Around the AFC West: Broncos are in the basement, and may not get out
The Denver Broncos are at the bottom of their division. Let’s hope at the end of another lost season they do enough to at least pass the Raiders in the standings – even though they couldn’t beat Las Vegas (again) this year.
This week, all AFC West teams are playing out of conference games. They’ve been beating up on each other, like we saw with all four teams playing against each other last week. For Week 12, we’ll get a reprieve from that and instead watch some ‘measuring stick’ games for each squad.
Let’s take a spin around the AFC West to see what the competition is up to.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Broncos gave the Chiefs a weapon when they passed on RB Isiah Pacheco. The seventh-round pick out of Rutgers has taken over as the Chiefs’ starter, and he’s been in that role for at least a month. It didn’t take him long to make his impact felt, and Pacheco was a star of Chiefs’ training camp. Now, he gets to spearhead the Chiefs’ rushing attack – and the rookie came through with the first 100-yard game of his career last week against the Chargers.
His 107-yard performance was outstanding because it came on only 15 carries. Pacheco has big-play ability, and he runs angrily which is a perfect complement to the Chiefs’ high-powered passing attack. His performance stings as the Broncos had him in for a top-30 visit before the 2022 NFL draft. Instead of picking him up on Day 3 of the draft, the Broncos chose worse options like WR/KR Montrell Washington. While Washington continues to struggle mightily on a weekly basis, Pacheco looks like a stud running back.
What pours more salt in the wound is the fact the Broncos could use a running back now after the Javonte Williams injury and the release of Melvin Gordon. Ah, what might have been with Pacheco in orange and blue. Instead, we will see if Pacheco can maintain as an important starter on a team that will certainly push for another Super Bowl run this season.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders only have three wins this season and two of those came against the Broncos. Like the Broncos, the Raiders aren’t going anywhere this season. However, unlike the Broncos (hopefully) the Raiders are unlikely to be making a coaching change this offseason. Raiders’ owner Mark Davis does not have the resources the Walton-Penner group has, so Josh McDaniels is probably safe for at least one more year as their head coach.
We’ll see when TE Darren Waller can come back from his hamstring injury. He’s on Injured Reserve right now, and there’s a chance the team will just shut him down for the rest of the season. Since they’re not going anywhere, there’s no need to rush Waller back into action. Instead, the best course of action could be to let him heal up and get ready for next year.
There is no doubt that Raiders RB Josh Jacobs is playing out of his mind this year. What is in question is his status in the future. He’s set to be a free agent this offseason, and the Raiders may not bring him back for 2023 and beyond. They selected RB Zamir White in the draft out of Georgia, and the rookie has barely seen the field as Jacobs continues to gash opponents (like the Broncos) on a weekly basis. White could be the future of the Raiders, but if Jacobs stays healthy there is a team who might reward him with a sizable contract this upcoming offseason.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers can’t seem to catch a break, and they can’t seem to get on the winning track. Losers of two in a row, the Chargers fell to the Chiefs 30-27 in Week 11 on Sunday Night Football. The Chiefs are clearly superior, and they ran all over – and passed all over – the Chargers defense to show their supremacy. The Chargers defense has problems, but their offense has been problematic when it comes to staying healthy.
Last week, WR Keenan Allen was a full participant in practice for the first time since Week 1. Against the Chiefs, Allen caught 5-of-8 targets for 94 yards. He’s been battling various injuries this year, but Allen made it through the game unscathed. This week, Allen has already been a full participant in practice so that’s a positive sign.
Once again, we are left to monitor the health status of WR Mike Williams during the week of practice. Williams returned from his high-ankle sprain in Week 11 only to play six snaps before re-aggravating the injury. Without Williams in Week 12 (assuming he needs more time to heal), the Chargers can turn to Josh Palmer again. A third-round pick in 2021, Palmer has 38 targets over the last three games and produced two 100-yard games during that time.