Bolts Notebook: Rest of the West

The Chargers lead the AFC West at 4-1, but the other teams in the division are making a lot of noise this week. There are QB changes in Oakland and Denver, while Kansas City faces a two-game stretch that could vault the Chiefs right back into the race for the division title. Here's an expanded look at what is going on with the Chargers' divisional rivals.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders stole the headlines on deadline day by trading for former No. 1 overall pick Carson Palmer, sending the Cincinnati Bengals a first-round pick in 2012 and a conditional second-round pick in 2013. The deal is a season-saver for the Raiders, who would have been sunk with Kyle Boller steering the ship.

However, there are long-term and short-term fears in Oakland.

The long-term concerns are that the Raiders do not own a selection until the fifth round of next year's draft. That will stunt the progress of a team on the upswing. Also, there is a possibility the Raiders could lose their first-round pick in 2013 (if they reach the AFC Championship Game in either of the next two seasons), which would make it three straight years without a first-rounder.

The short-term worry surrounds this week's home game against the Chiefs. The Raiders are rushing Palmer into the starting lineup, despite having a bye in Week 8, which could make them vulnerable against a Chiefs team that has won two in a row. If Kansas City can exploit a rusty Palmer, the AFC West could quickly become a three-team race.

Kansas City Chiefs

QB Matt Cassel
It is difficult to get a good read on the Chiefs. They are riding a two-game winning streak, but both victories came against winless opponents. Nonetheless, their turnaround really started in Week 3, when they came into San Diego and gave the Chargers all they could handle until Eric Weddle sealed it for the home team with a late interception.

The Chiefs have a chance to make a statement against a Raiders team that has not lost a divisional game since Nov. 15, 2009 (which, incidentally, was a Chiefs win in Oakland). If Todd Haley's crew can pull it out, it will lend much more significance to the following week's Monday Night Football game as the Chargers invade Arrowhead.

Denver Broncos

The Chargers ushered in the second-coming of the Tim Tebow era. After coming up just short in Week 5, Tebow looks to get the Broncos their second win of the season as they head to Miami to face the still winless Dolphins.

Denver is clearly in rebuilding mode and intends to use the remainder of the season to evaluate the players it has on-hand. If Tebow's promotion did not make that clear, then trading No. 1 receiver Brandon Lloyd to the St. Lous Rams for a conditional sixth-round pick certainly did.

Tebow will earn some time on the highlight reels and will cause opponents' hearts to skip a beat here and there. But he still lacks accuracy and polish, not to mention the decision-making skills necessary to be an elite NFL quarterback. As much as Tebow scared the Chargers in Week 5 -- to be fair, San Diego spent the week preparing to defend pocket-passer Kyle Orton -- the Week 12 rematch in San Diego is the easiest game left on the Chargers' schedule.

Thanks to Tebow, it will likely be a sellout anyway.

What is your take on the rest of the AFC West? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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