Culver City Observer -

By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

Chiefs favored to win another AFC West Title

 

September 9, 2021



After five straight AFC West division titles, two straight appearances in the Super Bowl, and three consecutive AFC Championship games at home, it is difficult to bet against the Kansas City Chiefs. They just find a way to win the close games. So, the prediction is that they will find a way, once again.

Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs have had a long off-season after their 31-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV. The offensive line, which struggled mightily in the Super Bowl, has been completely revamped in the off-season. The Chiefs offensive line will have five new starters, three of which are first-year players. The Chiefs started by signing former New England Patriots All-Pro guard Joe Thuney to a five-year, $80 million deal.

What the Chiefs have is quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who can win games even when the offensive line is not that good with his scrambling ability and his rocket arm. With Travis Kelce at tight end and Tyreek Hill at wide receiver, they have two of the best receivers in the game. The Chiefs have been to the playoffs six straight seasons, have a good defense and a great coaching staff. Predicted record: 12-5

Los Angeles Chargers – The Chargers have a new coaching staff as well as four new starters on the offensive line. Former Charger head coach Anthony Lynn was fired, after a second consecutive losing season and replaced by former Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. The challenge for Staley is find a way to eliminate the coaching errors that plagued Lynn and prior head coaches. The game management last season under Lynn was abysmal.

NFL writer Rick Gosselin has been ranking Special Teams units for the NFL for the past 42 years. He ranked the Chargers special teams as the worst in the NFL in 2020. Pro Football Focus ranked the Chargers offensive line the worst in the NFL in 2020. Given the coaching issues, the poor play of the special teams and offensive line, and the numerous injuries to key starters, a 7-9 season was amazing.

The amazing part was due to quarterback Justin Herbert, who broke several rookie records on his way to being selected the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. The offensive line should be better, highlighted by the free agent signing of All-Pro center Corey Linsley. If the Chargers can keep their best players healthy, this team will make the playoffs. The return of safety Derwin James will make a huge difference on a defense that was not bad without him. Predicted Record: Chargers 11-6

Las Vegas Raiders – The Raiders, like the Chiefs and the Chargers, made significant changes on the offensive line. The Raiders traded away three starters as they decided to transition to a younger, more salary cap friendly offensive line. They added an offensive tackle in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Raiders have speed and offensive talent. Quarterback Derek Carr is one of the better quarterbacks in the league. He has ranked in the top ten the past two seasons in passer rating. Running back Josh Jacobs has rushed for over 1,000 yards in both of his first two seasons and tight end Darren Waller is one of the best tight ends in football. Both made the Pro Bowl in 2020. The wide receivers are young and fast.

The concern for the Raiders has been the defense. The Raiders hired former Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to lead their defense and he will no doubt improve the defense. He brought with him four defensive assistants from the Chargers coaching staff. But the defensive coaching staff can only do so much if the talent is not there. Predicted Record: Raiders: 9-8

Denver Broncos – The Broncos are the only team in the AFC West that returns everyone on offense. The one significant change will be at quarterback, where Teddy Bridgewater, acquired in exchange for a 6th round draft pick from the Carolina Panthers, has supplanted Drew Lock as the starter. Bridgewater is less risk-averse and a steady, solid quarterback. The Broncos felt they needed that at quarterback.

Defensively, the Broncos have plenty of talent, led by linebackers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, along with Justin Simmons at safety. Bronco head coach Vic Fangio is a well-respected defensive coach. There is just not enough on offense and this division is very tough. Predicted Record: Broncos 7-10

The Chargers open the season on the road against the Washington Football Team on Sunday, September 12th, at 10:00 AM in Landover, Maryland. The WFT has a very good defense, led by defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat, both of whom are excellent pass rushers. The Chargers will need to establish the run on the road and get the ball out of Herbert’s hands quickly on pass plays.

If the Chargers hope to end the division reign of the Chiefs, they need to get out to a fast start. Beating the Washington Football Team on the road would be a good start and following that up with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys at home would be even better. The third game of the season is against the Chiefs at Kansas City, and it would be better to go into that game at 2-0.

 

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