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How I See It: AFC West Stock Watch

12/29/2009

Falling

1. Denver’s playoff chances: The Broncos looked like they’d be a playoff team all season -- until now. The Broncos (8-7) will need help to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2005 when they close out the season at home against Kansas City. Denver controlled its destiny until it lost at Philadelphia on a final-second field goal Sunday.

The Broncos, who started the season 6-0, have lost three straight games.

2. Oakland’s composure: The Raiders have long been known for being undisciplined, but had improved some in that area this season. But Sunday at Cleveland, Oakland took several steps back.

Oakland committed 13 penalties for 126 yards. Cornerback Stanford Routt and tight end Tony Stewart were both ejected and the team’s lack of discipline directly led to a Cleveland touchdown in the Browns’ 23-9 win.

3. Matt Cassel, Chiefs quarterback: Cassel has been up and down in his first season with the Chiefs. Sunday, he took another downturn in a loss at Cincinnati. He could only lead the Chiefs to 10 points and threw two interceptions. Cassel needs to be more consistent next season.

Rising

1. The Chargers' reputation: San Diego is officially the NFL’s hottest team. Now that Indianapolis has lost, the Chargers, who have won 10 straight games, have the longest win streak in the NFL.

The Chargers celebrated Christmas in grand style with a 42-17 win at Tennessee on Friday night. The Titans, who were red hot, were no match for San Diego. The Chargers are the No. 2 seed in the AFC and have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl.

2. San Diego’s defense: The Chargers’ defense has been vulnerable for much of the season. Many league observers believe it could hurt the team’s chances in the postseason.

However, the Chargers showed against the Titans that their defense can be a positive. The Chargers made big plays and bottled up Tennessee offensive threats Chris Johnson and Vince Young at key moments.

3. Sebastian Janikowski’s leg: Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski has perhaps the strongest leg in the NFL. Janikowski showed it off in a 23-9 loss at Cleveland. Just before the half, Janikowski nailed a 61-yard field goal. It was the fourth-longest field goal in NFL history. The NFL record for longest field goal is 63 yards.