Audibles: AFC West Week 16 preview

December, 19, 2008
12/19/08
4:14
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Miami Dolphins (9-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-12), 1 p.m. ET

  

A couple of weeks ago in Denver, Tony Gonzalez was using the Miami Dolphins as inspiration. He noted that the Dolphins were challenging for a playoff berth after going 1-15 last season. Gonzalez said that if the Dolphins could turn around their fortunes so quickly, so could the Chiefs.

With the season lost, the Chiefs will get a close-up look at Miami and see how the team has pulled it off.

Chiefs ownership will likely note the change at the top. The Dolphins cleaned out their front office and coaching staff after last season. Of course, this will be the Chiefs' first game since general manager Carl Peterson announced that he'll step down after 20 years with the team on Dec. 28. This will be Peterson's final home game at Arrowhead Stadium and it wouldn't be a shock if it's coach Herman Edwards' final home game, too.

San Diego Chargers (6-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5), 1 p.m. ET

  

Ultimately, the Chargers don't control their own destiny. But for a three-hour window on Sunday, they do.

If the Chargers win at Tampa Bay, Denver will be under pressure to beat Buffalo at home to avoid a winner-takes-the-division game against San Diego on Dec. 28.

If the Chargers lose to the Buccaneers, who are battered and dealing with a two-game losing streak, their season will be over, concluding one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory. The Chargers entered the season with Super Bowl hopes. Falling short of the playoffs would be disastrous.

If the Chargers are victorious Sunday, it will be interesting to see whether they wait to watch the Denver game. That would be a very anxious five-plus-hour airplane ride home wondering what's happening at Invesco Field.

However, San Diego must win first before worrying about that problem.

Buffalo Bills (6-8) at Denver Broncos (8-6), 4:05 p.m. ET

  

This game offers the Denver Broncos redemption -- a chance to avoid repeating one of the most regrettable moments in their history.

Two years ago, Denver ended the season at home against San Francisco. The 49ers had a losing record and were playing out the string. All Denver had to do was beat the lowly 49ers and it would have advanced to the playoffs for a fourth straight season. Instead, Denver played nervously and sloppily all game and lost in overtime, ending its playoff hopes.

The Broncos are in a similar situation this season. They can end a two-season playoff drought and win the AFC West by simply beating Buffalo on Sunday. Like the 49ers were two years ago, the Bills are under .500 and out of the playoff mix.

Will Denver avoid disaster or add to the misery?

Houston Texans (7-7) at Oakland Raiders (3-11), 4:05 p.m. ET

  

There will be a world-class wide receiver on the field in Oakland's final home game of the season. Perhaps he'll inspire the Raiders to get one of their own in 2009.

The Raiders host the Texans and star receiver Andre Johnson on Sunday, who should remind Oakland how much a top-flight receiver can help an offense.

The Raiders will enter the offseason with wideout being one of their greatest needs. Oakland has gotten the second-least production from its receivers in the NFL. Oakland thought it solved its issues at receiver with Javon Walker in the offseason. But the big-dollar acquisition has been a bust and he is out for the season with an ankle injury.

Now, Oakland will have to look toward the future. It could try to pursue Cincinnati's Chad Johnson in a trade or maybe bypass other needs and draft Michael Crabtree if he declares himself eligible. However the team does it, Oakland needs to find its own Andre Johnson.

Click here to access the NFL Pick Center, a service for ESPN Insiders where fans can view two different simulation models for every NFL game. 

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