It’s going to be an exciting battle to see who wins the AFC West. (Aleah Fajardo/Special to S.F. Examiner)

It’s going to be an exciting battle to see who wins the AFC West. (Aleah Fajardo/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Return of wild, wild west is just what NFL needs

Bailed on the NFL season weeks ago? Tired of so many self-indulged, overpaid athletes? National anthem boycotts? Missed tackles? Really dumb penalties? One-eyed referees?

Well, there could be a glimmer of hope for the pro football season yet. It’s the three-team snot-knocker between the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Raiders, whose rivalry dates back to the old AFL days, which makes it that much sweeter.

One-half game separates the AFC West heavies with seven weeks left. Each has obvious strengths. Each has question marks. Each is capable of a division title and more. Each is capable of a booby prize.

Start with the reigning Super Bowl champion Broncos, who still ride sack monster Von Miller and an elite defense. They also have a rookie out of Northwestern at quarterback. Trust Trevor Siemian in a big game? We’ll see.

The Chiefs pack a top 10 defense, too, not to mention a solid run game. In Andy Reid, they have one of the better coaches in the league. Burner Tyreek Hill gives them a new toy to play with on offense. But does quarterback Alex Smith scare anyone? Uh, no.

That leaves the Black Holers.

In Derek Carr, the Raiders have easily the best QB of the bunch, a legit Most Valuable Player candidate. Coach Jack Del Rio has been around the block. Oh, but that defense. Maybe the return of Aldon Smith is the final piece to the puzzle. Or maybe he blows the whole thing up.

Consider that the three contenders have comparable schedules from here on out, and this is another race that’s too close to call. Know this much: It’s gonna be fun to see which one is left standing on New Year’s Day.

JUST JARED: Glad to know that Los Angeles Rams coach Jeff Fisher is an avid Balls readers.

Got a better explanation for why Fisher came to his senses and promoted quarterback Jared Goff to a starter role this week, only hours after yours truly called for the move?

Britney Spears was so thrilled that she showed up at practice the next day.

“I’m glad it’s finally come,” Goff told reporters. “I’m glad they’ve given me that vote of confidence and the nod. I’m ready to go and prove them right.”

Not so fast. Goff inherits a limp offense that ranks near the bottom in almost every category. For starters, expect a lot of conservative play calls, a few shots downfield and a bunch of rookie mistakes. Defenses will blitz him. A lot.

Yet Goff knows about adversity and expectations from his Cal days, when the Bears rode his golden arm for three seasons. If his o-line and notoriously impatient SoCal fans give him some time, the kid may prove Santa Clara wrong for its draft snub yet.

CLIP ’N’ SAVE: If the Warriors had known Marreese Speights would be this good, they might not have signed Kevin Durant last summer.

OK, probably not. But Mo Buckets and the Los Angeles Clippers are off to a 10-1 start, which translates to a 75-7 record. Even more crazy has been the way that they’ve destroyed opponents thus far.

Through 11 games, the Clippers have a plus-183 points differential, which ranks fourth in history. Only the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls (212), 1964-65 Boston Celtics (194) and 1971-72 Milwaukee Bucks (193) were more dominant. All went on to capture the league championship.

Granted, it’s way too early to take the Clippers all that seriously. After all, Blake Griffin hasn’t broken a hand on somebody’s face yet. Still, their Dec. 7 date with the Warriors in L.A. rates as one of the few must-see games in a regular season that’s waaaaay too long.

THE LIST: Sure-miss picks against the spread for Week 11 of the NFL season …

Miami Dolphins at Rams (+2.5 points).

New England Patriots (-13) at Santa Clara.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (+9).

Last week: 0-3. Season: 12-18 (.400).

YOUR TURN: “Like your columns. I just don’t bet your NFL picks.” Jim Olson, San Francisco

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE … Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder?

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to pladd@aol.com, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.AFC WestDerek CarrOakland Raiders

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