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Friday, December 23, 2011
Final Word: AFC West

By Bill Williamson

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | SouthAFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16:

Will the Denver Broncos' playoff hopes get buffaloed again? Good thing there aren’t many players from the 2008 Broncos team still in a Denver uniform. The situation is eerily similar. The Broncos are playing the Buffalo Bills in Week 16, just as they did three years ago. Like that game, Denver can clinch a playoff berth this week against a Buffalo team that has lost seven of eight. In '08, the Bills entered the Denver game having lost seven in a row. What happened in that Week 16 meeting in 2008? The Bills came back and won a close game, preventing the Broncos from being able to clinch a playoff berth. The Broncos couldn’t get the job done and the 14-season run of former head coach Mike Shanahan era was suddenly over. Will the Bills’ mess with another Denver playoff push this year?

Philip Rivers
Philip Rivers will try to keep the Chargers' playoff hopes alive when they take on the Lions Saturday.
Last AFC West-NFC North game is meaningful: The AFC West’s matchup against the NFC North ends Saturday when the San Diego Chargers play at the Detroit Lions. Both teams are trying to keep playoff hopes alive with a victory. That may be a bad sign for San Diego. It is 1-3 against the NFC North this season, while Detroit is 3-0 against the AFC West. Overall, the AFC West is 8-7 against the NFC North this season.áLast-place Kansas City has the best record against the division at 3-1, while Denver and the Oakland Raiders both went 2-2. The AFC West plays the NFC South next season.

Hue can’t get his Haley revenge: We are missing a fun Christmas Eve storyline because the Kansas City Chiefs fired coach Todd Haley last week. Oakland coach Hue Jackson had some words for Haley after a 28-0 Kansas City win in Oakland in October. After the game, Jackson wouldn’t say what his problem with Haley was, but he did say the Raiders would get their second chance against the Chiefs. It was a chippy game the first time, with several players being fined for their actions. Expect tensions to be even higher this time around with both teams trying to keep playoff hopes alive.

WiIl Dareus get back at the Broncos? Prior to the season, Buffalo rookie defensive lineman Marcell Dareus said he had the Bills’ Christmas Eve game against Denver circled. Dareus was offended the Broncos didn’t draft him with the No. 2 pick and said he wanted to show the Broncos what they missed. Dareus was one of a handful of defensive players the Broncos considered, but they ultimately opted for Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller. Dareus was scooped up by the Bills with the next pick and has been solid. The Alabama product has 38 tackles and 5.5 sacks so far. The Broncos, however, are not second-guessing their choice. Miller has 11.5 sacks and is a major building block for the franchise going forward. He is the favorite to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Chargers' bosses working for jobs: The Chargers have won three straight games to improve to 7-7. Their playoff hopes are still alive, but their odds are not great. Still, because the Chargers have made some noise, people are wondering if San Diego general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner will be retained even if the team’s playoff push comes up short. While a second straight season missing the playoffs would be disappointing, both Smith and Turner have done good things during their stay in San Diego and this late surge is a reminder of it. Smith has led the Chargers to division titles in five of his eight years with San Diego, and he is five wins from becoming the most successful general manager in team history. Turner has the best regular-season winning percentage (48-30, .615) in team history, ahead of the likes of Sid Gillman, Don Coryell and Marty Schottenheimer.