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Raiders to kick off wild AFC West race against Chargers

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wild afc west racce
Sep 26, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders defensive tackle Darius Philon (96) celebrates in the second half against the Miami Dolphinsat Allegiant Stadium.The Raiders defeated the Dolphins 31-28 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders play their first of six AFC West games in primetime for Monday Night Football when they take on the Los Angeles Chargers at Sofi Stadium. If should be just the beginning of a wild AFC west race.

In fact, Las Vegas plays two of their next three games against a divisional opponent before heading into their bye week, with the other being against Denver Broncos in a matchup at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver on Oct. 17. Las Vegas’ second game against the Broncos is the day after Christmas at Allegiant Stadium.

wild afc west race
Sep 26, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) with wide receiver Tim Patrick (81) in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders and Broncos lead the AFC West, both with 3-0 records. The last time both teams started undefeated through the season’s first three weeks was in 2002 when the Raiders won the Super Bowl and the Broncos finished 9-7 and just missed the playoffs.

Despite being 3-0, quarterback Derek Carr, who became the fourth player to throw for 1,200 yards through the first three games, said the team does not receive any trophies at the conclusion of the season’s first calendar month.

“I’m glad that we’re off to a good start, but they don’t hand anything out after three weeks,” Carr told Evan Washburn, NFL on CBS, after Sunday’s 31-28 overtime victory over Miami.

With Las Vegas beating Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Miami, the Raiders became the first team in NFL history to defeat three teams that won 10 or more games the previous season.

Schedule helps Broncos keep pace in wild AFC West race

Meanwhile, the Broncos defeated the New York Giants and the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road before shutting out the New York Jets last week, 26-0 in their home opener. The Giants, Jaguars and Jets are a combined 0-9 on the season.

Before Denver takes on Las Vegas in a few weeks, the Broncos will get tested with matchups against the Baltimore Ravens at home and the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road, the same format the Raiders had in its first two weeks.

Although Teddy Bridgewater is in his first season as the Broncos play caller and receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler are hurt, the one thing that has carried the team is their defense. The Broncos’ defense ranks third in passing yards allowed and second in rushing yards allowed.

Chargers, Chiefs hope to keep pace in wild AFC West race

The other two teams in the division are the Chargers at 2-1 with their lone loss coming at home against the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago, and the Chiefs at 1-2 with their losses coming against the Ravens in Baltimore and against the Bolts at Arrowhead Stadium.

wild afc west race
Sep 26, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) runs the ball and is tackled by Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill (49) during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Even with Patrick Mahomes leading the Kansas City offense, it’s the first time the Chiefs are under .500 and in last place since the 2015 season.

Last season, both the Chiefs and Raiders went 4-2 in their six division games, which includes splitting their season series by winning at each other’s home stadium. The Chargers went 3-3 and the Broncos went 1-5 in divisional games  

The Chargers are led by first-year head coach Brandon Staley and 2020 AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert, a 6-foot-6, 23-year-old quarterback.

Head coach Jon Gruden said the schedule only gets tougher as the Chargers will be motivated coming into Monday night’s game after their 30-24 win against the Chiefs.

“It’s fun to win and it’s also, you have to be realistic when you look at your schedule, what we have coming up,” Gruden told the media on Monday. “It doesn’t get much easier. The Chargers just went to Kansas City and beat the Chiefs and did it in impressive fashion. So, every week is a grind.”

Against Kansas City last week, Herbert completed 26 of 38 passes for 281 yards and four touchdowns. In addition, the defense combined to get four takeaways via two inceptions and two fumbles.

wild afc west race
Sep 26, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) runs the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Mike Williams had seven receptions for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Also, wide receiver Keenan Allen recorded six catches for 52 yards and scored a touchdown.

With all of the unpredictability this NFL season has brought three weeks into the year, the AFC West is expected to have a wild finish, especially with an extra game in the slate.