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AFC West Preview: Denver vs. Cleveland, San Diego vs. New York

It’s another full week for the AFC West with four Sunday games. The division-leading Denver Broncos (11-3) will play the Cleveland Browns (5-9) and continue their march for a first-round playoff bye.

In the opposite extreme, the San Diego Chargers (5-9) will travel and take on the New York Jets (6-8). Both teams saw their slim playoff opportunities hit the wall last Sunday after their losses. Now they’re playing for pride, saving jobs and for the Jets, their usual high entertainment value.

Other division games include the Oakland Raiders (4-10) vs. the Carolina Panthers (5-9). There’s no postseason for these teams but a likely win for the Panthers (-9.5, 46 o/u).

The final game is the Indianapolis Colts (9-5) vs. the Kansas City Chiefs (2-12). The Colts need a win to grab a playoff berth and this looks like a strong possibility (-7.5, 45 o/u).

Denver vs. Cleveland

Broncos QB Peyton Manning

Denver already has postseason plans after clinching the AFC West but it will look toward win No. 10 for first-round bye implications. With a win next week over the Chiefs, this will be a definite possibility.

Quarterback Peyton Manning has taken this team to the next level but his own play doesn’t look too shabby either: No. 3 in the league with 31 touchdown passes and No. 4 with a 103.5 rating.

His targets include wide receiver Eric Decker who had 133 yards and a touchdown last week against the Baltimore Ravens while running back Knowshon Moreno ran for a second 100-plus game (119 yards).

Denver’s defense is also strong, ranking as No. 4 by allowing 307.1 yards per game; it held the Ravens to 56 ground yards while seeing a 98-yard interception touchdown by Chris Harris.

As for the Browns, they are a work in progress this season with their numerous changes. One large one is its rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden at the helm. Last week against the Washington Redskins, he was 21 for 35, 244 yards, two pick-6s, and a touchdown.

Along with his struggles, the Browns offense is No. 26 with its 319.6 yards per game.

Denver is a far superior team and it will show on Sunday with another win (-14, 44.5 o/u).

San Diego vs. New York

Chargers QB Philip Rivers

Both teams have been huge disappointments this season but for the Jets it’s been interesting with their quarterback drama.

On Sunday it could be a battle of which quarterback messes up the least.

After an increasingly dismal season with quarterback Mark Sanchez,the team finally benched him and sophomore backup Greg McElroy will take over this Sunday. Factor in that quarterback who likely thought he’d get the start, Tim Tebow, and this could make things interesting.

In his only appearance on the field this season, McElroy entered Week 13’s game after the team benched Sanchez for his three interceptions. He led the Jets to a 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals that day, going 5 for 7, 29 yards and one touchdown.

Sanchez returned but in Week 15, his poor play put the nail in the coffin. For the season, he had 17 picks and a league-leading 24 total turnovers.

For the Chargers, their season hasn’t fared much better: it is their first losing season under coach Norv Turner and his days are likely numbered.

They are also suffering from quarterback problems. Veteran Philip Rivers has vision problems; he has 15 interceptions to-date and over the last two seasons, he’d had 47 giveaways. Last week he had four fumbles (two lost) and went 16 for 23, 121 yards and one touchdown with boos serenading him.

The Chargers also incurred a season low in offense: 164 yards.

This could be another tough week offensively as the Jets’ defense has given up a 117.0 passing yard average ( 240.7 overall) during its last three games. Factor in the absence of the Chargers’ top running back (Ryan Mathews) and its top wide receiver (Malcom Floyd) and it could be a long Sunday for the team.

The bettors agree and give the nod to the home team (-1, 40.5 o/u).

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