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Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Week 16: How the AFC West will be won


One subplot emerging from Week 15 is that each team in the AFC West remains in the hunt for the division title. So how will the west be won?

At 8-6, the Denver Broncos are the only team which controls its own destiny. Simply put, if Denver wins out, it makes the playoffs (although there are other scenarios in which it gets in).

The Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs each need to win out and get some help.

In addition to finishing 2-0:
• Oakland needs the Chiefs to beat the Broncos in Week 17.
• San Diego needs the Broncos to lose out
• Kansas City needs the Broncos to lose out and have the Chargers lose one of its last two games

With the scenarios in mind, here are a few things to watch for in Week 16:

BRONCOS (8-6) at BILLS (5-9), SATURDAY AT 1 ET
Despite its loss at home to the Patriots, Denver still has a five-game road win streak, which is its longest since a six-game road win streak in 1998.

Tim Tebow
Tebow
If the Broncos intend on keeping that streak alive, the offense needs to cut down on the sacks allowed. Tim Tebow has been sacked once every 10.3 dropbacks, which is the second-worst in the NFL behind only Kevin Kolb. When lining up under center, no quarterback has been sacked more than Tebow who has been sacked once every 9.0 dropbacks.

Luckily for Tebow, the Bills have just five sacks on 219 dropbacks from under center, easily the fewest in the NFL.

RAIDERS (7-7) at CHIEFS (6-8), SATURDAY AT 1 ET
The Raiders head to Arrowhead in what is essentially a playoff elimination game. The Chiefs won the first matchup this year 28-0 as they picked off six Raiders passes (three each by Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer).

Carson Palmer
Palmer
The Raiders are taking on water fast, having lost three straight. One of their issues of late has been finding any consistency with the vertical passing game. Over his last five starts, Carson Palmer is just three of 17 on throws traveling at least 21 yards downfield, failing to complete a pass in three of those five games.

The Chiefs will not be an easy team to buck that trend against. Since their Week 7 matchup in Oakland, Kansas City is allowing quarterbacks to complete just 22.2 pct of their passes traveling at least 21 yards downfield, which is the third-best mark in the NFL.

CHARGERS (7-7) at LIONS (9-5), SATURDAY AT 4:05 ET
The Chargers are once again on a roll in December, having won three straight following their six-game losing streak. Since Norv Turner took over in 2007, the Chargers are 20-2 in the regular season in the months of December and January, the best record in the NFL.

Philip Rivers
Rivers
After struggling for much of the season, Philip Rivers has picked his game up. He has four touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three games on throws at least 15 yards downfield, completing a league-best 69.2 percent of his throws. In his first 11 games, Rivers threw six touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing just 45.5 percent on those throws.