All the Thanksgiving Day action is over, but week 12 continues, including these three AFC West games. Let’s take a closer look:
OAKLAND AT CINCINNATI
The Bengals took care of the Chiefs last week, and now they’ll take aim at the Raiders, as they look to win their third straight and make a run towards the playoffs. They couldn’t have picked a better team to play, as the Raiders continue to play horrific defense, giving up an average of 45 points over their last three games. Oakland’s defense has been hurt by injuries, and in a desperate attempt to shake things up the team cut linebacker Aaron Curry earlier in the week; but there are no signs that the Raiders will be able to turn things around on the defensive side of the ball.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Carson Palmer vs. The Cincinnati defense. Palmer is returning to the city where his career began, and he’ll undoubtedly want to be at his best and leave with a win. As usual, Palmer shouldn’t expect much help from his teammates, especially the Raider’s defense; so this game, like so many others, falls on Palmer’s shoulders. Cincinnati’s pass defense is pretty mediocre, and has given up some big point totals this season, so Palmer has a chance to throw for a lot of yards and put some points on the board, but it may be tough to keep pace with what Andy Dalton and his receivers are likely to do against the Raider’s porous defense.
The Raiders are desperate to end their three-game losing streak, but they have not faired well on long east-coast road trips this season. The Oakland defense is really hurting and they will be gashed all day long by A.J. Green through the air and BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the ground. Palmer will do his best to keep Oakland in it, but his efforts won’t be enough: Cincinnati 41, Oakland 24.
DENVER AT KANSAS CITY
Usually a home game against a division rival is a good thing for the Chiefs, but after last week’s appalling effort against the Bengals and the quick dispersing of their fans from Arrowhead Stadium long before the game was over, being back at home might not be the best thing for the Chiefs, as they desperately search for their second win of the season. The Chiefs fans that are present won’t have Matt Cassel to kick around anymore, as Kansas City will start Brady Quinn at quarterback. Quinn will go up against the team he spent the last two seasons with, although Quinn never actually took a regular season snap for the Broncos. Meanwhile, Denver is eyeing what will be their 6th consecutive win, as they hope to gain ground in the conference standings and work their way up to a first-round bye in the playoffs.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Jamaal Charles vs. The Denver front seven. The Denver defense is known as a fierce group of pass rushers, but they’re actually ranked 5th in the NFL in rush defense, allowing just 94 yards rusher per game; although part of that is a result of the Broncos being in the lead a lot and teams needing to throw the ball against them. The Chiefs are going to need to give Quinn all the help they can, which means giving the ball to Charles early and often. Denver’s defense is aggressive, sometimes too aggressive, and Charles and the Chiefs need to find a way to exploit that if they’re going to keep the game close. If Kansas City can’t run the ball effectively with Charles, Quinn will be forced to throw, which means he’ll likely have Von Miller in his face all day long, which is never a good thing for opposing quarterbacks.
This is one of the biggest mismatches you’re likely to find in the NFL all year. All of the momentum the Chiefs might have had coming off their hard found overtime loss to the Steelers a couple weeks ago is gone, and they are back to playing uninspired and uncompetitive football. Peyton Manning may not even break a sweat in this game: Denver 38, Kansas City 10.
BALTIMORE AT SAN DIEGO
No one needs a win more than the Chargers, who have lost five of their last six games. San Diego has had a chance in all of their recent losses, but they haven’t found a way to pull out a close game. San Diego can’t afford to lose another game if they think the playoffs are still a possibility. After two weeks on the road the lightning bolts will return home, only to find the AFC North-leading Ravens. Baltimore will challenge the Chargers on both sides of the ball, which means San Diego will have to play well for all four quarters, something they’re struggled to do all season.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Philip Rivers vs. Joe Flacco. Baltimore’s defense hasn’t been quite as dominant this year as it has in the past, but Flacco has made up for it by showing that he is capable of leading the Ravens to wins in high-scoring shootouts. San Diego’s defense hasn’t been all that consistent either, which could lead to a shootout between Rivers and Flacco. Rivers is a veteran of good old-fashioned shootouts, but Flacco has been better this year at protecting the ball and limiting turnovers, so it would be interesting to watch these two quarterbacks try to match each other score for score if the game unfolds in that manner.
The Chargers were better last week against Denver than they have been in any of their recent losses; they even outscored the Broncos in the second half. They are also more desperate for a win, which counts for a lot in the NFL. However, the difference in this game will be the running game. San Diego hasn’t been able to do much on the ground and Baltimore has Ray Rice: that’s a big difference. Flacco has more help around him than Rivers does, and that’s going to matter when the scores start to escalate. This one finishes: Baltimore 38, San Diego 28.