AFC West Stock Watch

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
1:00
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. The Oakland Raiders' breathing room: It was a costly trip to South Beach for Oakland, which suffered a 34-14 loss at Miami on Sunday and saw its lead in the AFC West evaporate. Oakland is now 7-5 and tied with Denver for first place. The Raiders were the only team in the AFC West to lose in Week 13. Entering the final quarter of the season, the Raiders are still in decent shape to make the playoffs as either a division winner or a wild-card team -- but there's no longer room for error.

2. Carson Palmer, quarterback, Raiders: The Raiders traded for Palmer because they thought he’d be a difference-maker down the stretch. He was a detriment for much of Sunday’s game. Palmer has been solid with Oakland, but he needs to bounce back from a subpar performance if the Raiders are going to make a playoff run. Yes, he was missing some firepower and his line struggled at Miami, but Palmer needs to create more plays than he did Sunday.

3. Rivers’ mistakes: Suddenly, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers’ interception issues seem to have gone away. After throwing 17 picks in the season's first 10 games, Rivers hasn’t thrown a single one in his past two. It is already the highest interception total of his NFL career, but it seems like he's getting the issue under control.

RISING

[+] EnlargeJustin Houston
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJustin Houston had three sacks against Chicago and looks to be a draft steal.
1. The Denver Broncos’ playoff chances: After five games, the Broncos were 1-4 and looked like they were a contender in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. However, with Tim Tebow at quarterback, Denver has won six of seven games, including its past five. Denver is now 7-5 and in solid shape in both the division and the wild-card races.

2. Justin Houston, linebacker, Chiefs: The third-round pick was dominant Sunday at Chicago, recording three sacks in a 10-3 victory. Considered a first-round talent, the University of Georgia product fell down draft boards because of character concerns. He appears to be a steal.

3. San Diego’s offensive line: This line has suffered eight different injuries and has three players on the injured reserve. San Diego played without three starters for much of Monday night’s win over Jacksonville and it started Jared Gaither at left tackle, days after he was claimed off waivers. Still, this unit gave Rivers terrific protection. Rivers was not sacked -- a great effort by a makeshift group.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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