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AFC West Preview: Denver vs. Oakland and San Diego vs. Pittsburgh

The AFC West will kick off Week 14 on Thursday night with the Denver Broncos (9-3) vs. the Oakland Raiders (3-9). The Broncos will look for its eighth consecutive win while the Raiders will try to snap a five-game losing streak.

On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) are crossing their fingers that starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will return as they play the San Diego Chargers (4-8) who will try to avoid a fifth straight loss.

The third AFC West game of the week is the Kansas City Chiefs (2-10) vs. the Cleveland Browns (4-8). It would be nice to see the Chiefs win two in a row after their recent tragedy but this team just isn’t good.

The bettors agree and give the winning nod to the Browns ( -7, 37.5 over/under).

Denver vs. Oakland

Broncos QB Peyton Manning

For the Broncos, they are headed to the playoffs after clinching the AFC West title–their second consecutive one.

With quarterback Peyton Manning at the helm, it’s been a great season.

He’s back to top form and his stats show it: No. 2 in the NFL for completion percentage (68.0), touchdown passes (29) and passer rating (104.6), according to ESPN. Last week against Tampa Bay, Manning was 27 for 38, 242 yards, three touchdowns and one pick.

In addition to keeping their win streak going, the Broncos are also playing for an undefeated division and a first-round playoff bye. Currently, they are tied for the AFC second seed with the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens but thanks to tiebreakers, they sit as No. 4.

As for the Raiders, it’s been a rough season.

In the team’s last five matchups, they have been outscored 189-96. They’ve been eliminated from the playoffs but will try to avoid a four-game home skid last seen in 2008. Denver has won seven of nine at Oakland.

For the Raiders, they are weak offensively and defensively.

They are at the bottom of the league for scoring defense (31.3 points per game), No. 28 vs. the run (130.4 yards) and No. 25 against the pass (256.6); their offense isn’t much better as it has totaled 44 points in the last three games.

Running back Darren McFadden is expected to return after a four-game absence but in the Sept. 30 game against Denver he had 13 carries for 34 yards.

In the Raiders last four losses against the Broncos, quarterback Carson Palmer has thrown five touchdowns with seven picks (69.3 passer rating).

A second win should come Denver’s way on Sunday (-10 with a 48.5 over/under).

San Diego vs. Pittsburgh

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger

With last week’s win against rival Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers kept their season alive while the Chargers are pretty hopeless at this point.

The Steelers sit two games behind the Ravens but possess the AFC’s final wild-card spot.

In addition to Big Ben’s absence, the Steelers have lost veteran cornerback Ike Taylor after he fractured his ankle last week in the Ravens game but they survived without him at least for one week. They held Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to 16 for 34 passing, 188 yards and three sacks.

Fortunately safety Troy Polamalu is easing his way back onto the field.

As for the Chargers, a loss this week will give them a first: a Norv Turner losing season. Last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, they went down 20-13 and suffered their fourth straight loss.

During this tumble, quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown six touchdowns, five interceptions and five fumbles.

Not helping matters is a weak offensive line. In the team’s last three games, Rivers has undergone 14 sacks and it could get worse as tackles Jeromey Clary and Mike Harris and guard Tyronne Green will be out.

Another sore point is the Charger’s running game: it is practically nonexistent as it averages 63.3 yards.

The Steelers will look extend its 14-0 home record against the Chargers but the bettors aren’t sure yet which team gets win. But they do give Pittsburgh 9 to 1 odds to win the AFC Championship.

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