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Week 9 in the AFC West

With the Broncos starting to assert themselves as the team to beat in the division, the other three teams of the AFC realize that they need to pick up the pace and start taking care of teams that they should beat.

The week started early for two AFC squads, as the San Diego Chargers’ offense woke up in time to defeat the Kansas Chiefs on Thursday Night Football, 31-13.  The Chargers scored 21 fourth quarter points to notch the victory and at 4-4, have put themselves back in the hunt, just a half game back coming into today’s slate of games. Meanwhile, at 1-7 you would think that the Chiefs are as good as dead, but if the Broncos fall at Cincinnati today, KC is within three games. And with half the season yet to be played, anything can happen.

Denver Broncos 4-3 at Cincinnati Bengals 3-4

Look for Denver to control the line of scrimmage and win turnover margin

The Broncos have an opportunity to stay a game ahead of San Diego today as they take on the Bengals. Peyton Manning has had an MVP-like first half of the season, putting up more than 2000 yards and 17 touchdowns to just four interceptions. Denver’s offense has been efficient for the most part, but its defense has struggled at times and turnovers (fumbles) have been one of the main areas of concern.

Cincinnati has also had turnover issues, as Andy Dalton has throw 10 INTs already this year. He has also throw at least one interception in each game this season, so if that trend continues, Denver can expect a couple gifts coming their way. When Cincy has held on the ball, they’ve had a fair amount of success, putting up more than 350 yards of total offense per game and you would think that they will be less turnover prone playing at home this week.

This game will likely be won by the same team that wins the turnover battle and considering Manning’s experience and the Broncos’ momentum as of late, look for the Broncos to control the ball, the game and cover the -4 point spread on the road this week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-4 at Oakland Raiders 3-4

Will the Raiders make it three in a row against Tampa Bay?

Tampa Bay and Oakland are two teams often overlooked in their respective divisions, but both are very much in the playoff conversation at 3-4. The Bucs are coming off an impressive 36-17 win against Minnesota, completing perhaps their most complete performance all season. The Raiders on an upswing, winning their last two games, including last week at Kansas City, 26-16. Both teams need a win to keep pace, but a win for the Raiders could launch them into a three-way tie for first in the AFC West if the Broncos come up short.

Oakland has converted itself into a pass-first offense this season, ranking 10th in total yards through the air and, while ranking near the bottom of the NFL barrel; 3oth in rushing. The Raiders should have plenty of success then, passing on the Bucs, who rank 31st in pass defense, giving up more than 300 yards per game. Tampa defends the run well, so look for Oakland to stick with its strength and attack the TB’s secondary. The Bucs offense has a more balanced attack, (14th in passing, 15th in rushing) which should serve them well even on the road, as they should be somewhat unpredictable in their play selection.

I like Tampa Bay to pull the slight upset here on the road. If they can limit the Oakland air raid enough and if they can establish a running game, they should be able to set up play action and utilize their balanced offensive attack. These two teams are fairly evenly matched, so it will be close, but I think Tampa will cover +1 and get the win outright.




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