We simply cannot wait for the new NFL season to start, and we are counting down the days until the very first kick off. If you are like us and love the NFL, then you definitely need to have a read on below, as we take a look at each and every team from the AFC West and analyze their chances for success in this brand new season.
The Denver Broncos took advantage of a weak schedule to open the 2021 season with a 3-0 record. But the Broncos endured a pair of four-game losing streaks over their final 14 games and missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season with a 7-10 mark.
However, in a blockbuster trade in March, Denver acquired Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson for three players and five draft picks. The Broncos are instant playoff contenders with Wilson directing the offense and should win 9 or 10 games this season.
Denver has a quality group of receivers that will benefit from having a future Hall of Famer under center. Former first-round pick Jerry Jeudy should become the lethal vertical threat the Broncos envisioned when they took the Alabama speedster with the 15th overall pick two years ago.
“I’ve always been an underdog throughout my whole career. … I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 31, 2022
A pair of second-round picks, Courtland Sutton and KJ Hamler, are both talented pass catchers who excel at gaining yards after the catch. The running game has two capable backs in Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. Williams tallied 903 yards and four touchdowns last year, while Gordon finished the season with 918 yards and eight scores.
The Broncos added former Dallas Cowboys pass rusher Randy Gregory in free agency to bolster a defensive front that struggled to put pressure on quarterbacks last year. Fifth-year edge rusher Bradley Chubb failed to get a sack in seven games last season and needs to emulate his rookie season when he recorded 12 sacks.
The 2019 third-round pick Dre’Mont Jones posted 5.5 sacks in just six starts. Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons headlines a strong secondary that also features safety Kareem Jackson and cornerback Pat Surtain, the 9th overall pick in last year’s draft who finished his rookie campaign with four interceptions. The Broncos have a chance to be a good defensive unit if Gregory and Chubb can stay healthy and productive.
Kansas City Chiefs
The 2021 Kansas City Chiefs stumbled out of the gate with a 4-3 record before winning nine of their final 10 games to win the AFC West title for the sixth straight season. However, a 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game denied the Chiefs a third consecutive AFC crown.
Although Kansas City traded speedy wideout Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins for a slew of draft picks, future Hall of Fame head coach Andy Reid’s squad remains the favorite in a much-improved AFC West.
Pro Bowl quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense should once again be one of the NFL’s best. Tight end Travis Kelce has averaged 99 catches over the past four seasons with 35 touchdowns. Fourth-year wideout Mecole Hardman caught a career-high 59 passes last year and should have a bigger role this season.
Free agent receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling will join rookie Skyy Moore to round out the revamped receiving corps. Kansas City added former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones to a crowded backfield that includes Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon.
Minor setback for a major comeback.
New episode of The Franchise presented by GEHA drops Thursday 🎥 pic.twitter.com/c4bpkZOYyj
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) August 30, 2022
The Chiefs’ pass rush was lacking a year ago and remains a concern heading into this season. Kansas City drafted Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis late in the first round and will pair the rookie with veteran pass rusher Frank Clark.
The interior of the defensive front should be solid with Chris Jones and Derrick Nnadi. Linebackers Willie Gay Jr. and Nick Bolton are both playmakers, while free agent Jermaine Carter and third-round pick Leo Chenal will compete for playing time.
The Chiefs drafted Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie with the 21st overall pick and Cincinnati safety Bryan Cook in the second round to overhaul a secondary that underperformed last year. A rugged schedule is a cause for concern, but Kansas City is still a legitimate Super Bowl contender as long as Mahomes is directing the offense.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders rolled to a 5-2 record to start the 2021 season, but then lost five of their next six games to fall under .500. However, the Raiders finished the season with four consecutive wins to advance to the postseason for the first time in five years.
Former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is the new head coach after Jon Gruden resigned during the offseason. The expectations in Las Vegas have skyrocketed this season with the addition of Davante Adams and Chandler Jones, and the Raiders are eyeing their first division title since 2002.
Quarterback Derek Carr and Adams played together at Fresno State and should have little trouble establishing a rapport. Veteran tight end Darren Waller caught 107 passes two seasons ago and should avoid double coverage with Adams being the primary focus of opposing defenses.
Get to know the initial 53 📝
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) August 31, 2022
Pro Bowl slot receiver Hunter Renfrow tallied 103 catches last season in a breakout campaign. The Raiders have a crowded backfield that includes Josh Jacobs, Ammer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden, and rookie Zamir White. The only concern is an offensive line that is a work in progress.
The addition of Jones should bolster a pass rush that also features Pro Bowl defensive end, Maxx Crosby. The dynamic duo has combined for 55.5 sacks over the past three seasons. Former fourth overall pick Clelin Ferrell is hoping for a fresh start under new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
Divine Deablo, Denzel Perryman, and former third-round pick Malcolm Koonce will headline the linebacker corps, while cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen and Rock Ya-Sin join safeties Johnathan Abram and Tre’von Moehrig to form a talented secondary. The Raiders seem prime to compete for the AFC West crown this season and anything less will be a major disappointment.
Los Angeles Chargers
The 2021 Los Angeles Chargers raced out to a 4-1 start and appeared to be in great shape to make their first playoff appearance in two years. But a trio of losses in their final four games ended their postseason dreams.
The Chargers acquired edge rusher Khalil Mack in a shocking trade with the Chicago Bears to upgrade a defense that also added Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson. With a high-powered offense to go along with a much-improved defensive unit, the Chargers are hoping to end their three-year playoff drought.
Third-year quarterback Justin Herbert threw for over 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns in his second season. Los Angeles has a pair of talented receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Allen caught 106 passes for 1,138 yards and six scores, while Williams tallied 76 catches for 1,146 yards and nine touchdowns.
“he’s come a long way since 1 year ago today. that’s what the nfl means to me.” pic.twitter.com/mmNPkybEKT
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) August 30, 2022
Featured back Austin Ekeler posted 1,558 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns, and will be joined in the backfield with fourth-round draft pick Isaiah Spiller. The Chargers drafted Boston College guard Zion Johnson with the 17th overall pick to fortify a stout offensive front.
Mack and Pro Bowl edge rusher Joey Bosa will form a dynamic pass-rushing duo that has a combined 134.5 career sacks. The Chargers signed free agent tackles Austin Johnson and Sebastian Joseph-Day, and drafted UCLA rookie Otito Ogbonnia in the fifth round, to better defend the run.
Jackson and Asante Samuel Jr. will form a strong cornerback tandem, while Pro Bowl safety Derwin James Jr. and third-round pick JT Woods round out a revamped secondary. Los Angeles is poised to contend for a playoff berth but a tough schedule will make it a challenge.
When the 2022 NFL season does eventually kick off, make sure SportsTips is your go-to destination for NFL picks. We will provide NFL picks for each and every game of the season from our experts, so you can place your bets with more confidence!