And then will there be three? If the San Diego Chargers beat Denver on Monday night, they will improve to 5-5. Oakland and Kansas City are both 5-4 heading into this weekend’s games. If the Chargers win, it will mark the first time there have been three teams in the AFC West with .500 or better records this late in the season since 2006. That season ended with both San Diego and Kansas City going to the playoffs. The late season hasn’t been too exciting in the AFC West in recent years, but that may be changing.
Can the Raiders run to a win? The Raiders are ranked No. 2 in the NFL on the ground, averaging 162.2 yards a game rushing. They will be facing Pittsburgh on the road. The Steelers, the longtime gold standard of NFL run defense, are ranked No. 1 against the run. The Steelers allow 63.2 yards per game on the ground. The No. 2 ranked run defense is giving up 82.3 yards per game. Still, Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. likes the way Oakland runs the ball and likes its chances in any game. This is a taste of Horton’s observations of Oakland’s run attack: “The more you watch their run game, the more you like it. They have some unusual alignments in their power run game.” If Oakland can get to the Steelers on the ground, perhaps it can come away with a huge win and continue to show it is a legitimate playoff threat.
Kansas City coach Todd Haley returns to Arizona to face his old team for the first time Sunday.
Reunion time in Kansas City: Don’t expect there to be another postgame coaching controversy this week. Second-year Kansas City coach Todd Haley is meeting the Arizona Cardinals for the first time since the Chiefs hired the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator as their head coach in 2009. Haley’s last game with the Cardinals on the field was a near-miss against Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs should have a nice advantage because Haley knows Arizona’s offense so well. But, of course, the Cardinals know all of Haley’s tricks too.
Will sparks fly in San Diego? Both times the Broncos and Chargers met last year, there was a pregame incident. In San Diego on a Monday night, nearly the entire Denver team invaded San Diego’s side of the field during warm-ups and many Denver players stared taunting the Chargers. A pushing-and-shoving match ensued. The next month in Denver, San Diego linebacker Shaun Phillips and Denver coach Josh McDaniels exchanged words with Phillips ending up apologizing the next week. What will happen this year? Maybe McDaniels and San Diego coach Norv Turner won’t shake hands at the end of the game. Just kidding.
Chargers start key home stretch: Many league observers believe the Chargers are about to make another late-season run. The Chargers have come back to win the AFC West title the past three years by ending the season with winning streaks of six, four and 11 games. San Diego has won its past two games. The Chargers are set up to make a run with four of their next five games being at home. The Chargers play all three AFC West foes at home during the stretch. If San Diego is going to make another run, this is the time to do it.