For seven straight years, the Chiefs have ruled the AFC West. And while anything is possible, they are strong favorites to do it again.
However, they will face a challenge from the Chargers, who entered the playoffs for the first time last year under coach Brandon Staley. Going 10-7 despite several injuries, Los Angeles has the talent to push Kansas City.
The Broncos and Raiders are in a different situation than their division counterparts. Denver and Las Vegas have questions at quarterback along with shaky offensive lines.
Sean Payton is trying to bring the Broncos back to respectability after a brutal 2022 under Nathaniel Hackett, while Josh McDaniels could be training for his job in Sin City.
Here’s how we see the four rosters stacking up in the AFC West, starting with the Silver and Black.
4. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders underwent a change this offseason, led by the replacement of quarterback Derek Carr with the similarly-limited-and-often-injured Jimmy Garoppolo. They also added first-round edge rusher Tyree Wilson on the defensive front, giving Maxx Crosby a better running mate than the 2022 version of Chandler Jones.
However, this Las Vegas team has more questions than answers. The secondary has been a problem for years and looks to change this season, with cornerback Nate Hobbs the only reliable member of the defensive backfield. In a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert? Yes.
Also, linebackers are a big point of concern. Las Vegas doesn’t have much versatility or coverage acumen, with Robert Spillane and Divine Deablo on the line for most of the snaps.
Offensively, the line has issues beyond star left tackle Kolton Miller, a rare first-rounder who worked out for the Raiders. The arsenal is solid with receivers like Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Renfrow, but trading tight end Darren Waller would be costly.
Overall, the Raiders will win some games, and be competitive in a few more, but this roster needs some good draft picks to fill multiple starting roles and a litany of deep spots. .
3. Denver Broncos
Broncos fans are definitely tired of hearing about Russell Wilson, but this is where it all started and could end for Denver. Wilson was atrocious last year, throwing for 3,524 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2022. His offensive line also allowed the most sacks in the league (63), partially because Wilson held onto the ball.
Despite all this, there have not been many changes in personnel. The Broncos added guard Ben Powers and right tackle Mike McGlinchey in free agency but otherwise stood pat. The belief is that new coach Sean Payton can elevate this group from the lowest scoring in the league to respectability. Beyond Wilson, health is a big key. In 2022, receiver Tim Patrick missed training camp with a torn ACL, while left tackle Garett Bolles played just five games.
On defense, the question is the pass rush. The Broncos traded away Von Miller and Bradley Chubb the last two years, and they’re now left with the unreliable Randy Gregory and Baron Browning on the inside, with free agent signing Zach Allen trying to replace Dre ‘Mont Jones. This can be an Achilles heel.
If there’s one certainty in Denver, it’s an excellent secondary. Third-year corner Pat Surtain II is the NFL’s best at the position, while safety Justin Simmons is always in the Pro Bowl mix.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
An offseason tradition unlike any other: hyping the Chargers. Los Angeles is loaded with talent, as quarterback Justin Herbert leads an excellent unit on the field with new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore at the controls. Moore will be more aggressive than his predecessor, Joe Lombardi, who featured a low-risk, low-return attack.
Receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen will be joined by rookie first-rounder Quentin Johnston on the outside, while running back Austin Ekeler will look to lead the NFL with total touchdowns for the third straight season. year. The offensive line is also solid, highlighted by left tackle Rashawn Slater.
Defensively, the secondary stars safety Derwin James Jr. and corner Asante Samuel Jr., but the rest of the group has question marks. The linebackers were depleted this offseason, with the loss of Kyle Van Noy (still available) and Drue Tranquill in free agency. Eric Kendricks was brought in on a two-year contract, but he struggled with the Vikings last year.
Up front, Joey Bosa is one of the best in the league—but like many of the Chargers’ other stars, he needs to stay healthy. (He’s missed 30 games in his seven-year career.) He’ll pair up on the flanks with Khalil Mack, who, after notching six sacks in his first half-dozen games with the Bolts, has only two of the remaining 11.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are looking to reach their fourth Super Bowl in five years, and they’ll do it with a young roster. The only significant contributors to Kansas City who are 30 and older are Travis Kelce, Jerick McKinnon and guard Joe Thuney.
Offensively, it’s all about two-time MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Last year, Mahomes threw for 5,250 yards and 41 touchdowns despite the offseason trade of Tyreek Hill. After losing wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in free agency in March, Mahomes will once again rely on Kelce, plus a collection of average receivers and a wild card in Kadarius Toney (acquired from the Giants in October). .
However, the offensive line is one of the best in the league. General manager Brett Veach signed left tackle Donovan Smith to a one-year deal to replace Orlando Brown Jr., while right tackle Jawaan Taylor went to Kansas City on a four-year, $80 million deal. . They have arguably the best interior in the NFL with Thuney, fellow guard Trey Smith and All-Pro center Creed Humphrey.
As for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s unit, look for a litany of second- and third-year talents to continue to rise, including linebacker Nick Bolton, edge rusher George Karlaftis, and cornerback Jaylen Watson, Trent McDuffie and Joshua Williams, among others. However, the star of the defense is Chris Jones, who is coming off a first-team All-Pro season after totaling 15.5 sacks.