This article is the fourth installment of an eight-part series. Each part focuses on one NFL division and provides a brief synopsis of the state of each team in that division. In the last segment, I looked at the teams in the AFC South. Here, I will discuss the teams in the AFC West.
The Denver Broncos finished last in the AFC West in 2021 with a 7-10 record. They had a promising start to the season winning their first three games. However, they limped to the finish line, dropping their final four games.
This ultimately cost Vic Fangio and his coaching staff their jobs. In hiring former GreenBay Packers’ offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, to be their new head coach, the Broncos are looking for more sparks on offense.
It Is A New Day In Denver
2021 feels like ancient history. Many pundits felt that the Broncos were a star QB and perhaps a pass rusher away from being an elite team. In the short 2022 off-season, the Broncos have already made some gargantuan moves to address those areas.
First, they traded for superstar QB Russell Wilson to be the face of their franchise. More recently, they signed budding star DE Randy Gregory to a five-year contract.
The Broncos Truly Have The Horses
For the first time in years, the Broncos truly have the horses to compete in the AFC West. Having said that, the AFC West is, arguably, the best division in football right now.
Thus, wins will not come easy. Whatever happens though, the Broncos figure to be one of the more intriguing teams to keep an eye on in 2022.
Kansas City Chiefs
There are no doubts about who the king of this division is. The Kansas Chiefs have won the AFC West six years in a row. With all the elite offensive weapons head coach Andy Reid has at his disposal, the Chiefs will certainly be in the running once again.
Having said that, however, for the first time in many years, there are legitimate questions about the Chiefs. The defections to what was already a suspect defense are a cause for concern.
How Will The Chiefs Respond To Such A Collapse?
Besides their issues on defense, I am more concerned with the mental state of this team right now. For a team that has shown its mettle time and time again, it was inconceivable to see them fold in the second half of the AFC Championship game the way they did.
In particular, QB Patrick Mahomes picked the worst time to play perhaps the worst football of his pro career. Many people wonder how he and his team will rebound from such an emotional loss.
Letting Safety Tyrann Mathieu Walk Would Be A Massive Loss
On the field, the Chiefs risk losing the heart and soul of their defense, Safety Tyrann Mathieu, in free agency. Curiously, the Chiefs have not even made an attempt to re-sign him. Instead, they have inked free agent Safety Justin Reid to a three-year $31.5 million deal.
Perhaps things will, ultimately, work out here, as GM Brett Veach usually knows what he is doing. However, losing such a beloved figure as Mathieu would really dampen the enthusiasm of many Chief fans.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders overcame so many adversities to make the playoffs last season. 2021 felt like a never-ending set of tragic circumstances for the Raiders.
First, head coach Jon Gruden resigned over a scandal involving his use of misogynistic and homophobic language in emails.
Then, former first-round picks WR Henry Ruggs and CB Damon Arnette were released due to off-field incidents.
The Raiders Overcame A Great Deal Adversity In 2021
It would have been totally understandable if the Raiders had faltered down the stretch. But they came together and showed real resiliency.
Although interim head coach Rich Bisaccia did a tremendous job holding things together, the Raiders chose to go in a new direction in 2022.
Raiders’ owner Marc Davis hired former Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to be their head coach. Further, the Raiders hired former Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler to replace Mike Mayock as GM.
The Raiders Have Some Solid Pieces In Place
On the field, the Raiders finished 10-7 last season and showed they can play with anybody. And the cupboard is not bare. QB David Carr, TE Darren Waller, DE Max Crosby are all pro-bowl-caliber players.
However, even with a fresh start and plenty of optimism, it is hard not to think of the Raiders as the team most likely to finish last in the AFC West. This speaks to how good the other teams in this division figure to be.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers finished 2021 with a 9-8 record. They were a whisker from making the playoffs. Clearly, this is a team that is on the rise.
No one would be surprised at all if the young Chargers won the AFC West in 2022. With stud QB Justin Herbert manning the helm, the Chargers feel like they can compete with anyone.
Last year, the Chargers’ defense was their Achilles heel. Teams were able to run over them without much resistance. Hence, this is where the Chargers’ front office has focussed its attention this offseason.
The Chargers Have Revamped Their Defense
First and foremost, they traded for DE Khalil Mack, one of the top defensive players of his generation. When he is healthy, there are few that can get to the passer like Mack. He is equally adept against the run.
And almost as splashy, the Chargers went out and signed the best cornerback on the market, J.C. Jackson.
If that were not enough, the Chargers addressed their biggest weakness, their interior run defense, by signing DTs Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Day.
No Team Has Had a Better Offseason So Far Than The Chargers
With apologies to the Broncos, it is hard to imagine any team having as spectacular an offseason as the Chargers. They were able to re-sign WR Mike Williams. Additionally, they added some studs to a defense that already has stalwarts like Joey Bosa and Derwin James in place. The sky is the limit for this team next year.
Thank You For Reading – AFC West: A Snapshot View.
I really enjoyed delving into the state of these teams, and hope I was able to shed a little light. Make sure to hit me up on Twitter or Facebook with any inquiries and/or to tell me how wrong you think I was.