The Broncos took care of business against the Raiders on Thursday night, winning 26-13. Now let’s take a look at what’s on tap for the rest of the AFC West in Week 14.
KANSAS CITY AT CLEVELAND
Coming off an emotional win last weekend the Chiefs will travel to Cleveland this week, as they continue to deal with the aftermath of last weekend’s tragedy. Kansas City got a big boost from the home crowd at Arrowhead last weekend, something they won’t have in three of their last four games, starting this weekend in Cleveland.
If there’s any chance for head coach Romeo Crennel or general manager Scott Piolo to save their jobs, the Chiefs will have to continue to be competitive and win games down the stretch. Meanwhile, the Browns have won four of their last seven games, including wins over two other AFC West teams, as they look like a team that may have turned a corner in regards to no longer being one of the NFL’s perennial bottom feeders.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Brady Quinn vs. the Cleveland defense. Quinn will get his first chance to play against the team that drafted him in the place where he spent the first three years of his career. Most of Quinn’s time in Cleveland was spent battling with Derek Anderson for playing time, as he was never really given a fair shot to be the starting quarterback for extended period of time. Quinn is finally getting that chance with the Chiefs towards the end of this season, and coming off arguably his best game as a professional he’ll be motivated to prove himself against his former team. Cleveland ranks 23rd in pass defense, so there should be opportunities for Quinn to make plays coming off a 200-yard and two touchdown performance last weekend, especially if the Chiefs can continue to establish Jamaal Charles and the running game early on.
This probably won’t be the prettiest game, but it is a fair matchup. Both teams have good running backs that they’ll look to ride while not asking too much from their quarterbacks, aside from managing the game and not turning the ball over. The Chiefs will continue to play hard and be competitive, and while they will be the sentimental favorites to win, in games like this a slight advantage goes to the home team, and that’s Cleveland. In the end, the Chiefs will fight hard but they’ll be too emotionally drained, and the Browns will be able to pull out a close win: Cleveland 20, Kansas City 17.
SAN DIEGO AT PITTSBURGH
What’s left to say about the Chargers? They just haven’t been able to close out games in the 4th quarter, and as a result they have lost seven of their last eight games, virtually eliminating them from playoff contention. Even a clean sweep of their final four games wouldn’t be enough to get them to the playoffs, and even that’s a far-fetched scenario considering their schedule, starting with a road trip to Pittsburgh this weekend. The Steelers are in the exact opposite position of the Chargers. Pittsburgh is coming off an incredible and emotional 4th quarter comeback against the AFC North leading Ravens, which has put the Steelers in good position for a playoff birth. Look for the Steelers to play with a lot of intensity and energy on Sunday, as they return home after a big win and look to secure a spot in the playoffs. Meanwhile, one has to wonder how much the Chargers have left in the tank physically and emotionally after so many close losses and their goals of a playoff berth out of reach.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Phillip Rivers vs. the Pittsburgh defense. The Steelers are 5th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, which doesn’t bode well for the Chargers with regards to a balanced offensive attack, especially after abandoning their running game last week, even while they had the lead. That means the game will come down to Rivers being able to lead the Charger’s offense down the field, but it won’t be easy. With no running game, the Pittsburgh pass rush will have a chance to be aggressive, which means Rivers will have the likes of Brett Keisel and James Harrison in his face all day long. Also, if Rivers has to resort to desperate and dangerous throws down field, he’ll have to worry about Troy Polamalu roaming the secondary looking to pick balls off. Rivers will have to be far better than he’s been lately if the Chargers are going to score enough points to beat the Steelers.
The Steelers aren’t a high scoring team, and the San Diego defense has played well most of the season, so even with the season all but lost the Charger’s defense will give a professional effort, which will keep this game low scoring and close. However, there’s little reason to think that San Diego’s stagnant offense can get it going against Pittsburgh’s stout defense; the Charger’s miserable season will continue, as this loss secures a losing season for them: Pittsburgh 23, San Diego 13.