Chargers Love Life in the AFC West

The Chargers planned to use the bye week to get their offensive players healthy and their defensive players acclimated to Ron Rivera's techniques. Watching all of their AFC West foes go down in flames was just an added bonus. San Diego now controls its own destiny with eight games to play.

The game that captured the Chargers' attention was a showdown between the division-leading Denver Broncos (4-4) and the Miami Dolphins. The Broncos were looking to open up a two-game lead out West while the Dolphins were trying to keep pace in a far more competitive AFC East.

The Chargers know first-hand how tough the Dolphins can be, having dropped a tough contest in Miami back in Week 5. The Broncos learned that lesson on Sunday, dropping a 26-17 decision. Denver has lost three straight and four of its last five.

"We're definitely struggling," Broncos WR Brandon Marshall said. "I don't know what we need right now."


OT Branden Albert
Doug Benc/Getty

The Broncos aren't the only team looking to gain footing in the West. The Kansas City Chiefs (1-7) found a new way to lose on Sunday, blowing a 24-3 first-half lead before falling to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in overtime, 30-27.

The Chiefs didn't know what to do with 24 first-half points. Kansas City has only scored more than 24 points in a game once this season, putting up 33 against -- you guessed it -- the Denver Broncos.

"They made plays. They did a good job holding us," Chiefs OT Branden Albert said after allowing the Buccaneers to complete the biggest comeback in franchise history. "We're still making progress on the field, but they did a good job not letting us score points."

Speaking of not scoring points, no one does it better than the Oakland Raiders (2-5). Interim Coach Tom Cable's group was shut out by the resurgent Atlanta Falcons, 24-0. The Raiders recorded the most widely recited stat of the day, posting minus-2 offensive yards during the first half.

The mockery that is the AFC West would be far more humorous if the Chargers weren't mired in it. In fact, the best thing the Chargers could have done to boost their place in the standings this week was not play.

Nonetheless, the watered-down West has kept the Chargers in the race and may just help them cross the finish line first. San Diego has four division games left on its schedule, including two matchups with the last-place Chiefs.

If the Chargers run the division docket, they are ensured of winning any tie-breakers out West. The Broncos have already suffered a division loss at the hands of the Chiefs; the Chargers will have a chance to hand Denver its second division loss during Week 17 at Qualcomm Stadium.

Add it all up and the Chargers have a chance to be the Atlanta Hawks of the NFL, sneaking into the postseason ahead of other teams with better records. Because while a 3-5 record would have the Chargers making draft plans if they resided in the NFC East, they are in prime position to take over the AFC West.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.


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