Broncos’ win over Chargers boosts AFC West’s competitiveness

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Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) throws against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, November 28, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo / Jack Dempsey)

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The Kansas City Chiefs see similarities in this year’s squad to the one that won the Super Bowl two years ago. After a hesitant start, they regain their health and mood and ride in December.

They also see the rest of AFC West getting closer to them as Joey Bosa, Bradley Chubb and Maxx Crosby breathe Patrick Mahomes neck.

After a pass, the Chiefs (7-4) are on a four-game winning streak, but the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders are all one game away from home. 6-5.

“The AFC is always wide open,” Derwin safety James Jr. offered after his Chargers lost 28-13 in Denver on Sunday. “We’re 6-5 right now and everyone in the AFC West has pretty much the same record as us. Everything we want is still there.

Indeed, the Chiefs could watch the Broncos next Sunday night if they lose to Denver for the first time since September 17, 2015.

“No matter what happens, we have to find a way to leave Arrowhead with a win,” safety Justin Simmons said after the Broncos managed rookie Pat Surtain II’s pair of interceptions to a decisive win, their third in four games.

Denver’s victory on Sunday means every team in the division has a winning record.

It also gave the Broncos hope of ending their long playoff drought despite four straight losses in October and seeing nearly 10,000 seats empty at Empower Field in Mile High on Sunday after their dismal performance against Philadelphia in the aftermath. of a signing victory in Dallas.

“The message before going into today’s game was like, ‘This is it. This is the season,” Simmons said. “You hate to think about it like that, but if we don’t win today’ Today, our season is on the line. We have to win.

“And I think it’s out. The guys were playing with a lot of passion and energy. We need to make sure we postpone this until next week. We can’t have a week in Dallas. We had a good game in Dallas and came back the next week and laid an egg against Philly.

The Chiefs could still run away with the division like they’ve done before, but Kansas City has the toughest schedule remaining with 36-29-1 combined opponents.

They face each of their rivals from the AFC West over the next three weeks and finish in Denver after games against the Steelers (5-5-1) at home and the Bengals (7-4) on the road.

The Broncos’ remaining opponents are 33-32-1, but that’s only because a winless Detroit (0-10-1) goes to Denver in two weeks. Everyone on their calendar has a winning record, including Cincinnati at home. And, like Kansas City, Denver still has four divisional showdowns.

The Chargers have two more losing teams to play: the Giants (4-7) at home and the Texans (2-9) on the outside. They are also visiting Cincinnati and their opponents’ cumulative record is 32-34.

The Raiders still have a losing team, Washington (4-6) at home next week, ahead of back-to-back games in Kansas City and Cleveland. Their opponents are a combined 35-31.

While the Chiefs are healthier, the Broncos are getting more and more stoned.

With starting tackles Garett Bolles (COVID-19) and Bobby Massie (ankle), they pitched Calvin Anderson and Cam Fleming against the Chargers, and Anderson (knee) had to be replaced by practice squad Quinn Bailey shortly soon after Netane Muti replaced left guard Dalton Risner (back).

Rookie Quinn Meinerz was already starting right guard due to injuries, so the Broncos had four back-up linemen for the running game and protective quarterback Teddy Bridgewater – who left in the first half with a right shin injury and was replaced by an ineffective Drew Lock before returning for the second half.

“Teddy is tough,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “This is undisputed. “

Behind their patchwork line and struggling QB, the Broncos have converted 8 of 11 third downs – their best third-down percentage in a single game since at least 1991, when the statistic was first recorded – and growled on 147 rushing yards.

“I think these guys did a great job,” Fangio said. “… Unfortunately we seem to have the patent of losing guys no matter how hard we try not to. I predict the tide will turn at some point.

Just as they expect their luck to turn against the Chiefs, who have beaten 11 in a row.

“Today wasn’t perfect,” Simmons said. “But, man, that mattered to the guys over there today. It was important to come and find a way to win the football game, and… whatever, that’s what we have to do from now on.

“The day after tomorrow, this game is over. We’re not going to talk about it. Next time we take a look at that is when we face the Chargers later. After tonight we’re all on the Chiefs, and we have to find a way to leave Arrowhead with a win. I cannot stress this enough.

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