With a tight race at the top of the AFC West, which team will come away with the division title?
The Wild Wild AFC West, aka the best division in football.
With three teams all having 7 wins, the AFC West is undoubtedly the best division in football right now. As it stands, and what is likely to happen, is that the division will put three teams in the playoffs — the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, and Denver Broncos.
But while it’s possible for three teams from the same division to make the playoffs, only one of them can be crowned division champion. The question is, which team will that be?
Let’s take a look a closer look at each team as well as at their remaining schedules, and see if we can predict who that team will be.
This is a Raiders site, after all, so we’ll start there.
At 7-2, the Raiders are off to their best start since the 2001 regular season. After a complete dismantling of the Broncos in Week 9, Oakland had the week off. Which ended up costing them the division lead, thanks to a last-second Chiefs victory over the Panthers.
With both Kansas City and Oakland at 7-2, these are currently the frontrunners for the division crown. With the Broncos not far behind, at 7-3.
The Raiders boast the NFL’s 5th ranked offense in yards per game and points per game, and more specifically, are 6th in passing and 4th in rushing. The offense is also tied for the second lowest mark in giveaways, with only 6 on the year.
But the defense has started to come around. Over the last three games, the Raiders have allowed an average of 304 total yards per game, which averaged out over the course of a whole season, would rank them 3rd in the NFL. They’ve allowed 20 points per game over that stretch, which would rank them 11th in NFL.
Both of those are huge improvement from how the defense began the year, and if it continues, is going to make this Oakland team very, very dangerous.
Let’s take a look at Oakland’s upcoming schedule.
The Raiders have upcoming home games against the Texans (Mexico City), Panthers and Bills. Then they hit the road to play the Chiefs and Chargers, then they return to Oakland to play the Colts, and finally, they end the season on the road in Denver.
To just to give a moderate prediction to Oakland’s season, let’s say they lose to Carolina, Kansas City and Indianapolis. That gives the Raiders an 11-5 record.
Now, let’s talk about the Broncos.
Denver has the NFL’s 27th ranked offense in terms of total yards per game, and are 14th in scoring. They are 24th in both passing and rushing yards per game, but C.J. Anderson is out for the year, so that hurts.
The Broncos make their living on defense — 5th best in the NFL in terms of yards allowed per game. They are 1st in passing yards allowed but just 28th against the run.
Denver has an upcoming bye, and then hosts the Chiefs after that, hit the road to play the Jaguars and Titans, and then rotate home/away games against the Patriots, Chiefs and Raiders.
Like Oakland, let’s try to give a moderate projection.
Let’s say the Broncos split with the Chiefs, beat the Jaguars and Titans, and lose to the Raiders and Patriots. That gives Denver three more losses, and a 10-6 record on the year.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the Chiefs.
Kansas City has the league’s 26th ranked offense — 22nd in passing, 20th in rushing and 17th in scoring.
The Chiefs rank similarly on defense — 22nd in yards allowed (13th in passing, 27th in rushing), but just 7th in points allowed.
So the Chiefs are in the bottom two-thirds of the league in both offense and defense, but are tied for the most wins in the NFL. So somehow, while being below average in both offense and defense, they manage to keep winning games.
How is this possible?
For one, Kansas City’s turnover differential is 14, best in the league. Their 22 takeaways is the best in the NFL, while they’ve only turned the ball over 8 times. The Chiefs are also the third least penalized team in the league. And they have one of the best red zone defenses as well.
So basically, they don’t make mistakes, they generate turnovers, and they play well when it counts.
The Chiefs host Tampa Bay next, travel to play the Broncos and Falcons, have home games against the Raiders, Titans and Broncos, and then end the season on the road against the Broncos.
Once again, let’s try to be as objective as possible and give a moderate prediction.
Let’s say the Chiefs and Broncos split. Then the Chiefs beat Tampa, lose to the Falcons, and beat both the Raiders and Titans.
That gives Kansas City two more losses, and a 12-4 record on the year.
So in terms of schedule, the Chiefs have it the easiest. In terms of stats (offensive and defensive stats, etc.), it looks the Raiders have the edge there.
A lot of the games for each team could go either way, especially the divisional matchups. It would not at all be surprising to see the division winner be determined on the final day of the season. But it seems as if it’s Kansas City’s division to lose.