AFC West Report: Chiefs Not Dead Yet

With Denver already clinching the division the Kansas City Chiefs still have a pulse and a slim chance to get into the NFL's postseason tournament. They must overcome two unlikely scenarios and take care of their own business against the Bengals on Sunday.

The Cincinnati Bengals come into Arrowhead Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday clinging onto the third seed in the AFC with the New England Patriots hot on their heels. With that said don't expect them to be a pushover Sunday afternoon as the three seed will get to hold off the Indianapolis Colts until the AFC Championship game. The Chiefs will know by the kick-off of their game if they are still in contention for the last wild card spot in the AFC.

It's a small consolation that the Chiefs were able to knock out the San Diego Chargers last week in Arrowhead but the Chiefs won't give up all hope until it is all said and done. It won't be easy against the up and coming Cincinnati team whose road record is a startling 6-1.

Several milestones and records can be made on Sunday afternoon for the Chiefs. Larry Johnson needs just 67 yards to break Priest Holmes team rushing record of 1615 yards set in 2002. Trent Green needs only one completion to reach the 2000 mark and one touchdown to get to 150 for his career. Tony Gonzalez needs one catch on Sunday to have at least one catch in 84 consecutive games and that would be a Chiefs record.

The Chiefs playoff fate will be settled prior to kick-off as Denver was battling San Diego on Saturday afternoon. Denver is locked into the second seed so Mike Shanahan is likely to rest his starters and play the second and third team in the second half. The Chiefs will have to hope the Chargers have lost all motivation and have packed it in for the season.

If the Broncos can beat the Chargers then the Chiefs will need the Detroit Lions to upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Lions have had a terrible season already letting go of their coach Steve Mariucci few weeks ago, so that's a tall order for the Chiefs to have happen. The Steelers are also the ones that will be knocked out of the playoffs if the Chiefs get in.

For the Denver Broncos it's off to another playoff round where they were humiliated by the Indianapolis Colts the previous two seasons. They will likely sit most of their key players against the Chargers in anticipation of a home playoff game against the Bengals or Patriots. If there were to be two upsets in the wild card round then it could be the Jacksonville Jaguars coming to town. The Broncos have experienced both heartbreak and domination in their two previous meetings against the Jags in the playoffs.

Denver is coming off of an encouraging season and Mike Shanahan is an underrated candidate for coach of the year. Jake Plummer has matured into one of the best game managers in the National Football League and the running game is as stout as it gets in the NFL. This run at the playoffs will be their best chance since the John Elway era, an era that continuously haunts the current Broncos for having to live up to.

The San Diego Chargers can attribute many things to their exodus from the playoffs this year. The schedule for one was in the top two for hardest in the NFL. Five trips to the east coast had to take a toll on the team. The suspension of Antonio Gates for the first game against the Cowboys may have been the difference in winning or losing that game. With a win there they may still be alive today.

The lack of touches by LaDainian Tomlinson early in the season in some close losses may also be the difference in some wins and losses. The formula seemed to be simple, get the ball in Tomlinson's hands 25 times and a win was inevitable it seemed. Less than 20 carries and the Chargers would lose.

It may have been a special teams play in Week 7 on one of those long east coast trips that may have been the difference. Nate Kaeding was attempting a field goal to extend the Chargers four-point lead over the Philadelphia Eagles late in the fourth quarter. Quintin Mikell then blocked the field goal and Matt Ware returned it 65-yards for the go ahead touchdown and the win. The importance of special teams can never be underrated.

A win by San Diego on Sunday would knock the Chiefs from the playoffs. It may be the first time in the history of the NFL that teams have knocked each other out of contention in back-to-back weeks. The Chargers would love to see their rivals kicked out of the playoffs before they even take the field on Sunday.

The Oakland Raiders have absolutely nothing to lose on Saturday night, as they will ring in the New Year with a game against the New York Giants. Norv Turner is likely out as the coach and Kerry Collins as the quarterback will likely not be the starter for the Raiders next season. Both are expected to push all their chips to the middle of the table against the Giants.

Kerry Collins would love to beat his old team and potentially knock them out of a NFC East title. A win by the Raiders and a Redskins win over the Eagles would give Washington the division crown. If the Giants win tonight and they clinch their division.

With the Raiders anything is possible for the Raiders so don't expect a conservative game plan. They will likely do some things that they normally wouldn't. After all personnel changes are going to be made so there is no point in holding back.

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