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The marquee game of the week will feature two teams that sit atop of the AFC West. Sunday Night Football will showcase a clash between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs. These two teams have been on a collision course and they will play each other in two of the next three games. The other teams in the AFC West will be on the road this week. The San Diego Chargers will travel to Miami to face the Dolphins. The Oakland Raiders will also be on the road when they go to Houston to go against the Texans. Here’s how the AFC West standings fall:

Kansas City Chiefs 9-0    Denver Broncos 8-1    San Diego Chargers 4-5    Oakland Raiders 3-6

Let’s take a look at this week’s matchups.

Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans

The Raiders are in a bit of turmoil right now. Terrelle Pryor suffered from a knee injury and tried to play against the New York Giants last week. He struggled and has already missed practice on Wednesday. There is some doubt that he will be able to play this week. Rashad Jennings has earned more carries because he has piled up 283 yards and  has been the offense’s lone productive player over the past two games while McFadden nurses a hamstring injury. The one thing that this Raiders offense can do is run the football.  They are fifth in  the NFL averaging 143.2 yards rushing per game.

The Texans are a team that has really been a disappointment. There were high hopes for them as they entered the 2013 season. Matt Schaub has been replaced with third string quarterback Case Keenum. Keenum will not hesitate to put the ball up for Andre Johnson to make a play. Arian Foster will miss the rest of the season with a back injury that requires surgery. Ben Tate will take over as the feature back.

tracyporterKey Matchup: Tracy Porter/D.J. Hayden vs Andre Johnson Porter is an opportunist at corner. He will take chances and jump routes to get interceptions. He could benefit from the gunslinger mentality of Keenum. Hayden is a rookie corner that is trying to find his way. Johnson is a proven vet at receiver so when they are able to get Hayden matched up on Johnson, they will look to take advantage. We shall see how Hayden holds up.

The Verdict: Texans 20 Raiders 7

This game is a meeting of two franchises that are going in the wrong direction. The Texans have the top ranked passing defense and will be looking to continue their stellar play when they face the 31st ranked passing offense in the Raiders. Keenum will give them a chance to put up some points. Andre Johnson is coming off of a two touchdown game against the Arizona Cardinals.  It doesn’t look like Pryor will play this week. This means Matt McGloin will probably start against the Texans. Their defense will be too much for the struggling Raiders offense to handle.

San Diego Chargers @ Miami Dolphins

The Chargers need to restore the balance to their offense. They were at their best when Ryan Matthews was having one hundred yard rushing games. Phillip Rivers has been able to establish a nice connection with Keenan Allen. Their offense can get the job done as shown by their average of almost 400 yards of total offense per game. Danny Woodhead has become a viable option out of the backfield. He leads the team in receptions.

The Dolphins are a team that has a lot of searching to do. The Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito ordeal has hampered this football team. Ryan Tannehill is still progressing as a quarterback but not at the rate that many expected as a result of the Mike Wallace signing. Lamar Miller has been an explosive running back. Rishard Matthews exploded on the scene last week and has finally secured himself an abundance of snaps at wide receiver.

NFL: Preseason-San Diego Chargers at Chicago BearsKey Matchup: D.J. Fluker vs Cameron Wake Wake has continued to show why he has been such a dominant pass rusher. His speed and agility will be a big test for Fluker. The rookie tackle has done well this year. He will need to put his best foot forward against Wake. If he can do so, Rivers will have a clean pocket and be able to get the ball to his receivers specifically Antonio Gates.

The Verdict: Chargers 24 Dolphins 17

The Dolphins problems will continue to handicap them for the rest of the season. Taking away Martin and Incognito has only made an already weak offensive line worse. This has hurt the running game for the Dolphins. The Chargers will need to limit the big plays by Tannehill and Wallace if they want to win this game. Offensively, the Chargers will have some trouble with the Dolphins rushing defense but they will need to stick to the run to establish a balanced attack. Phillip Rivers will look to get the ball to Keenan Allen. Gates will be the x factor in this game.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos

The Chiefs have enjoyed the success of Andy Reid’s winning formula. A tough defense can now be added to that equation. Justin Houston and Tamba Ali have been on fire this season. They have established themselves as one of the more productive pass rushing combinations in the NFL. Brandon Flowers can still cover pretty well and Sean Smith is one of the games best press corners.

The Broncos are almost unstoppable. The ankle injury to Peyton Manning could be a serious one but will come down to how severe of a high ankle sprain it is. Manning has done a masterful job of spreading the ball around. Demaryius Thomas has emerged as a very easy threat to get to the end zone.

Denver Broncos v Atlanta FalconsKey Matchup: Sean Smith vs Demaryius Thomas Thomas is a big, agile and fast player. The Broncos like to run a lot of bubble screens to him. He usually catches the ball and gets u[p field right away to break off a touchdown run. Smith likes to press the receivers that he goes against. Watch for Smith to make some plays behind the line if the Broncos go to the bubble screen too much. Smith is a sure tackler so it will be difficult for Thomas to turn those short gains into bit plays.

The Verdict: Chiefs 24 Broncos 21

The injury to Peyton Manning will affect his movement within the pocket. He may struggle to find passing lanes and step up in the pocket. The Chiefs have a ferocious pass rush so they will be looking to get to Manning as much as possible. Alex Smith has played efficient football but he will need to take the training wheels off in order to match their future opponents.  The game will come down to a couple of big plays by Jamaal Charles.  Expect him to have 150 total yards and two touchdowns.




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