The Denver Broncos didn't play on Thursday night, but their fortunes may have been affected as two division rivals faced off. The Oakland Raiders beat the San Diego Chargers 24-17 on Thursday to take sole possession of first place in the AFC West, breaking up a three-way tie in the division between the Raiders, Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs.
The Raiders managed to coax another disappointing effort from Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers on Thursday with an impressive defensive performance. They sacked him six times, forced him into two turnovers and limited him to a 48.9 percent completion rate, continuing an unfortunate trend of mediocrity for one of the league's supposedly great quarterbacks. Oakland got a strong performance from Carson Palmer, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 299 yards and a touchdown, and 157 rushing yards from Michael Bush in addition to the strong defensive effort.
Oakland's victory should have major implications in the division, as well. With the Raiders bumping up to 5-4 on the year while the Chargers drop down to 4-5, this weekend's game between the Broncos and the Chiefs has major implications. A victory against the Chiefs would improve Denver's record to 4-5, putting them in a three-way tie for second place in the division.
Considering the struggles that a young Broncos team has gone through this year, the possibility of being in second place through ten weeks has be pretty exciting. A few weeks ago, you had to wonder whether the Broncos might be competing in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. Now, they might actually be thinking playoffs. With Tim Tebow, if you all forgot.