AFC West: Broncos lead, but look out for the Raiders

Clearly, the Denver Broncos are the class of the AFC West, and many would say the San Diego Chargers are a close second leaving the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs to languish in third and fourth place in the division.

However, contrary to what many might think, the Raiders are quietly moving up the division ladder and are making some noise as the season heads to its second half.

Denver leads the division with a 4-3 record after easily defeating the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night 34-14. Both San Diego and Oakland are a game back at 3-4 and Kansas City is dead last at 1-6.

The Chargers have lost three consecutive games, including a 7-6 loss to Cleveland this past weekend. The Chargers must find some way to turn things around or their season will be quickly lost. The Chiefs are already looking to the future and that leaves the Raiders.

Only two week ago, Oakland was reeling from two straight defeats, including one they should have or could have won against the Atlanta Falcons. At that point in time, the Raiders were a dismal 1-4. Most thought Oakland was done for the season and thinking about the players, they would need in the draft.

However, fast forward two weeks and Oakland has won two straight games, are 3-4 and better yet, only trail the first place Broncos by a single game in the AFC West. Even though the only people that think Oakland can make the playoffs are the millions of Oakland fans and their players and coaches, chances look good they just might be around for the postseason.

During week one, the Raiders lost to San Diego by eight points and that could be blamed on special teams. During the game, the Raiders lost their long snapper and that led to their downfall in the game. In their second game, they were completely embarrassed on the road against Miami losing by 22 points.

Oakland finally won a game in week 3 with a last field goal over the Steelers. The following week the Raiders were destroyed by Peyton Manning and the Broncos 37-6. Week 5 the Raiders traveled back east to take on the Atlanta Falcons in a game most people thought would be a blow out. However, Oakland battled to the end and lost on a field goal, which was over 50 yards long.

Since that disappointing late game loss to the Falcons, the Raiders have won two straight against Jacksonville and Kansas City. Those two teams are not powerhouses in the NFL, but Oakland lost two close games to San Diego and Atlanta, two very good teams in the league.

After seven games, the Raiders find themselves only one game out of first place and with lots of possibilities. If the Raiders can continue to improve their running game with Darren McFadden, while their defense continues to decipher the game plan of new head coach Dennis Allen, the team might just be left standing when the regular season ends and the playoffs begin.

Of course, Oakland will have to hope that Denver slips and the Broncos at this point look to be one of the best teams in all of the AFC. Peyton Manning is playing superb football and is the MVP thus far for many writers, coaches and players.

The Silver and Black however, will give it all they have and could be the surprise of the league come the end of December.

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