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Around this time last year, many believed that the AFC West was going to be the best division in the NFL. To our surprise, the only popular belief that came true was the Kansas City Chiefs winning the Super Bowl. This offseason, there were a lot of movement within the division. Maybe we will finally get to see this division reach last year’s potential.
Record In 2022: 5-12
Key Player: Offensive Tackle – Mike McGlinchey
Player To Watch: Linebacker – Frank Clark
The Denver Broncos were probably the most disappointed team in the NFL last year. What was expected to be an explosive offense after acquiring former All Pro quarterback Russell Wilson and Green Bay Packers’ former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, it couldn’t have gone worse. This year seems like a new beginning with all of the offseason acquisitions that they have now.
Denver added offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, guard Ben Powers and running back Samaje Perine, along with Javonte Williams returning from injury. The most impactful signing was Sean Payton as their new head coach. Payton will be able to not only open up the offense but add direction, toughness and discipline to this unit, which might get the team to play up to last year’s potential.
As for the defense, they were the Broncos’ backbone in 2023. They were able to keep them in games although the offense couldn’t score. This year, they bring back a familiar face in Vance Johnson as their defensive coach. It will remain to be seen if the defense will still be dominant under new leadership.
The most intriguing player on this defense is Frank Clark. The 30-year old veteran will be lining up at the linebacker position for the first time in his career. Although he will mainly rush the quarterback, it will be vital to see him adjust to the different role and even rushing from a standup position. If he can thrive, this defense could remarkably be better than last year. Prediction: 9-8
Kansas City Chiefs
Record In 2022: 14-3
Key Player: Linebacker – Nick Bolton
Player To Watch: Wide receiver – Skyy Moore
What can I say about the Kansas City Chiefs that you don’t already know? As good as they are, their most difficult task is staying hungry. Offensively, they lost offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and wide receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman. This opens the door for the young receiver, Sky Moore. His speed fits right in with what the Chiefs are accustomed to doing, which is stretching the field.
The most underrated loss is offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. His relationship with quarterback Patrick Mahomes and being able to assist head coach Andy Reid with calling the offense was vital to the team. As long as Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce are there, then it shouldn’t be too much to worry about. Also, look for running back Isiah Pacheco to be utilized more in the offense.
What could be a problem if it isn’t solved before the season, is the contract of defensive tackle Chris Jones. Jones, who is unhappy with not getting a new contract, has hinted on twitter that he could be back after Week 8. Not only will they lose out on 15 sacks, they will miss his ability to disrupt the running game along with pressuring the quarterback.
The Chiefs don’t have to be great but they need to be able to keep their opponents from scoring 25 points per game. Young linebacker Nick Bolton has become a leader on the defense and should continue to get better. If there is no pressure up front, this could affect a defense that gave up a league worse 33 passing touchdowns. Prediction: 12-5
Las Vegas Raiders
Record in 2022: 6-11
Key Player: Wide Receiver – Hunter Renfrow
Player To Watch: Defensive End – Tyree Wilson
Usually, when a team makes a change at the quarterback position from a starter who has been there more than six years, that’s not a good situation. The Raiders traded veteran quarterback Derek Carr to the New Orleans Saints but picked up Jimmy Garoppolo. “Jimmy G” brings a lot of playoff experience and poise to the team and although he might not be as exciting as Carr, he’s been a winning quarterback throughout his career.
Garoppolo reunites with his former offensive coordinator and now head coach, Josh McDaniel which might allow him to throw more. Having Davante Adams should help Garoppolo but Hunter Renfrow will be his security blanket underneath, which will open up the deep pass. Now that they have signed the hold-out running back, Josh Jacobs, the offense should be effective.
The team’s Achilles heel last year was the defense. Yes, they have the high-motor defensive end Maxx Crosby, but after that, it kind of goes down hill. They are hoping they can generate more pressure from the defensive line after drafting defensive end Tyree Wilson in the first round. They’ve also added veteran cornerback and former All Pro Marcus Peters.
Peters can sure up a secondary that struggled for the most part. Even after adding Peters, this defense still might not be good enough to help make a strong playoff push. The best way for the Raiders’ defense to be successful is for the offense to be methodical and take time off the clock as well as keep the opponents’ offense on the bench. Prediction: 6-11.
Los Angeles Chargers
Record In 2022: 10-7
Key Player: Defensive End – Joey Bosa
Player To Watch: Wide Receiver – Quentin Johnston
Quarterback Justin Herbert finally got the team to the playoffs and it seem as if they should only get better. Of course you have players like Austin Eckler and Keenan Allen, but the guy who needs to take the next step is wide receiver Mike Williams. The seven year-veteran has been inconsistent throughout his career although he has the talent to be a star-wide receiver. If he can play up to his potential, this offense will be scary for their opponents.
They’ve also added the electric wide receiver,Quentin Johnston from the first round of the 2023 NFL draft. His speed will cause defenses to have to pick their poison. Another big addition is offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The former Dallas Cowboys “OC” should come in and get the best out of his unit with bizarre packages that plays to the strength of his players. This offense should be a top five offense in the NFL this season.
Defensively, they are arguably the most talented unit in the NFL but the only problem is health. Defensive end Joey Bosa has dealt with injuries throughout his career, including last year. If he can play all 16 games with Khalil Mack on the opposite side, then that makes a great secondary even more dangerous.
After last year’s debacle in the AFC Wild Card Game squandering a 27-0 lead in the first half, the question is will this still haunt them or will they be ready to avenge that loss. With veterans all over the defense, they should be able to bounce back and make a difference. So if they have this much talented, the only question is why can’t it all come together – maybe this could be the year. Prediction: 10-7