With rosters in place and training camps inching closer, it is time to evaluate what we know about each team. In this series, TGH will predict where each team will land in their division, and whether or not they will be in contention for the playoffs. Today, the AFC West predictions are up.
First Place – Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City finally put the right pieces together to capture their first Super Bowl in 50 years last season. But is it a start to a new AFC dynasty?
That is hard to say less than six months from their Super Bowl victory, however it certainly seems possible. After all, they do have Andy Reid, one of the best offensive minds in the history of the NFL, and Patrick Mahomes, who needs no introduction.
The roster remains as talented as 2019, as well. After losing running backs Spencer Ware and LeSean McCoy, the Chiefs can look forward to testing out CFB National Champion Clyde-Edwards Helaire out of LSU. At defensive end, Emmanuel Ogbah and midseason acquisition Terrell Suggs moved on, but the team signed Taco Charlton to supplement the loss.
In fact, the only gutting departure for the team and morale may have been their punter, of all people. Dustin Colquitt had been with the Chiefs organization for 15 seasons before being released due to minor contract disputes.
The offense will be ridiculous in every sense of the word, there is really no avoiding that. Especially if Tyreek Hill can put together a relatively healthy season in 2020. If the defense can build on the momentum they gained in the playoffs, then the Chiefs may not just win the AFC West, they may have to start planning another parade.
Second Place – Denver Broncos
The Broncos, somewhat forgettably, wound up second in the AFC West in 2019. After entering their Bye Week with a disappointing record of 3-6, Denver pulled things together to win four of their last five, finishing the year 7-9.
Head coach Vic Fangio is a defensive guru. He has seemingly never coached an underwhelming defense, and considering the parts he has been given in the past, that is saying something. It is fair to assume that side of the ball will be taken care of, even without any splashy free agency or draft day additions. Plus, having a player Von Miller in the fold essentially means the Broncos have a second coordinator.
This offseason was all about offense for Denver. Drew Lock impressed during his time under center, and the front office not only got him new receivers to play with, but invested in protecting him as well. The Broncos locked up offensive guard Graham Glasgow, running back Melvin Gordon and tight end Nick Vannett. They also selected two wide receivers with their first two picks, Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler.
Denver clearly has faith in their young quarterback. If he can take a step forward, all these new offensive weapons will lead the Broncos within striking distance of first place. The defense, as previously mentioned, will hold its own and it may result in a Wild Card berth.
Third Place – Los Angeles Chargers
Going from 12-4 in 2018 to 5-11 in 2019 is quite the fall from grace. But, it was not without its warning signs.
Running back Melvin Gordon held out as long as he could, and Phillip Rivers started to show his age under center. Rivers’ year was especially rough as he threw 20 interceptions to only 23 touchdowns. Given all of the talent on this team, a rebuild was not an option, so they rebooted instead.
Replacing Rivers was as easy as promoting Tyrod Taylor and drafting his successor, Justin Herbert. After Russell Okung walked as well, Los Angeles replaced him with another veteran, Bryan Bulaga who has protected Aaron Rodgers for his entire career.
Chris Harris, Jr. was added for a veteran presence on the back end of the defense. Then, their draft reflected the Chargers’ commitment to being prepared to win now. The only question marks on the 2020 season are as follows: How good of a coach is Anthony Lynn, and how long will Herbert have to wait to play?
Both of those will be answered next season, it is just up to the management to be flexible enough to make the right moves after those answers are given. Los Angeles is set up for success, but their identity is nebulous at best. Look out for the Chargers when they know what they have with Herbert.
Fourth Place – Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas finally has a team. Unfortunately it may have to spend its first year in the cellar of their division. Not that their record is going to be atrocious, but even with all of their additions, the Raiders still seem to be in a transitional period.
On offense, Marcus Mariota comes to the team to light a fire under Derek Carr. Jason Witten will be playing the first year of his career without a star on his helmet, and Nelson Agholor comes over from Philadelphia. The Raiders also drafted three wide receivers, so a lack of weapons will not be an excuse for either quarterback.
The defensive additions were numerous in the offseason. Cory Littleton gets the money he deserved from the Rams. Carl Nassib, Malek Collins and Daniel Ross will highlight a retooled defensive line, and Jeff Heath, Prince Amukamara and Damarious Randall will reinvent the back end of the defense as
All of these additions are great, and at least means the Raiders are trying new things and seeing what fits. But, even with a coach as great as Gruden, in a year as tumultuous as this, while they move cities, it is reasonable to expect all of the pieces will not fall into place immediately. This will likely see Las Vegas on the outside looking in, but the future is bright.
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