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AFC West Week 10 Preview

The wild AFC West has a big four-game slate today and although the Broncos have started to assert themselves as the division frontrunner, the Chargers and Raiders are well within striking distance. Here is what to look forward to from today’s games and which teams you should take on the point spread.

San Diego Chargers 4-4 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-4

This matchup features two teams coming off wins last week, with Tampa’s being slightly more impressive due to their rookie running back’s performance. Doug Martin rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns during the 42-32 win over Oakland is now second in the NFL this season in rushing.

He and the Bucs will be up against some stiff competition this week though, a San Diego run defense that’s ranked 4th in the league. However, Tampa is even better against the run, in fact the Bucs are the best in the NFL, allowing just 77.3 yards per game. They do give up more than 300 yards through the air, so Philip Rivers and Co. with have to look to the passing game to attack Tampa.

Doug Martin has had a great rookie season and with the Bucs at home, they are a slight three point favorite, but I like the Chargers today. Martin will not have as much running room this week and the Chargers should be able to attack that Tampa secondary all day. Go with the upset here and take San Diego to cover +3 and win outright.

Denver Broncos 5-3 at Carolina Panthers 2-6

Manning and the Broncos will have the edge today

The AFC West leading Broncos are riding high on a current three-game winning streak, which has been backed by a rejuvenated Peyton Manning. Manning, who is putting up MVP-like numbers, has looked like a mirror-image of his younger self and has turned the Broncos into a top five NFL passing offense. He will go up against a middle-of-the-road 13th ranked pass defense of the Panthers, so there’s no reason to think he won’t have continued success.

It’s quite surprising really that the Panthers, who have stumbled out of the gate this year at 2-6, haven’t won more contests considering their numbers. Carolina ranks in the top 20 in all major categories, making it all the more frustrating that they haven’t notched more victories in 2012. No one is more frustrated than last year’s offensive rookie of the year, Cam Newton, who is leading the 18th ranked aerial attack in the NFL.

Newton and the Panthers have lost several close games this season and I’m afraid this looks like another one waiting to happen. The Broncos are too hot, too poised and have too much veteran leadership to drop this one, even on the road. Take Denver to cover -4 points this week.

Kansas City Chiefs 1-7 at Pittsburgh Steelers 5-3

This matchup features two teams headed in the polar opposite direction. The Steelers, winners of three straight, haven’t lost a Monday night game in two decades and they most likely won’t end that streak this weak against a Chiefs team that still hasn’t had a lead in regulation all year long.

Ben Roethlisberger, who is also having an MVP-like year, should find plenty of large windows to throw though against the Chiefs, who give up more than 30 points per game. However, with an extra day to prepare and with a big stage, I expect the Chiefs to play more inspired and keep this game closer than the 12-point spread suggests, if only slightly. And let’s not forget, their one win this season did come against the New Orleans Saints. Take KC to cover here at +12.

Can Carson Palmer get the best of Ed Reed and Co.?

Oakland Raiders 3-5 at Baltimore Ravens 6-2

Like Carolina, Oakland has had a rough shake in several games, but the Raiders have only been able to hold on against poor teams like Jacksonville and Kansas City. This week they are playing a talented, albeit depleted, Baltimore squad, who despite injury, has continued to find ways to win.

However, I do like the Raiders to cover the +9 spread and they may even pull the upset today with the 6th ranked passing attack and Carson Palmer going up against the 22nd ranked passing defense, one that as mentioned before, has been marred with injuries. If the Raiders can somewhat contain Ray Rice and the running game, they should cover today.

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