Around the AFC West: Oakland hands the Denver Broncos a reality check

Dec 2 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos fan holds a sign in reference to the team clinching the AFC West following the win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Sports Authority Field. The Broncos defeated the Buccaneers 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It finally happened! The Denver Broncos finally matched up against the Oakland Raiders, both sitting at 6-2 and atop the AFC West. Although Raiders Week didn’t feel the same to me, the game was a big one and was a big measuring stick for both teams.

For the Broncos, it was a test to see if they were still the kings of the division, which they have dominated the last five years. For Oakland, it was a test to see if they really, truly belong.

The week itself lacked the fire and passion this rivalry used to have, and if I am being 100 honest honest with you, Broncos Country, I was a little disappointed in you this week. Had the Raiders not yet earned your respect? Did you expect to see the defense dominate the way they have all year long? Whatever it was, I hope we see the return of the real Raiders Week when they make the trip to the Mile High City later this season.

As I mentioned above, both of these teams had something to prove coming into the game, but who needed it more? For Trevor Siemian and the Broncos offense, it was a chance to get things rolling on offense — these Raiders were giving up an average of 125 yards on the ground coming into Sunday night’s game.

For Derek Carr and the Raiders, it was a chance to prove they belong and a chance to prove Carr is worth all that money about to be thrown his way.

And that is exactly what the Raiders did on Sunday night, pretty much doing anything they wanted to in the Bay. The running game was dominated by Oakland, as the Raiders out rushed Denver 221-33. Obviously, that was the difference; it also allowed Carr to keep things simple, although he did make a few plays when they needed to be made.

Credit to Oakland and their big win; they deserve to be the team sitting at first place in the division.

Denver, on the other hand, has to figure out their offense, sooner rather than later. Riley Dixon had his hands on the football more than Emmanuel Sanders. I know the easy answer seems to be Paxton Lynch, but there’s a reason he’s not playing.

Sorry, twitter, I will take Gary Kubiak‘s football mind over yours.

However, that doesn’t mean I believe in Siemian. He has so much to improve upon; a serviceable offensive line in front of him would also be helpful. The thing Siemian does well is protect the football. He may be boring and get lucky from time to time, but for the most part, he is able to keep from turning the ball over. I understand he threw an interception in the fourth quarter last night — I said for the most part.

The key to a good game manager is protecting the ball, running the football well and giving your all-world defense time to rest. None of those things happened last night for Denver. The good news is there is still time to get better. The bad news is the rest of the division is starting to roll. So, that means the clock is ticking on the Broncos offense.

As far as the other two teams in the AFC West, the Chiefs and Chargers both earned wins on Sunday. Here’s a closer look at where they stand:

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs beat the Jaguars 19-14 to improve to 6-2. They did so without their star running back, Jamal Charles, who is now on injured reserve dealing with a knee injury, and with Nick Foles at quarterback.

Before we start to praise the Chiefs for being back on track, we have to remember the last three wins have come against the Saints, Colts and Jaguars. You can only play who is put in front of you, and the Chiefs are beating those teams, but we will see who Kansas City is come Weeks 13, 14 and 15 when they play Denver, Atlanta and Oakland in a three-week stretch.

Bad news, Broncos fans, is if they are just getting rolling, that could be a week where they pull away if things go south in the 5280.

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers found their old selves again on Sunday: giving up a fourth quarter lead to make things more interesting than they should have been. San Diego survived and won by a final of 43-35, improving to 4-5, but they remain the least threatening in the division.

Denver now travels to New Orleans to take on the Saints next Sunday, with the bye to follow. As the playoff picture starts to shape up, we will soon see where Denver fits in.

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