Final Word: AFC West

December, 24, 2010
12/24/10
4:00
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16:

No 2008 AFC West repeat: Heading into Week 15, many fans wondered if the Kansas City Chiefs would duplicate the Denver Broncos' disaster of 2008. Who could forget that Denver went from 8-5 to 8-8 and fell out of the playoffs -- ending the 14-year Mike Shanahan era? All the Broncos had to do was win one game. The Chiefs entered the week 8-5 and although Kansas City could not clinch the division in Week 15, many AFC West fans saw similarities. The Chiefs showed they were not going to collapse as they won in St. Louis by 14 points. Kansas City can now take the division with home wins against the Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders -- among other scenarios. While they can still lose the division title, the Chiefs pull a 2008 Broncos with three straight losses to end the season.

[+] EnlargeSan Diego defense
Robert Benson/US PresswireSan Diego sacked Alex Smith six times and limited San Francisco to only 192 yards of total offense.
San Diego Chargers’ defense is on a roll: San Diego’s defense is heading into Sunday’s game at Cincinnati playing well. San Diego has allowed just seven points in the past two games, against Kansas City and San Francisco. The Chargers nearly pulled off two straight shutouts, but the 49ers scored a touchdown late in the game in Week 15. San Diego has allowed a total of 259 yards in the past two games. The Chargers also lead the NFL in total defense, allowing an average of just 259.8 yards per game. Another big defensive performance could be on the horizon as they face the Bengals and their 21st-ranked offense in the NFL.

Raiders have to snap streak: If Oakland wants to stay alive in the AFC playoff picture, the Raiders have to show they are capable of beating a playoff-caliber team. They get their chance when Indianapolis visits Sunday. They could even be knocked out of playoff contention by the time they kick off, if the Chiefs beat the Titans at home. The Raiders are 5-0 against AFC West competition, but 0-5 against the rest of the AFC. The closest Oakland has come in any of those games has been two seven-point losses. A win over the Colts would give Oakland much-needed confidence if it advances to the playoffs.

Homecoming rehearsal for Kubiak? There has been speculation that Texans coach Gary Kubiak could be a candidate for the Denver head-coaching job if Houston fires him. If the Broncos really want Kubiak, they should beat the visiting Texans on Sunday. A loss to the Broncos could be the nail in the coffin for Kubiak. In five seasons in Houston, Kubiak has not led the Texans to the playoffs. Still, there’s reason why Denver could be interested in its former backup quarterback and offensive coordinator. He knows how to be successful in Denver and may have the support of his former teammate, John Elway, who is expected to join the front office. I wouldn’t say Kubiak is a front-runner in Denver, but if he becomes available, I could see the Broncos being interested.

Sharing the load in San Diego: Chargers running backs Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert are splitting carries even closer these days. In Week 14 against Kansas City, Mathews and Tolbert each had 16 carries. In Week 15 against San Francisco, both players had 17 carries. Mathews has a total of 121 yards while Tolbert has a total of 112 yards in the two games. The rookie Mathews, has been hampered by several injuries, is averaging 4.2 yards per carry on 120 attempts this season. Tolbert is averaging 4.1 yards on 178 carries this season. Because both players have been effective and both players give the offense a different dimension, I’d expect the even split to continue for the rest of the season.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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