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2021-2022 AFC West Preview

Photo Credit to Kim Klement, USA Today Sports

Now that we have finished the NFC, it is time to take a look at AFC. And what better division to start with than that of the defending AFC champion Chiefs. The Chiefs have been kings of the West, winning it pretty easily each of the last five years. And while many look at the Chiefs as not only the clear-cut winner of the West but also the team to beat in the AFC, the division may be a long stronger than people are giving it credit for.

Kansas City Chiefs, 2020 Record: 14-2, Lost Super Bowl to Buccaneers

The Chiefs absolutely dominated the AFC West last year, going 14-2 and also claiming the one seed in the AFC. However, by the time they made it to the Super Bowl, their offensive line was decimated, leading to them getting absolutely dominated in the trenches.

Offensively, they get everyone of relevance back. Mahomes, Kelce, Hill, and CEH are once again being led by offensive guru Andy Reid. The biggest change to this offense is the offensive line. After watching the decimated line get absolutely dominated in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs decided to completely revamp it. They traded a first-round pick for tackle Orlando Brown, they signed Joe Thuney, they got Kyle Long after he came out of retirement, and they used a second-round pick on Creed Humphrey. With such a beefed-up line protecting such dangerous weapons, this offense should be as good, if not better than last year. On defense, this team also returns many of its big stars, including Chris Jones, Frank Clark, L’Jarius Sneed, and Tyran Mathieu. The big addition they made was using a second-round pick on linebacker Nick Bolton.

There’s no reason to think that this team won’t make a run for the one seed in the AFC and a run at a title. Barring an injury to Mahomes or a rash of injuries on the line, this team should be the best offense in football and Mahomes should be in the MVP conversation once again.

Chiefs 2021 Record Prediction: 14-3

Las Vegas Raiders, 2020 Record: 8-8, 2nd Place

In year three under Jon Gruden, the Raiders, while showing improvement, were still underwhelming. While the offense looked good at times, the team just seems to lack the necessary personnel, which is largely on Gruden. And after another iffy draft, this year doesn’t look much better.

Offensively, this team really didn’t make any big changes. Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs, and Darren Waller all return as the strongest offensive weapons. Second-year receivers Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards will look to break out this year while Hunter Renfrow will continue to solidify his status as a strong slot receiver. On defense, this team is littered with Jon Gruden picks, including Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell, Johnathan Abrams, and Trayvon Mullens. This offseason, the team made a few additions, including Solomon Thomas, Yannick Ngakoue, Quinton Jefferson, and Denzel Perryman. They also drafted safety Trevon Moehrig in the second round. While this wasn’t a bad pick, it was their fourth safety drafted in the first two rounds in the past five years.

Raiders fans’ patience is likely beginning to run out. Gruden came in to be the savior of a franchise that has been mediocre for pretty much the entire 21st century. While Gruden’s offense has looked good, his player personnel decisions have been questionable at best, which is holding this team back. If this team doesn’t at least make a playoff push this year, we could be talking about Gruden being on the hot seat.

Raiders 2021 Record Prediction: 5-12

Los Angeles Chargers, 2020 Record: 7-9, 3rd Place

Many people were down on the Chargers heading into last year. While they had plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, they had Tyrod Taylor starting at QB and had used their first-round pick on the polarizing prospect, Justin Herbert. After a freak injury before their week 2 game, Herbert was thrust into the starting lineup and the rest is history. However, after too many disappointing blown leads, Anthony Lynn was fired and former Rams DC Brandon Staley was hired as the new HC for the Chargers. Now, he’ll look to build off Herbert’s historic rookie season to make a playoff run.

This offense has a chance to be dangerous this year. Much of the big players are back this year, including Herbert, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and a healthy Austin Ekeler. This team also strengthened their offensive line, signing Corey Linsley and using their first-round pick on tackle Rashawn Slater. This team also drafted some good, young depth players such as Josh Palmer and Tre’ McKitty. Considering how solid this offense was last year, barring injuries and assuming Herbert takes even a small step forward, they could potentially be a top-five offense. On defense, the biggest upgrade for this team will be health. Not only will they have a full season of Joey Bosa, but they’ll also be getting Derwin James back, who missed all of last year. They also drafted CB Asante Samuel Jr in the second round. Assuming everyone stays healthy, and considering how good the Rams defense was under Brandon Staley, this defense has the talent to be top 10.

The sky is the limit for this team. Had this team not been so terrible at holding leads, they could’ve legitimately made the playoffs a year ago. The Chargers are and have been loaded with talent for years. A new coach could be what they need to finally put it all together.

Chargers 2021 Record Prediction: 12-5

Denver Broncos, 2020 Record: 5-11, 4th Place

As has been the case since Peyton Manning left, this team once again underperformed in 2020. Their QB situation was not great. After a promising final few games from Drew Lock in 2019, expectations were high. However, he instead had a 4-9 record, completed under 60% of his passes, and threw 16 TDs to 15 ints. With all the weapons in the world on offense and solid players on defense, this team heads into 2021 knowing they are just a QB away from being legit.

The Broncos tried to fix their QB situation, reportedly being in the running for Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers. However, after the Packers didn’t deal him, they were forced to choose between third-year QB Drew Lock, and Teddy Bridgewater, who they acquired in a trade this offseason from the Panthers. After an impressive preseason, Teddy Two Gloves was named the starter. He’ll be joining a slew of offensive weapons including Jerry Jeudy, Cortland Sutton, KJ Hamler, Melvin Gordon, and Noah Fant. The Broncos also used a second-round pick on running back Javonte Williams, who many believe will quickly be the bell cow over Melvin Gordon. This team already had good pieces on defense and just got better. The biggest change will be getting Von Miller back, who missed all of last year. They also used their top ten pick on Alabama stud CB Patrick Surtain II. They also added some other solid pieces like Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby. Add to all that Bradley Chubb and Justin Simmons, and this defense has the potential to shut down some of the potent offenses that exist in the AFC West.

Considering the Broncos' search for a QB since Peyton Manning, many thought that after not getting Aaron Rodgers, they’d use their top 10 pick to get Justin Fields. While Surtain is a great player, if Fields is the real deal, passing on him could haunt this franchise for years to come. However, this could be a long play to get Aaron Rodgers next year. If that’s the case, this team could be poised to take over the West in 2022.

Broncos 2021 Record Prediction: 8-9

Final AFC West Standings

Kansas City Chiefs 14-3

Los Angeles Chargers 12-5

Denver Broncos 8-9

Las Vegas Raiders 5-12

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