Melvin Gordon's Reported Return Makes AFC Life Tougher for Raiders

In the end, common sense won out. 

After sitting out all of training camp and the first three weeks of the season in search of a new contract he never was going to get, running back Melvin Gordon will end his holdout and return to the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday.

Gordon was expected to return before the Chargers and Raiders meet in Week 10, but his decision to come back and help the Bolts after just three weeks makes life in the tough AFC West even more difficult for coach Jon Gruden's club. 

After opening the season with a win over the Denver Broncos, the Raiders' offense has stalled and the defense has been ravaged by injuries, leading to a disappointing 1-2 start. With the Raiders set to spend the next four weeks on the road with a bye in the middle, the 1-2 start put them at an early season crossroads as they prepare to face the Indianapolis Colts in Week 4. 

However, there was an early silver lining as just six AFC teams sit at above .500 after three weeks. 

The Chargers are not one of those teams. 

The uber-talented Bolts opened the season with a win over the Colts, but then gave the Lions a win in Week 2 and tripped over themselves in classic Chargers fashion during a Week 3 loss to the Texans. 

L.A. has struggled to run the ball over the last two weeks, but Gordon's return obviously changes the dynamic of their team. The Bolts were going to have no issue against the Dolphins in Week 4, regardless if Gordon plays or not, but getting him back in the fold this early should put their season back on track. 

The Chargers always were expected to be a playoff team and potential Super Bowl contenders. But their 1-2 start, along with the Browns, Titans and Steelers stumbling out of the gate (the 0-3 Steelers are toast) did appear to give the Raiders some outside hope of making a playoff run should they figure out their own issues fast. 

You can pencil in the Patriots and Chiefs for the playoffs unless there's a catastrophic injury. The Ravens appear to be the class of the AFC North, while the Colts, Texans and Titans are destined to beat each other up in the AFC South. The wild-card picture likely will include the Chargers, the other two AFC South teams, and potentially the Browns and Bills. The Raiders believe they have the talent to also be in that discussion. Gordon's return makes all hope of the Chargers continuing to stumble evaporate and puts the Raiders (optimistically) back in the category of fringe playoff team vying for the final spot.

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With Gordon back in the fold, the Chargers are working their way back to full strength and will be 2-2, barring an epic faceplant in Miami, making the Raiders' trip to Indy all the more important, as keeping pace with the Chargers guarantees Oakland still can dream of having playoff hopes. 

Gordon's return makes the reality of sticking with L.A. all the more difficult. 

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