This week finds the AFC West firmly in the hands of the Denver Broncos, but three of the teams in the division face what may be the three best teams in the NFL: Green Bay, Baltimore, and New England. The Raiders actually have the easiest game on Sunday, hosting Detroit in the return game for Ndamukong Suh. It would not at all be a surprise if every team in the division lost this week. Let's take the games one by one:
Green Bay @ Kansas City: The Packers are coming off a game in which they dismantled and embarrassed the Raiders and made it look easy. The Chiefs are coming off a game in which they played so horribly and were losing so badly, the TV network that I was watching the game on switched to Patriots-Redskins in the MIDDLE OF THE THIRD QUARTER. Kansas City doesn't know who will start for them at quarterback. I think we can all sense where this is going. This game is the NFL's equivalent of LSU vs. Middle Tennessee State. I predict Packers by thirty-six.
Detroit @ Oakland: This game is fairly hard to peg. Whichever team loses this game will find themselves way out of playoff contention with an extremely difficult road back with only two games left on the schedule after this. The Lions dropped a couple in a row to the Packers and Saints (something most teams would do) and then barely held on against Minnesota last week when Christian Ponder played horribly and Adrian Peterson was unavailable. Which Lions team is going to show up? The team that blew out Denver 45-10 or the team that lost to the Bears 37-13?
Furthermore, which Raider team will show up? The one that played without any passion or motivation the last two weeks or the one that amassed three straight wins prior to that? The Raiders look utterly toothless on offense without Jacoby Ford or Denarius Moore. Their absence has led to Carson Palmer forcing passes and having them picked off. Darren McFadden is a lost cause and with his Lisfranc injury may be gone indefinitely. Moore may be back this week but Ford will not. Detroit has some injuries to their secondary and to just about all their running backs. The most important injury may be to Oakland safety Michael Huff, which will make it more difficult to contain Calvin Johnson, as if he needed any help. Detroit wins by six.
New England @ Denver: No matter what the Sunday or Monday night games will be, make no mistake- this is the marquee game of the week. Tom Brady and the red-hot Patriots go into Mile High to face the force of nature known as Tim Tebow. Last week we saw what Tim Tebow can do against a great defense like the Bears. Now we see what the Denver defense can do against a great offense. The last great offense faced by Denver was Detroit's and they lost that game 45-10. Tim Tebow played poorly in that game but hasn't played poorly since and Denver's defense is looking much improved as well. If Tim Tebow can somehow win this game, he will be utterly deified by the media- even more so than he is now. He will reach heights heretofore reserved for such luminaries as Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Albert Pujols (at least until the next time Tebow loses a game).
However, that result is a longshot. The Redskins have a reasonably good defense and New England shredded them. The New England defense was and is atrocious, but they are great at forcing turnovers and limiting points scored upon them despite giving up ridiculous amounts of yardage. Bill Belichick will not fall into the trap of playing conservatively against the Broncos, as that path leads only to defeat. In order to beat the Broncos and Tim Tebow, one must attack constantly and never settle. If the game is close in the fourth quarter, the Broncos will win where the Redskins fell on their faces. The Patriots' best shot in this game is to put the game out of reach early, preferably before halftime. I think they will. Patriots by eleven.
Baltimore @ San Diego: Baltimore comes into this game having won four straight. San Diego comes in hot as well, having blown out Buffalo last week. San Diego needs to win this game to keep its narrowest of playoff hopes alive. However, Ray Lewis will likely return for this game. I don't think Philip Rivers will be able to have much success against Baltimore and the Chargers' running game isn't much of a threat. Joe Flacco is playing exceptionally well of late, and Ray Rice is fantastic as usual. Norv Turner is probably a lame duck coach for this game, and may soon be joining Todd Haley and Tony Sparano in the unemployment line. Ravens by twelve.