This isn’t the AFC West of a year ago.
No division in football has undergone more of a transformation this offseason than the AFC West. Denver added a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Russell Wilson. The Chargers traded for former Defensive Player of the Year and three-time first-team All-Pro selection Khalil Mack, and signed star cornerback JC Jackson in free agency.
Oh, and the Raiders? They got their hands on one of the game’s most dominant defensive ends in Chandler Jones, and arguably the game’s best pass-catcher Davante Adams.
The question now arises: Are the Kansas City Chiefs in trouble?
The Chiefs have been the dominant force in the division dating back to 2016, having won the last six AFC West titles. Overall, KC is 72-25 over those six seasons, but in division play, the Chiefs have an impressive 31-5 mark.
And even in 2015, when the Broncos won the division with an overall record of 12-4, they went 4-2 in division play. KC finished 11-5 overall, but went 5-1 in the division.
Last season, the Chiefs suffered just one loss in the division, a 30-24 setback at home against the Chargers. Prior to that, however, they had beaten Los Angeles on the road, blown out the Raiders twice – 48-9 at home and 41-14 at Las Vegas – and gotten by Denver in both of their matchups.
This year figures to be tougher sledding for Kansas City, especially considering both Las Vegas and Los Angeles bolstered their pass rushes.
The Raiders re-signed Maxx Crosby and signed Chandler Jones in free agency.
Crosby made his first Pro Bowl last season by leading the NFL with 92 total QB pressures during the 2021 campaign. He also had the second-highest edge defender grade in the league according to PFF (91.7), trailing only Myles Garrett (92.0).
Jones is a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro selection who has the most sacks (107.5) and most forced fumbles (33) in the NFL since entering the league in 2012.
As for the Chargers, their defensive line duo will consist of Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, a similarly fearsome tandem to Crosby and Jones.
Bosa is a four-time Pro Bowler and has the fifth-most QB hits in the NFL since 2016 (129). Mack is a six-time Pro Bowler who won Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. He’s the only player in the NFL with 75-plus sacks, 20-plus forced fumbles and a defensive TD since 2014.
LA also adds Jackson to its secondary, and he’s been dominant since entering the league in 2018. He was a Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro selection last season. His 25 interceptions since the start of the 2018 season are the most of any player, and he led the league in passes defended in 2021 with 23.
Then, there’s Russell Wilson: a former Super Bowl champion and nine-time Pro Bowler who missed just three regular-season games in 10 years with the Seattle Seahawks.
Despite the firepower entering the division, Nick Wright said on Friday’s “First Things First” that KC still has the ultimate weapon: Patrick Mahomes.
“Patrick Mahomes is 21-3 against the AFC West,” Wright said. “None of these teams have ever beaten Patrick Mahomes in their own building. They are sick of getting their teeth kicked in. No, I’m not worried about the Chiefs ability to win the division for the seventh straight year.”
Are Chiefs still best in AFC West after big offseason moves from Raiders, Broncos & Chargers? I FIRST THINGS FIRST
Nick Wright maintains that Patrick Mahomes’ team is still the favorite to win the AFC West, despite the moves made by Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Denver.
However, while Mahomes has four straight division titles as a starter – Alex Smith was the starting QB for two of those – Wilson also has four to his name in his career, each of which came in the NFC West, a division that has represented the NFC in the Super Bowl in six of the last 10 years.
With that, Chris Broussard said he’s looking at Denver as the team that could wrest the division crown from KC, especially after also adding Randy Gregory in a free agency.
“[The rest of the division] recognized, ‘Yeah, we gotta get better. Kansas City is a great team. ‘ … But here’s the thing: They have gotten better! … [Denver] already had a stout defense and they added Randy Gregory.
“It’s on and poppin ‘in Mile High.”
Apparently, it’s also on and poppin ‘in the AFC West.
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