the Chargers also submitted a claim for him, according to Mike Klis of 9News (on Twitter).
The Chargers could have used an extra CB with Asante Samuel Jr. in concussion protocol. But, beyond that, they probably would have benefitted from McCain’s intel as they prepare to face the Broncos on Sunday. After all, there isn’t a ton of game tape out there on the 23-year-old — he’s played in just one game this year with 13 special teams snaps.
Interestingly, McCain has spent the year bouncing back and forth between the Broncos and Eagles. In May, he signed with Denver as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina A&T. Then, in September, Philly plucked him off of the Broncos’ taxi squad. Then, when the Eagles waived him a few weeks ago, the Broncos claimed him. This week, when Denver cut him, Howie Roseman brought him back.
Eventually, McCain may get an opportunity to stay in one place. After all, he is a two-time All-MEAC player with multiple pick-sixes on his collegiate resume. For now, McCain will take the place of Davion Taylor on the roster, now that the linebacker is on IR.
The Eagles, winners of two straight, will try for three in a row when they face the Giants on Sunday.
SATURDAY: This short Bosa saga does not look like it will result in him missing any time. The Chargers activated him off the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday. However, Tillery will miss Week 11’s Steelers tilt, as he remains on the Bolts’ COVID list. Los Angeles also moved linebacker Drue Tranquill from the virus list to the active roster.
WEDNESDAY: Bosa still has a chance to play Sunday. The standout pass rusher did not test positive for the virus but qualifies as a high-risk close contact, Brandon Staley said (via NFL.com’s Taylor Bisciotti, on Twitter). This means Bosa is unvaccinated. He must be away from the team for a five-day period. But since Bosa did not test positive, he would be eligible to return Sunday night and play without practicing this week.
TUESDAY: The Chargers may well be without their best pass rusher Sunday night. Joey Bosa is now on the Bolts’ reserve/COVID-19 list, with Field Yates of ESPN.com adding (via Twitter) defensive tackle Jerry Tillery joins Bosa in that regard.
Unless Bosa is unvaccinated and qualifies as a high-risk close contact, which would allow for a return after five days, he faces an uphill battle to play against the Steelers in Week 11. Although vaccinated players who test positive can return with negative tests two days apart, returning to play in the same week of a positive test has not been a common occurrence this season. If unvaccinated, Bosa testing positive would sideline him for at least 10 days.
Having battled injury issues in the past, Bosa has not missed any time this season. The highly paid edge defender leads the Chargers with 5.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Tillery’s 2.5 sacks from his defensive line spot is second among Chargers this season. The former first-round pick has been a starter for the past two seasons.