- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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1. Denver’s coaching staff: Interim coach Eric Studesville, who was the running backs coach under the fired Josh McDaniels, probably has no chance to be a candidate for the permanent job. The Broncos are 0-2 and have lost by a combined 46 points under Studesville. Don’t expect defensive coordinator Don Martindale back, either. Denver has allowed an NFL-high 415 points. That means the Broncos will very likely have their sixth defensive coordinator in six seasons in 2011.
2. Kyle Orton’s future in Denver: Orton is a victim of circumstances. He has had a nice two-year run in Denver in a difficult situation. Still, his future with the Broncos is uncertain, even though he signed an extension through 2011 during the summer. The interim staff in Denver, with the agreement of ownership, is giving rookie quarterback Tim Tebow a chance to remain the starter for the final two games. If Tebow performs well, ownership could urge the new staff to give Tebow a chance to be the starter in 2011. Orton is a good player, but he may be the odd man out in Denver.
3. Raiders’ playoff chances: The Oakland Raiders’ playoff hopes took a hit in Week 15 even though Oakland smoked Denver. The two teams Oakland is chasing -- Kansas City and San Diego -- both won. The 7-7 Raiders are not out of the race yet, but they are barely breathing. If the Chiefs defeat Tennessee on Sunday or if the Raiders lose to Indianapolis, Oakland’s season of progress will end without a trip to the postseason.
1. Vincent Jackson, Chargers wide receiver: Jackson showed the Chargers why is he so valuable as he caught three touchdown passes in an easy victory over San Francisco. After a long holdout, Jackson showed just how much of an effect he can have on San Diego as it pushes down the stretch. It may be enough for the Chargers to place the franchise tag on Jackson to keep him in San Diego in 2011.
2. Matt Cassel’s popularity in Kansas City: Cassel wasn’t a popular figure in Kansas City a few months ago. Many Chiefs fans thought he was a determent to the team’s chances for success and wanted the team to look for his replacement in the offseason. Now, after a tremendous two-month stretch and a gutsy performance in Week 15 (he led the team to a win 11 days after he had an appendectomy), it seems as if Kansas City fans realize they have a positive player at quarterback.
3. Kansas City’s playoff dreams: What seemed so unlikely four months ago is close to happening -- the Chiefs are nearing a playoff spot. This has a chance to be one of the more remarkable stories of the 2010 season. Kansas City won a total of 10 games in the past three seasons and the team wasn’t expected to make this type of progress so quickly. Yet, the Chiefs are 9-5 and could secure the AFC West crown as soon as Sunday.