Broncos RB C.J. Anderson has kept the Broncos in the playoff race despite recent struggles by QB Peyton Manning.
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To say that Peyton Manning has not been himself lately would be an understatement. In the past eight days he has recorded lows in completion percentage and yards not seen since his final days in Indianapolis with an aging roster. And yet with the help of RB C.J. Anderson giving balance on offense to make up for the recent mistakes, the Broncos are once again poised to clinch the AFC West title very early – and possibly a first-round bye to boot.
The San Diego Chargers lost and the Kansas City Chiefs lost – giving them a two-game cushion in the title race with two games against the division still to play. The Broncos may not be the dominant team that set all of those NFL records back in 2013, but this is still a dangerous team on offense and defense – only now it’s much more balanced, and that will help them in the post-season.
Here are the five biggest winners from Sunday of Week 14 of the NFL season:
Oakland Raiders – Beating Jim Harbaugh’s team might go a long way in getting him to come to the team. But give Tony Sparano some credit: unlike the other 2-win teams of 2014, both of the Raiders wins came against 2013 playoff teams with winning records this year – no other team with two wins can make that claim.
Carolina Panthers – With that win over the New Orleans Saints – their first win in two months by the way – the Panthers can realistically win the NFC South by winning out as long as the Falcons lose to the Packers tonight and the Saints lose one more game.
Denver Broncos – Beating the Bills was one thing, but seeing the Chiefs and Chargers lose on Sunday gives the Broncos plenty of wiggle room in the AFC West title picture. If they beat the Chargers next week they will clinch their third straight AFC West title with Peyton Manning at the helm.
New England Patriots – Speaking of cushion in a division title race, the Patriots only need one more win this year to clinch their 6th straight AFC East title. A loss by either the Bills or the Dolphins (which has become a trend recently) would also clinch the title for them.
Pittsburgh Steelers – As expected, the Steelers overcame the Bengals on the road and now control their playoff destiny. If they win out (beating the Bengals a second time along the way), the Steelers will be back in the playoffs, and head coach Mike Tomlin’s seat will officially cool off again.