Last week was a bit of a shocker for the AFC West. The biggest surprise came on Thursday night when the San Diego Chargers dominated the Broncos in Denver to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The Kansas City Chiefs were expected to prevail over the Oakland Raiders, but what was believed to be a very average Chiefs offense produced 56 points on the Raiders, which nobody saw coming.
This week sees the Broncos with a great chance to get back in the win column and come one step closer to locking down the top spot in the AFC. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have a matchup with a team they are likely to see again in the playoffs in a couple of weeks.
Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans (10 AM, PT, CBS)
All three of the top seeds in the AFC lost last week, but none was more shocking than the Broncos loss on Thursday night. The good news for the Broncos is that they head to Houston to play a Texans team that has lost 12 consecutive games.
The Texans do boast one of the best pass defenses in the NFL and while they have lost 12 straight, only four of those losses was by more than one score so these Texans will not be an easy out, even for the Broncos.
Offensively the Texans have struggled without star running back Arian Foster. Ben Tate has played admirably, but he is struggling with bruised ribs and it is uncertain if he will be available for this game. These things combine to make life hard for second year QB Case Keenum who has flashed potential, but has struggled to sustain a great level of play. With Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, Keenum has the weapons available to make plays.
The Texans defense has continued to play well and will need to continue that if they plan on upsetting the Broncos. Peyton Manning and his cast of weapons make life difficult for any defense, but Knowshon Moreno could be the key for the Broncos this week. The Texans defense will put up a fight, but their offense has nowhere near the firepower to keep up with the Broncos. Denver should be able to win this game handily in Houston.
Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs (10 AM, PT, CBS)
The Chiefs put the rest of the AFC on notice with their offensive performance against the Raiders last week. Jamaal Charles showed why he is arguably the best running back in all of football last week and he has another chance for a great showing against a below average Colts run defense.
Both of these teams have already clinched playoff spots, but this game is still important. The Chiefs still have an outside shot at winning the AFC West division if they win out and get a Broncos loss, and the Colts can climb to the either the three or two seed with some help.
Andrew Luck has continued his stellar play this season, but the Colts offense has struggled since losing Reggie Wayne for the season. Most people look at the Colts as the worst of the AFC playoff teams, but wins over the Seahawks, 49ers, and Broncos prove that this team is capable of beating anyone.
The Chiefs come into this game riding high as their offense is clicking on all cylinders right now. Charles, Alex Smith, and Dwayne Bowe are on fire as the team has scored at least 35 points in four straight games. The Chiefs defense is as good as any in the league and they are facing a one dimensional offense as Trent Richardson has failed to produce for the Colts since being traded from Cleveland.
On paper the Chiefs are better than the Colts, but Andrew Luck has a way of pulling out games sometimes. This should not be one of them as the Chiefs offense is arguably playing better than their defense at this point of the season. Expect the Chiefs to win this game and all but guarantee a rematch in two weeks in the Wild Card round.