1. Carson Palmer's role as the Raiders’ savior: In the past two games, Oakland has been outscored 80-30, as the team has fallen to 7-6 and a game behind Denver. Palmer has not been good during the stretch. Oakland acquired Palmer for two premium picks for him to carry the team down the stretch. He’s been terrible this month. In all, Palmer has thrown 13 interceptions and nine touchdown passes as a Raider.
2. Chiefs’ ability to compete: The Chiefs are undermanned because of injuries and are going through a miserable stretch. They have the NFL’s toughest remaining schedule. In the past two games, though, Kansas City competed hard. Sunday, a season-long issue resurfaced as the Chiefs were hammered by the host New York Jets, 37-10. It was the fifth time this season Kansas City has lost by at least 27 points. If you want a reason Todd Haley was fired Monday, there's a big one.
3. The division’s ability to stop the Green Bay Packers: The 13-0 Packers are doing some of their best work against the AFC West this season. They are 3-0 against the division and they are doing it in spectacular fashion. Green Bay has outscored Denver, Oakland and San Diego by a combined score of 140-77. The Packers have scored at least 45 points in each game. They play at Kansas City on Sunday, so the carnage could continue.
1. John Fox’s coach of the year candidacy: Denver’s coach has to be gaining on San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh in the coach of the year hunt. Harbaugh has done a terrific job as the 49ers are 10-3. However, in his first season in Denver, Fox has his team 8-5 after it was 4-12 last season. Harbaugh is still the favorite, but if the Broncos’ incredible winning streak continues, Fox may steal some votes away from Harbaugh.
2. Philip River, quarterback, San Diego: It may be too late to save the Chargers’ season, but Rivers has gotten it together. He threw three touchdown passes in a 37-10 win over Buffalo on Sunday. Rivers has settled down in recent weeks. He hasn’t thrown an interception in the past three games. He had 17 interceptions (a career high) in the first 10 games.
3. Broncos’ home-field advantage: The Broncos are now 3-3 at home after beating the Bears 13-10 in overtime. Denver’s famous home-field advantage has slipped in recent years and it was dangerously close to falling to 2-4 at home this season. Denver is 5-2 on the road this season, but Denver was rocking Sunday. The Broncos have two remaining home games, starting Sunday against New England.