The Chiefs are favored to win the AFC West again
September 10, 2020
For a team that just won their first Super Bowl in 50 years, the Kansas City Chiefs never really got to celebrate. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Chiefs missed out on the celebratory tours and banquet circuits. They never got a chance to become "Fat Cats." In some ways, the Chiefs may be even more focused in 2020 as they attempt to repeat as champions.
The Chiefs will be the favorite to win the AFC West, again. They have won four consecutive AFC West division titles. They went 6-0 against AFC West competition in 2019. But the division is getting better and should get multiple teams into the AFC playoffs in 2020. The NFL expanded the playoffs to seven teams in each conference, giving three teams a shot at a wild-card playoff slot.
Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs return 10 starters to their offense and added LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire with their first-round pick. Edwards-Helaire will start at running back, shoring up a weakness that the Chiefs had at that position. With Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes at the helm, this team will be tough to beat. With a good offensive line, and All-Pro Travis Kelce at tight end and All-Pro Tyreek Hill at wide receiver, the offense is a nightmare to face.
The Chiefs defense in 2019 was average and ranked 26th in the NFL last season in defensive rushing yardage per game. To have a chance against the Chiefs, a team needs to play good defense and run the ball. They need to minimize mistakes and control time of possession. The Chiefs lost four games last season and they struggled to stop the run in all four losses.
Los Angeles Chargers – The Chargers may be the best match for the Chiefs. The Chargers have the best defense in the AFC West, even with the loss of star safety Derwin James to a knee injury. James missed the first 11 games last season as well. Despite a 5-11 record last season, the Chargers ranked 6th in defensive yardage allowed per game and 10th in offensive yardage per game. There is plenty of talent on both sides of the ball.
The offensive line has improved with the offseason acquisitions of right guard Trai Turner and right tackle Bryan Bulaga. With the return of center Mike Pouncey, the Chargers right side of the offensive line should be strong. The key will be the play of quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor has an abundance of receiving talent, but the Chargers need to be a running team. That would play to Taylor's strength as a quarterback that can run the ball if he has to.
In three seasons in Buffalo, Taylor was 23-20 as a starter. In games where he threw 30 passes or more, Taylor was 3-13. In games where he threw less than 30 passes, his record was 20-7. He led Buffalo to the playoffs in 2017. Taylor is not Mahomes and he cannot carry the team with his arm. But with Taylor's running ability and the improvements in the Chargers offensive line, the Chargers should become a good running team and a playoff team in 2020.
Las Vegas Raiders – The Raiders have arguably the best running back and the best offensive line in the AFC West. Josh Jacobs rushed for 1,150 yards in 13 games as a rookie. Quarterback Derek Carr threw for 4,054 yards, completing 70.4% of his passes and throwing for 21 touchdown passes and just 8 interceptions. He had an amazing season considering the fact that he lacked talent at wide receiver.
The Raiders addressed that issue by adding two wide receivers in the 2020 NFL draft. Speedster Henry Ruggs was picked in the first round and Bryan Edwards was selected in the third round. Both are listed as starters. Ruggs ran a 4.27 forty and had a 42" vertical leap at the NFL combine. Edwards is a big, strong receiver that at 6-foot-3, 212 pounds was considered a steal in the draft. Edwards suffered a broken foot before the NFL combine and was unable to work out for scouts.
The key for the Raiders will be their defense. It is a young defensive unit, with the average age of the starters at 25. They will need to find some consistency with their pass rush and find some playmakers on defense. The Raiders have the offensive talent and with any improvement from the defense, they should be one of the seven AFC teams in the playoffs.
Denver Broncos – The Broncos lost two key defensive veterans to free agency. Defensive end Derek Wolfe signed with the Baltimore Ravens and cornerback Chris Harris signed with the Chargers. All-Pro linebacker Von Miller injured a tendon in his ankle and is expected to need surgery that will likely end his season. These losses on defense will be difficult to overcome and it would appear that the Broncos are going to have a long season.
Quarterback Drew Lock started five games as a rookie, going 4-1. He will be asked to do more in his second season, and he will have some offensive talent around him. Wide receiver Courtland Sutton returns, and he will be joined by rookie wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and K. J. Hamler. Jeudy was a first round pick and Hamler a second-round pick in a very deep wide receiver draft.
The Broncos added Melvin Gordon at running back, to join Philip Lindsey. Both players made the pro bowl in 2018, Gordon with the Chargers and Lindsey with the Broncos. Noah Fant, the Broncos 2019 first round pick, is the tight end. The Broncos are loaded with talent at the offensive skill positions, but the questions will be on the offensive line and on the defensive side. The players lost on defense will be difficult to replace and that will probably lead to a last place finish for the Broncos in the AFC West.
The Chargers open this Sunday, September 13th at Cincinnati against the Bengals. The game will start at 1 p.m. locally on CBS. The Bengals will start rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft this past spring. Burrow had a spectacular senior season at LSU, winning the Heisman trophy as the best player in college football and leading LSU to the national championship. The Chargers will be a tough matchup in Burrow's first game as an NFL quarterback and are favored to win.