Patriots knock off Chargers, give Broncos chance to clinch AFCW next week

It wasn't the result Denver hoped for, but there's a silver lining to New England's 23-14 win at San Diego on Sunday night.

The Patriots (10-3) remain ahead of Denver (10-3) in the race for the AFC's #1 seed thanks to their head-to-head tiebreaker. But the Broncos now have a two-game lead over the Chargers (8-5), and can clinch the AFCW with a win or tie at San Diego next Sunday afternoon.

The Chargers jumped out to a 14-3 lead with two touchdowns early in the second quarter, only to have the Pats shut them out 20-0 the rest of the way.

They'll likely host Denver with a new punter, as Mike Scifres suffered a possible broken collarbone on a kick that was blocked in the second quarter. Placekicker Nick Novak took over for Scifres and punted six times for a 40-yard average.

Despite being without Scifres, Mike McCoy made a baffling decision in the fourth quarter, punting down nine points with 6:19 remaining.

Elsewhere in the AFCW, Kansas City (7-6) fell 17-14 at Arizona, thanks in part to a hugely controversial replay ruling.

As the Chiefs drove for a potential tying or go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, Travis Kelce converted a 3rd-and-4, and defender Deone Bucannon knocked the ball out after the tackle. Plays like this happen many times each week, but they're never ruled fumbles.

And it wasn't ruled a fumble this time either, not until Bruce Arians threw his challenge flag, and the play got to the replay booth. Incredibly, the replay crew saw enough evidence to overturn the ruling on the field, and Arizona was awarded the ball.

Another controversial call wiped out a touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Anthony Fasano, preceding an apparently hideous Smith interception that led to Arizona's lone touchdown of the day.

The loss deals a serious blow to KC's already fleeting playoff hopes, dropping them into the AFC's #10 position with three weeks remaining.

Out by the Bay, Oakland (2-11) shocked their neighboring Niners with a 24-13 upset, led by three touchdown passes from Derek Carr.

By earning their second win of the season, the Raiders may have jeopardized their hold on the #1 overall pick in the 2015 Draft. But they undoubtedly made their jackass defensive coordinator proud.

The result did nothing to quell speculation that Jim Harbaugh might jump ship and end up coaching the Raiders next year.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM