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