Battle for Supremacy in the AFC West

The week eight finale comes down to an AFC West matchup between the San Diego Chargers (4-2) and the Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) in a game with major playoff ramifications for both teams with a win at Arrowhead putting either team in first place.

The Chargers are coming in after a loss on the road to the New York Jets and many are questioning the drop off in QB Phillip Rivers this year. Rivers is seventh in the league putting up 285.8 passing yards per game, but his efficiency has dropped this season with a QB rating of 82.3 versus his career average of 95.9. He has also uncharacteristically thrown only seven touchdowns to nine interceptions and has responded poorly while under pressure.

Wide receiver Malcolm Floyd has been hampered by foot and hip injuries, but he is expected to play.  He and WR Vincent Jackson will have to step up to provide Rivers options if his leading target, TE Antonio Gates is covered. The running game behind RB Ryan Matthews may get an opportunity tonight.  Matthews is averaging 75.3 yards per game against the Chiefs’ 25th ranked run defense which is giving up 125.5 yards per game. Left Guard Kris Dielman suffered concussion symptoms on the plane ride back last week, which could expose Rivers who has been sacked 14 times and has been notably flustered while under pressure this season. Defensively, the injuries have thinned out the Chargers’ roster. Safety Bob Sanders was lost for the year, DE Luis Castillo is still out as is OLB Shaun Phillips. With a win, the Chargers would be the sole owner of the first spot in the AFC West.

The Chiefs were terrible out of the gate this year going 0-3, but have turned it around lately and are on a three-game winning streak.  Tonight’s game is a must win as a victory puts them in a three way tie with the Chargers and Raiders in the AFC West with the Chiefs taking the tie breaker at this point.  A loss would have them firmly in the AFC West basement QB Matt Cassel has had his struggles throwing eight touchdowns to seven interceptions and the Chiefs are 30th in the league with 173.7 passing yards per game.

Cassel’s main target Dwayne Bowe gashed the Chargers in their last meeting and if coverage is focused on him, it should open up opportunities for WR Steve Breaston down the field. Like the Chargers, the Chiefs’ running game may have to carry the load. They are eighth in the league with 129.3 yards per game behind RBs Jackie Battle and Thomas Jones. They may find some holes against the Chargers’ 21st ranked run defense which is giving up 121.7 yards per game.

Fox Business has evaluated the win/loss and stock market statistics over the past 20 seasons of Monday night NFL games and come up with a Monday Night Markets (MNM) score for each team based on their record and the prior week’s market activity.  Let’s take a look at what the markets have to say.

The major indexes had strong gains with the Dow Industrials closing out the week up 3.58%, now up for five weeks in a row and six of the last seven.  The S&P 500 was also up posting a gain of 3.78% now on a four week winning streak and up five of the last seven.  The markets reacted positively to Europe’s broad outlines of a plan to address the region’s sovereign debt crisis and better than expected durable goods orders.  While earnings were a mixed bag with notable misses and negative outlooks by Amazon and 3M, these were offset by strong earnings from the likes of Boeing and Exxon Mobil.

Over the past 20 years, the Chargers have played 16 Monday night games and based on our calculations have a Monday night rank of .500 when the Dow closes the prior week up and .545 when the S&P 500 is up giving them a MNM rank for this week of .523.

During the same 20 year period, the Chiefs have played 24 Monday night games and have a rank of .625 when the Dow is up and .625 when the S&P 500 is up giving them an MNM rank this week of .625.

Monday Night Markets picks the Kansas City Chiefs at home.


Robert Gray (5-2)

Arrowhead is always a tough venue, but San Diego gets the edge thanks to its superior air power.

Sandra Smith (5-3)

Kansas City!

Chris Cotter (6-2)

This is a tough one. I think SD bounces back. Even at Arrowhead, I'm going Chargers.