By Dave Thomas
There is always a lot of hope coming into a new season of football.
When you looked at the AFC West before the 2012 campaign kicked off, there was little doubt that the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos were your favorites to battle for the crown. Most people, at least the ones who are honest, probably never had the Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) and Oakland Raiders (1-4) at a combined 2-9 after six weeks. Okay, maybe some did.
As three of the four teams head into a bye this week (Oakland hosts Jacksonville), it has become rather clear that the next two months will essentially come down to a race between the Chargers and Broncos barring a major turnaround by Kansas City and/or Oakland.
In taking a sneak peek at the four, here’s what we see to date:
Denver – The Broncos emerged from Monday’s 35-24 win over the Chargers as the favorite to win the division among many folks, albeit a large throng of them with Colorado driver’s licenses. With Peyton Manning at the controls, there is no doubt Denver has the right man in the right place to lead them to back-to-back division crowns. What will be telling over the remaining 10 games is if Denver can play consistent ball, along with winning on the road. In its final 10 games, Denver only plays three teams with .500 or better records (San Diego, Cincinnati and Baltimore). If the Broncos can win the games they are supposed to, they will be hard to stop;
San Diego – The Chargers could very easily be sitting at 5-1 now, however two games in a row where they blew second half leads, have them sitting at .500. San Diego, which only plays four teams the rest of the away sporting .500 or better records, has to not only win the games it is supposed to, but hope to get big wins at home versus Baltimore (Nov. 25) and Cincinnati (Dec. 2). The Chargers also have a road date at Pittsburgh (Dec. 9), a place always tough to win in. Lastly, San Diego can ill afford to get up-and-down play from QB Philip Rivers the remainder of the season;
Oakland – The Raiders again have a new coach to start the season, and once again they are bad. Okay, maybe not quite Kansas City bad, but bad nonetheless. While Oakland did take unbeaten Atlanta right down to the wire in a 23-20 loss this past Sunday, the Raiders have also been blown out in losses Miami and Denver. To date, Oakland has tallied 87 points, giving up 148 in the process. A pair of games left to go with the Chiefs, along with dates versus New Orleans, Cleveland and Carolina gives Raiders fans some reason for hope. Then again, they could lose most of those games too;
Kansas City – Last but not least, the saga of the 2012 Chiefs. One would think the general consensus around the league at this point is that Matt Cassel is NOT the solution at quarterback for this once proud franchise. Not only was his appearance in a 37-20 loss to the Chargers last month bad, but his backup, Brady Quinn, made Chief fans wish for their starter after last week’s debacle in Tampa Bay. At the rate Kansas City is going, it could end up with one of if not the worst record in the NFL come late December. If that is the case, KC should definitely be eyeing next April’s draft and an opportunity to land the next Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.
Remaining AFC West games -
Oct. 28 – Oakland at Kansas City
Nov. 1 – Kansas City at San Diego
Nov. 18 – San Diego at Denver
Nov. 25 – Denver at Kansas City
Dec. 6 – Denver at Oakland
Dec. 16 – Kansas City at Oakland
Dec. 30 – Oakland at San Diego
Dec. 30 – Kansas City at Denver
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Chargers news, see CBS Sports Los Angeles.
Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.