By: Michael Mills, Assistant Sports Editor
Photo courtesy of sportslogos.net
As the weeks roll by, the NFL playoff picture becomes clearer. The same cannot be said for the underachieving AFC West. Once again the Kansas City Chiefs came up short, losing their sixth game out of their last seven. The Chiefs’ 38-31 loss against the New York Jets marks the third time in four games they’ve lost by one score.
In Los Angeles, the Chargers handled their business against the Cleveland Browns. Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen continued his historic tear. Allen is the first receiver in NFL history to have 10 catches, 100 plus receiving yards and one or more touchdowns in three consecutive weeks. Allen scored his one and only touchdown of the day on a seven-yard strike from quarterback Philip Rivers. The Chargers’ 19-10 win is their third straight and leaves them tied for second in the AFC West.
For the first time in 210 games, quarterback Eli Manning did not start for the New York Giants. It was quarterback Geno Smith who lined up under center against the Oakland Raiders. Smith had a solid day, completing over 60 percent of his passes, throwing for 212 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. However, two lost fumbles on strip sacks proved costly for the Giants. With a chance to put points on the board before halftime, Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack ripped the ball out of Smith’s hands to put an end to the Giants scoring opportunity. The reemergence of running back Marshawn Lynch helped lift the Raiders to 24-17 victory. Lynch rushed for 101 yards and had a 50 yard touchdown run.
The Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers sit tied at 6-6 in the AFC West. If the playoffs started after week 13, the Chiefs would take home the division crown. This sets the stage for pivotal AFC West matchup in week 14. The Raiders travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. Every instinct says to pick against the Chiefs. They’re in the midst of an epic collapse after winning their first five games. However, they’ll find a way to get the job done. A second loss to the Raiders would severely hinder any playoff hopes for the Chiefs. The Kansas City offense will pick up where they left off against the Jets, and the defense will force a key turnover late in the game.
Score: Chiefs 27 Raiders 21
Week 14 is full of pivotal marquee matchups. The Carolina Panthers host the scorching hot Minnesota Vikings. The Panthers currently hold the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC. A loss here could open the door for the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons will try and find a way to stop quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints as they come to town with their arsenal of offensive weapons. Saints rookie running back Alvin Kamara is blossoming into a star and may very well win the rookie of the year award. The hot teams will prevail in both of these matchups and leave the NFC playoff picture virtually unchanged.
Score: Vikings 30 Panthers 20, Score: Saints 33 Falcons 21
In the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens soar into Pittsburgh after a dominant 44-20 win over the Detroit Lions. The loss of Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (torn Achilles) will hinder the Ravens defense as they look to stop wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell. Brown leads the league in receiving yards, and Bell leads the league in rushing yards. The Ravens will put up a solid fight, but Steelers offense will prove too much to handle.
Score: Steelers 27 Ravens 19