(CBS Denver) — The Kansas City Chiefs have returned to the top of the AFC West standings. They’re not the team that blew through opponents the last two seasons, but they are finding ways to beat the teams they should. Four straight wins have moved the Chiefs to 7-4. That’s one win ahead of the rest of the division. The Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos have all found their way to 6-5.
Week 13 matchups could provide a little separation for the Chiefs. Or they could simply jumble the standings, without really changing much. The Chargers try to bounce back against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Raiders face the the Washington Football Team in a matchup of teams gaining late-season momentum. And the Broncos look to end the Chiefs’ winning streak. All four AFC West teams will be hoping for at least a share of the division lead.
All times listed are Eastern.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, December 5, 1:00 p.m. on CBS
The Chargers started off the season strong, figuring out how to get the close wins that had previously eluded them. But they’ve struggled some lately, most recently falling 28-13 to the Broncos in Week 12. Justin Herbert threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns. He was also picked off twice, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Austin Ekeler’s 12 carries only led to a meager 31 yards.
The Chargers now face a Bengals team that dominated the division-rival Pittsburgh Steelers a week ago. Joe Mixon ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. Joe Burrow had a more modest afternoon, going an efficient 20-24 for 190 yards, one TD and one INT.
The timing seems poor for the Chargers, with Cincinnati firing on all cylinders. But the reality may be quite the opposite.
“I think this is a really good spot for them,” said Hartstein, “because Cincinnati is at the top of the market value. They could not have looked any better. Teams coming off blowout wins of more than 30-plus points historically a very poor ATS bet the next week, where as the Chargers coming off a very down performance. And I think this is a good spot, because Austin Ekeler should have a monster day. The Bengals really struggle defending running backs out of the backfield. They have not faced any running back of his caliber catching the ball. I think they keep it close. I’ll take the field goal. If it goes up to 3.5 or four, I’m definitely taking the Chargers.”
Washington Football Team @ Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, December 5, 4:05 p.m.
The Raiders entered their Thanksgiving Day game against the Cowboys as big underdogs. And they left with the overtime win. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, however. The Raiders committed 14 penalties for 110 yards, and they allowed Dak Prescott to throw for 209 yards in the fourth quarter alone. Five drives ended in field goals. Even so, Derek Carr threw for 373 yards and a touchdown, going 24-39. Josh Jacobs had 22 carries for 89 yards.
The Raiders will face a Washington Football Team that has pulled itself back into the NFC East race. It’s most recent win came over the Seattle Seahawks on Monday evening. Again, it wasn’t pretty. Thought the WFT defense has improved upon its early-season woes, it let Russell Wilson march the length of the field for a touchdown in the last two minutes. Only an interception on a two-point conversion attempt prevented likely overtime. Taylor Heinicke kept plays alive with his elusiveness, but he struggled to put the ball in the end zone. Antonio Gibson piled up 111 yards, but he needed 29 carries to do it.
“It’s a great matchup,” according to Hartstein, “because the Raiders apparently have figured things out. But now no Darren Waller is a huge loss. They don’t really have a lot of other great targets, other than Hunter Renfro. And Washington has won three straight. Since the bye, they’re a completely different team. This is going to be a close game. Right now. I’m going to pass on the side of this game. I can’t wait to watch it, because I think we have two teams that could both make the playoffs.”
Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, December 5, 8:20 p.m.
The Chiefs are looking a little more like the team everyone expected after winning the AFC the last two years. A rough schedule early was followed by some poor performances, including a 27-3 disappearing act against the Tennessee Titans in late October. But the Chiefs haven’t lost since. They’ve reeled off four straight wins to slip into the AFC West lead. And they’ve done it with a little help from the defense and the run game. Patrick Mahomes has also looked better at times, most notably throwing for 406 yards and five TDs in their 41-14 shellacking of the Raiders a few weeks back. His struggles continue, however.
The Chiefs are coming off a bye, and their remaining schedule is filled with games against AFC contenders, including four against teams in their division. That starts against the Broncos this coming Monday.
The Broncos topped the Chargers in Week 12, thanks, in large part, to 147 yards on the ground. Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams combined for most of that. Denver’s passing game, led by Teddy Bridgewater, isn’t among the league’s more productive. They average 223.7 yards per game, which puts them in the bottom half of NFL offenses. The stout Broncos defense, top 10 in terms of yards and points allowed, contained Ekeler, though Herbert was able to move the ball through the air.
The Broncos match up well with the Chiefs for the first of their meetings this season. Add in the rivalry factor and the tight division race, and this becomes a closer matchup than the current spread might suggest.
“It’s hard to lay double-digits against Teddy Bridgewater,” Hartstein notes. “He’s 19-4 against the spread as a road underdog. And even if the Chiefs were to go up by 17 points, he can get you through the backdoor to at least push the 10-point spread. Denver has a great pass defense, or I should say an above average pass defense. And that’s what you need when you’re facing the Chiefs. The team that beat Denver in this four-game win streak was Philly, and they ran for 216 yards, 5.5 yards per carry. The Chiefs are not set up to do that. Denver is actually designed well to stop what Kansas City does. And Javonte Williams, this running back for Denver, is so exciting to watch. Teddy’s also got a really good cast of receivers and a good couple good tight ends. I think Denver keeps it close. I’m taking the points.”
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