Should Bron­cos root for Chiefs or Raiders in AFC West show­down?

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - Kiz: Kiz: Kiz: Jhab­vala: Jhab­vala: Jhab­vala:

The big­gest game of the year in the AFC West is be­tween Kansas City and Oak­land? How did we — or, more crit­i­cally, the Bron­cos — get here? In their quest to make the play­offs, let alone de­fend that Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onship, the Bron­cos need all the help they can get. So what would be more ben­e­fi­cial to Den­ver on Thurs­day night: a vic­tory by the Raiders or the Chiefs?

It’s a tough one, and as much as Bron­cos fans will hate to hear this, I think they should be root­ing for a Raiders vic­tory Thurs­day night. A Chiefs win would give Den­ver a bet­ter chance of win­ning its sixth con­sec­u­tive AFC West ti­tle, but a Raiders vic­tory gives the Bron­cos a bet­ter chance at a wild card and the play­offs over­all.

A year ago, when the Raiders were well on the way to their 13th straight sea­son with­out a win­ning record, I pre­dicted Oak­land would win the AFC West in 2016. (I don’t hum­ble brag. I just brag.) But de­spite their 10-2 record, it seems to me the Raiders are now a vul­ner­a­ble first-place team. So while it’s hard for any­body in Bron­cos Coun­try to cheer for K.C. or Oak­town, I think a Chiefs vic­tory is in Den­ver’s best in­ter­est.

This will no doubt be a dif­fi­cult one for the Raiders to pull out, play­ing in Kansas City in what is ex­pected to be 20-de­gree weather. Plus the Chiefs are ex­pected to have their de­fense in­tact and lead re­ceiver Jeremy Ma­clin back af­ter a four-game ab­sence with a groin in­jury.

Here’s my ideal sce­nario for the Bron­cos: They en­ter the fi­nal game of the reg­u­lar sea­son with a 10-5 record while Oak­land is 11-4, then use home-field ad­van­tage to beat the Raiders and win the No. 5 seed in the AFC play­offs on a tiebreaker. That should give Den­ver a play­off matchup against the win­ner of the weak AFC South and a real chance to ad­vance in the play­offs.

You’ve al­ready mapped out the Bron­cos’ fi­nal four games, but I refuse to look that far ahead. Not with this team. Sun­day’s win at Jack­sonville was ugly, to put it po­litely, and they won with their de­fense. But a week ear­lier, the Bron­cos lost be­cause of their de­fense. Den­ver pulled out some late-sea­son thrillers last year, when they faced ex­treme play­off sce­nar­ios; they en­tered last De­cem­ber’s meet­ing with the Ben­gals with a chance to earn the No. 1 seed or miss the play­offs al­to­gether. This year will go down to the wire again. But I’ll leave the pre­dic­tions to you. Gives you more to brag about.

Kansas City Chiefs run­ning back Jamaal Charles runs against the Raiders on Oct. 16 in Oak­land. The teams meet again Thurs­day night. Marcio Jose Sanchez, As­so­ci­ated Press file

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