Final Word: AFC West

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17:

Carson Palmer
Harry How/Getty ImagesThe Raiders' playoff hopes may rest on Carson Palmer's ability to convert on third downs.
Best quarterback on third downs wins title? The Denver Broncos can win the AFC West title with a win over the visiting Kansas City Chiefs, or if the Oakland Raiders lose at home against the San Diego Chargers. The Raiders can win the division if they beat the Chargers, and the Chiefs beat the Broncos. It could come down to the third-down efforts of Denver quarterback Tim Tebow and Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Tebow and Palmer have been the worst quarterbacks in the NFL on third-down conversions this season. Palmer is achieving first downs on 28.6 percent of his third-down passes and Tebow has been picking up first downs on 23.1 percent of his third-down passes.

Raiders poised to be penalty kings: The Raiders are close to becoming the NFL record-holders for penalties. Oakland has committed 155 penalties for 1,294 yards, just four penalties and 11 yards from setting the record. The current record-holder in both categories is the 1998 Chiefs, who went 7-9. Oakland coach Hue Jackson has been focusing on cutting down penalties since training camp. This has to kill him, but if the Raiders win the division while setting the new penalty records, the pain will be lessened some.

Will trends continue? There are some interesting trends going into this pivotal weekend. The Chiefs -- who will be trying to help interim coach Romeo Crennel become the full-time coach -- are 1-9 in their last 10 trips to Denver. Oakland has won three straight games against San Diego after losing 13 in a row to the Chargers. San Diego, which is likely playing its final game under coach Norv Turner, has won its final game of the past five seasons.

Toss it Mathews’ way: According to ESPN Stats & Information, San Diego running back Ryan Mathews is averaging a league-high 8.9 yards per rush on toss plays to the outside in the past five games. It is a major improvement from earlier in the season. Mathews averaged only 3.2 yards per rush on those attempts in his first nine games this season.

Could be swan-song time: Several key players in the AFC West are set to be free agents and could be about to play their final game with their teams. Among those players are Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City cornerback Brandon Carr, San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson, San Diego center Nick Hardwick, San Diego running back Mike Tolbert and Oakland running back Michael Bush.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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