Week 17 in the NFL is always an opportunity to look forward, the question becomes what are you looking forward to? For some teams it is the opportunity to look at young talent. For others teams it is the chance to make final preparations before the playoffs. For most teams it is the chance to begin thinking about team needs and the upcoming draft. All took place in the AFC West this week and it was interesting to behold.
For the Oakland Raiders they were looking at their young talent. Quarterback Terrell Pryor got the start and the team was looking one last time to see if he was possibly their quarterback of the future. The Raiders offense struggle and Pryor’s numbers were pedestrian. If the team was not sold on him as the future before this game, nothing occurred that would change their minds.
Expect the Raiders to look much different next season since they will no longer be held down by $50 million in dead money on their salary cap. According to NBCSports.com, general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen could be relieved of their duties. Unfortunately for Raiders fans the team could be starting from scratch on and off the field again.
The Kansas City Chiefs rested most of their starters on offense and many on defense. The Chiefs were locked into the fifth seed of the playoffs and were only playing for pride. They showed great pride and proved to be much deeper than people may have thought. Backup quarterback Chase Daniel acquitted himself nicely and backup running back Knile Davis showed himself to be an adequate understudy of Jamaal Charles. In the end the team lost what equates to a meaningless game, but Andy Reid gained trust in his backups and if need be, will feel much better if they are called upon in the playoffs.
The Denver Broncos came out and did what they have done most of the season. They jumped on an opponent early and did not allow them much of a chance to compete. The Broncos real season starts now. They were expected to make the playoffs. They were expected to be a Super Bowl contender. The question for the Broncos and Peyton Manning is can they live up to those lofty expectations?
The defense will be without dominating pass rusher Von Miller due to a torn ACL. There are questions to Wes Welker’s availability and how effective he would be if he returns. The only sure thing for the Broncos is they have a week off and their first playoff game will be home. The question is will it once again be their only playoff game?
The San Diego Chargers had the most to gain in Week 17. By the time their game started they knew the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens had lost, thus opening the door for the Chargers to sneak into the playoffs. Early, things looked bleak as the Chiefs stormed out of the gates. However, the Chargers fought back and due to a missed field goal by the Chiefs they were able to get into overtime.
In the overtime there was a very questionable call whether Eric Weddle fumbled during a rushing attempt out of punt formation. He appeared to fumble but the refs ruled that his forward progress had been stopped, the play was not reviewable. The Chargers were given new life. They took advantage, kicked a field goal, and kept the Chiefs from scoring.
It is not the sexiest way to make the playoffs but they have found a way into the tournament. Philip Rivers is playing at a high level and Ryan Mathews is playing like a stud. The Chargers will not be an easy out in the playoffs and their journey should be an interesting one.
Who would have thought prior to this season that the AFC West would be the division to get three teams into the playoffs?
Photo Courtesy Sean M. Haffey