Final Word: AFC West

Six nuggets of knowledge about Week 17’s games:

The Marshall-less Broncos: It will be interesting to see how Denver reacts to playing without Brandon Marshall on Sunday against Kansas City. Denver coach Josh McDaniels announced Friday he would deactivate Marshall on Sunday. Marshall has a hamstring injury he suffered Wednesday. McDaniels suggested that Marshall is not being accountable and there are players will play Sunday for Denver who have more significant injuries than Marshall. McDaniels is making a huge point entering a game which has major playoff implications for Denver. Marshall has been the focal point of Denver’s offense. He has 101 catches. He has 61 more catches than anyone on the roster.

Will Denver’s trends continue? The Broncos have been incredibly streaky this season. They started the season with six straight wins. Then, they lost four games in a row. Then, Denver won two straight. It is now riding a three-game losing streak. Denver is 8-7 and needs help to make the playoffs. Another trend: the Broncos beat all three of their AFC West opponents in the first game on the road. Denver lost the second games against San Diego and Oakland at home. Will that trend continue Sunday against visiting Kansas City?

Will Cassel show up against McDaniels this time? Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel had a miserable game against Denver when he faced his former mentor Josh McDaniels for the first time, in Week 13. Cassel completed just 10 of 29 passes for 84 yards. He was intercepted twice before being yanked in the third quarter. It was the worst performance of his career. It wasn’t the type of game Cassel was used to having when he quarterbacked New England last year with McDaniels serving as his offensive coordinator.

Will the Broncos wear Silver and Black? Denver’s strange season will, indeed, end strangely. The Broncos and their fans will be rooting for rival Oakland. Denver has 10 scenarios that can result with them making the playoffs. Seven of those scenarios require Oakland to beat and/or tie visiting Baltimore. Denver will host the Chiefs at the same time Oakland plays the Ravens.

Can the Raiders get that elusive sixth win? Oakland won’t be playing for a playoff spot. But it will be playing for some organizational significance. If the Raiders (5-10) lose to the Ravens, they will suffer their seventh straight season with 11 or more losses. Oakland is the only team in NFL history to lose 11 or more games in six straight seasons.

Will L.T.’s streak continue? San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson does not have a 100-yard rushing game this season. He probably will go the entire regular season without one. With the Chargers having the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs wrapped up, it is doubtful Tomlinson will play the entire game Sunday against Washington. Tomlinson, in his ninth season, has 729 yards rushing, by far his lowest season total. This very well may be the final season in San Diego for the 30-year-old Tomlinson. Perhaps he can finish strong in the postseason.