Will the Broncos or Raiders win the battle to avoid the AFC West’s cellar?

Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant (87) pulls in a reception past Las Vegas Raiders inside linebacker Cory Littleton (42) in the first half at Empower Field at Mile High.
Oct 17, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant (87) pulls in a reception past Las Vegas Raiders inside linebacker Cory Littleton (42) in the first half at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers duked it out with AFC West supremacy on the line. This week, the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos will battle it out with AFC West inferiority on the line.

Who enters the matchup in better standing and how is the rest of the division performing? Let’s take a look, with these AFC West Power Rankings.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

It would almost be impossible to not rank the Chiefs as the division’s most impressive team so far this season.

They’re presently on a seven-game win streak that has seen them beat every team in the division, including two blowout victories over the Raiders.

The offense still appears to be stuck in the most part, but after scoring two-straight 34-point games, it’s possible that they’ve finally found their stride. Meanwhile, the defense has completed its remarkable metamorphosis into becoming one of the very few defenses that actually matter in the NFL.

The Broncos’ defense has been fantastic as of late, and yet still, the Chiefs appear to have the division’s best defense, and they still have the potential to hold the division’s best offense as well.

2. Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers nearly stole the top spot from the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football this past week with their impressive performance, but ultimately came up short in overtime.

The defense is still a bit of a problem, especially when they don’t have Derwin James on the field — as that’s when most of the Chiefs’ scores occurred — but the offense has found its stride.

They are back to looking like one of the NFL’s most dangerous attacks, and Herbert is re-solidifying his footing as one of the league’s most transformational young talents.

This is a very different Chargers team from the one the Broncos faced a few weeks ago, and the Broncos should be nervous as a result, come Week 17.

3. Denver Broncos

Losing to the Cincinnati Bengals the way they did and witnessing Teddy Bridgewater’s gruesome injury served as quite the gut punch to Broncos Country this week, but they still remain ahead of the Raiders.

Yes, it was a rough week in Denver, but the Raiders are on a two-mong-long stretch of being an absolute tire-fire offensively, and nothing more than mediocre defensively. Denver’s offense has been subpar, but their defense looks fantastic, and their last two losses came against division leaders and were decided by a combined 18 points.

The most notable change for the Broncos this week will be that Drew Lock will take over as the team’s starting quarterback. Based on what we’ve seen from Lock this season, not much has changed.

He’s still a hyper-aggressive gunslinger, who will likely make more plays for the other team than he will for you, but ultimately, he can make plays and at times be pretty damn exciting — unlike Bridgewater.

4. Las Vegas Raiders

Although the Raiders came away with the win, requiring a last-second field goal to beat a Browns team, decimated by COVID-19, 16-14 kinda feels like rock bottom. That means the Broncos might be able

The Raiders are now tied with the Texans and Jaguars for having the most games this season in which the team has failed to score more than 16 points with eight. Seven of those eight games have occurred in the eight weeks since Henry Ruggs’ drunk-driving accident.

Of course, that incident was a tremendous tragedy, and it also forced all of the underlying problems on the Raiders’ offense to bubble to the surface.

The first time the Raiders played the Broncos, their offense was easily one of the best in the league, and at that point in time, it might have even been the best in the division.

Now, Vegas’ departures along the offensive line have become painfully apparent, as Carr barely has a second to process the field and no lanes are opening up in the run game, which presently ranks as the NFL’s second-least effective ground attack, per expected points added (EPA).

This has forced Carr back into a minor slump and — with limited receiving weapons, a poor offensive line, and an expensive running game that can’t get started — the Raiders’ offense hasn’t been able to survive the regression.

The only hope they might have this week is if Lock creates numerous foolish turnovers, though it should be noted, he has a propensity to do exactly that.

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