How I See It: AFC West Stock Watch

December, 22, 2009
12/22/09
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Falling

1. Denver’s playoff chances: The Broncos’ road to the playoffs hit a major road bump Sunday in a 20-19 loss to visiting Oakland. However, the Broncos still control their playoff destiny despite losing two consecutive games.

If Denver wins at Philadelphia on Sunday and at home against Kansas City in Week 17, it will make the playoffs. But winning at Philadelphia won’t be easy. While the Broncos are still on pace to make the playoffs, they didn’t do themselves any favors with the last-second loss to Oakland.

2. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos running back: The No. 12 overall pick in the April draft did not have a good game against the Raiders -- 42 yards on 19 carries. He missed backfield mate Correll Buckhalter, who didn’t play against Oakland because of an ankle injury.

Moreno has not been explosive in his rookie season, but he has been a solid yardage eater. But on Sunday he did not produce and he hurt the Broncos’ offense in the process.

3. Chiefs’ run defense: Kansas City allowed little-known Cleveland running back Jerome Harrison 286 yards on the ground in a 41-34 Cleveland win. Harrison ate the Chiefs’ defense alive. Even though Kansas City’s offense played well, the Chiefs didn’t have a chance to win because the defense could not contain Harrison.

Rising

[+] EnlargeRussell
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesJaMarcus Russell helped rally the Raiders to a victory over the Broncos.
1. San Diego Chargers’ playoff outlook: The Chargers’ season keeps getting better. After a thrilling 27-24 win over Cincinnati on Sunday, San Diego has won nine straight games and an NFL-record 17 straight games in December, dating to 2006.

San Diego clinched its fourth straight AFC West division title, and is a win or a New England loss away from clinching the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.

2. Philip Rivers, Chargers quarterback: Like his team, Rivers keeps getting better. He threw for 308 yards in the win over the Bengals.

Rivers did his best work late Sunday. He led San Diego 46 yards in 51 seconds with no timeouts to set up Nate Kaeding 52-yard game-winning field goal. Rivers was clutch, and each week he shows he’s one of the best players in the league.

3. JaMarcus Russell, Raiders quarterback: Yes, Russell is really part of this category. You've got to give the much-maligned Russell some credit. He made some key plays in the Raiders’ last-second win over Denver on Sunday. Russell’s Oakland career still may be in jeopardy for the long run, but on Sunday he showed he is capable of helping his team win a game.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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