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AFC West Preview: Denver vs. Baltimore and San Diego vs. Carolina

Week 15 in the AFC West has some ugly match ups but the crown jewel in the mix is the Denver Broncos (10-3) vs. the Baltimore Ravens (9-4).

The other two division games don’t really have playoff implications, except for possibly the San Diego Chargers (5-8) who will play the Carolina Panthers (4-9).

Game #3 is the Kansas City Chiefs (2-11) vs. the Oakland Raiders (3-10). The Chiefs are the sentimental favorite but the nod goes to the Raiders (-2.5 with a 44 over/under).

Broncos vs. Ravens

Broncos QB Peyton Manning

The Broncos have an eight-game win streak going and a division clinch but their eye is on a top playoff seed.

Their recent play has been impressive and quarterback Peyton Manning is back to form but their competition hasn’t been too challenging (see San Diego, Cincinnati, Carolina, Kansas City and Oakland). Sunday’s game against the Ravens could be a wake up call.

In their recent games, the Broncos have outscored teams by an average of 30-18 and Manning has thrown for 2,313 yards with 19 scores; he has surpassed John Elway or Dan Marino–maybe both–for No. 2 on the league’s all-time list for completions, touchdown passes and wins for a starting quarterback, reported ESPN.

Denver is playing without running back Willis McGahee but Knowshon Moreno is trying to step up by leading the team’s running game with his 3.8 yards per carry (No. 25 in the league).

This week, the team will face one of the NFL’s best defenses that could improve with a possible return of veteran linebacker Ray Lewis. For Denver, it may also be challenged with a road game in December.

For the Ravens, they bring their own challenges. On Monday, they fired offensive coordinator Cam Coordinator and elevated quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell.

They have suffered two recent tight losses and need a spark.

Quarterback Joe Flacco was 16 for 21, 182 yards and three touchdowns last week and could use some Caldwell magic that he had with Manning at the Indianapolis Colts.

The Ravens defense has been hit by the injury bug and hasn’t been as explosive this year, ranking No. 24 with its 375.9 yards per game and No. 25 against the run with 129.3 yards.

This is Denver’s year and they’ll take the win on Sunday (-2.5 with 48 over/under).

San Diego vs. Carolina

Chargers QB Phillip Rivers

Both teams will enter the field with confidence but the Chargers have more on the line with their sliver of playoff hopes.

A Sunday win and a Thursday Cincinnati Bengals win against the Philadelphia Eagles will enable them to keep their eye on January play.

The Chargers are also playing to avoid their first losing season since 2003. Prior to Sunday’s 34-24 win over Pittsburgh, they had four consecutive losses but their end of season bodes well with Carolina, the New York Jets and the Raiders.

The rumors that the Norv Turner era will end has been a distraction but an 8-8 season may not be good enough for him to stay.

Against Pittsburgh, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had three passing touchdowns (a tie for his season high) with one sack. This season he leads the league with 37.

His new weapon is wide receiver Danario Alexander, who had seven receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns last week.

For Carolina, its 30-20 win against the Atlanta Falcons may be their one bright spot from the season.

Quarterback Cam Newton has been showing up and in the last four games, he has gained 1,363 yards of offense, 11 total touchdowns and zero turnovers. Against the Falcons, he had a career-high 116 ground yards with a 72-yard touchdown.

This compares to his eight touchdowns and 11 turnovers in the season’s first seven games.

The team has also averaged 397.3 yards over these four games and seems to be clicking.

But can it continue? Maybe not this week as the bettors see a Chargers’ win (-2.5 with a 45 over/under).



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