The AFC West is officially up for grabs. The Oakland Raiders are tied for first at 4-2, finding ways to win a handful of “coin flip” games.
Victories against New Orleans, Tennessee, Baltimore and San Diego all came by a touchdown or less. Quarterback Derek Carr and the offense have been able to offset one of the league’s weakest defenses. The Raiders rank dead last in the NFL in three categories: yards per play allowed (6.9), yards per game allowed (444.8) and passing yards per game allowed (312.7).
It was another poor performance on that side of the football in Sunday’s 26-10 home loss to Kansas City. Per usual, the Chiefs played it close to the vest for much of the game but still racked up 406 total yards. Oakland’s defensive struggles have yet to be corrected and until they are the Raiders have the feel of an overvalued team from a point spread perspective.
The Denver Broncos raced out to a 4-0 SU and ATS start but have since dropped two straight to Atlanta and San Diego. Denver’s offensive line played a key role in both losses. They lost a couple of key cogs on the line with right tackle Donald Stephenson missing the last few weeks and left tackle Russell Okung now dealing with concussion symptoms.
The Broncos have not been able to open holes for running back C.J. Anderson and their sub-par production (3.8 ypc) makes it difficult to thrive in Gary Kubiak’s run-first offense. Denver’s quarterbacks have been under fierce pressure due to poor pass protection and holding penalties. Despite playing from behind for the entire game, Trevor Siemian threw the ball 50 times in last Thursday’s loss to San Diego. Denver is at its best when balanced and by not being able to establish the run early, it puts a lot of pressure on a “green” quarterback to make plays.
The Kansas City Chiefs (3-2) have been in a “win one, lose one” pattern since the start of the season.
Andy Reid continued his mastery following a bye week (16-2 SU) following Sunday’s dominant win in Oakland. The Chiefs offense looked crisp and the return of running back Jamaal Charles, even though he was limited to nine carries, was a welcomed sight. Charles and Spencer Ware, who ripped apart the Raiders defense for 131 yards, form one of the league’s better running back duos.
Kansas City also bounced back defensively after being embarrassed by Pittsburgh two weeks ago. They held the Raiders to only 286 total yards. One concern for Kansas City moving forward is injuries in the secondary with starting corners Marcus Peters and Phillip Gaines both questionable for next week’s game against New Orleans.
The Chiefs are a solid football team but due to their conservative nature remain a tricky bet in the role of a big favorite. Dating back to last season, Kansas City is on a 5-1 SU, 1-5 ATS run when laying -6.5 or more. They are currently priced as -6.5 home favorite vs. New Orleans for Week 7.
The San Diego Chargers have had a difficult time getting out of their own way. They own the division’s second-best point differential (+18) behind Denver (+32) but are 2-4 SU. They have, however, been profitable with a 4-2 ATS mark and continue to show signs of being an above average team. Their win over Denver was crucial as a loss would have sent this team to 1-5 and really put Mike McCoy’s job in jeopardy.
Instead, the offense moved the football effectively against a good Denver defense and they were able to dominate Denver’s beleaguered offensive line. First round draft pick Joey Bosa is already showing signs of being an elite pass rusher with five solo tackles and two sacks in his first two games.
The effort has been there all year from the Chargers despite a boatload of significant injuries on both sides of the ball – most notably Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Flowers, and Jason Verrett. It will be interesting to see if the “fight” this team has shown lasts with upcoming road games at Atlanta and Denver.
Lose both and the playoffs become a long shot even though the schedule lightens considerably with winnable games against Tennessee, Miami, Tampa, and Cleveland the back half of the campaign.