After a season which saw a dominant Chiefs squad won their first Super Bowl since Super Bowl IV, the most explosive offense in the NFL is once again gearing up to-wreak havoc on the rest of the league. Luckily for the majority of teams in the NFL, they only have to face the Reid-Mahomes offense in the regular season once every three years (at the least). The rest of the AFC West are less fortunate.
Over the past four seasons, the AFC West has been under the control of the Andy Reid led Chiefs. After claiming the throne in 2016, (let’s not talk about the Raiders 2016), the Chiefs have claimed the division every year. Add this dominance to a 22-2 record versus the division during this time and you can find some heavy-hearted Broncos, Chargers, and Raiders fans. But where can they go from here? Is there hope?
The AFC West’s 2020 offseason
Combating an offense as dynamic as the Chiefs is not easy, the Broncos or Chargers separately have had a top 10 defense at least once a year since 2016. They’ve both been in a good position recently to be able to stop the Chiefs, but clearly this hasn’t happened.
This is where things get interesting. During the offseason, the rest of the AFC West have improved their rosters on each side of the ball. Free agency was the time for bolstering defense, while all three teams took a key offensive piece during the first round of the draft. The Raiders and the Broncos seem to be moving towards matching the Chiefs offense, rather than relying on the defense to stop them.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders 2019 wide receiver group was weak in 2019, and they addressed this early with pick 12 in the draft by taking Alabama product Henry Ruggs III. Ruggs was the fastest player out of the 2020 NFL draft, leading to comparisons with Tyreek Hill.
With back to back picks in round 3, Las Vegas drafted Lynn Bowden Jr and Bryan Edwards. Bowden Jr was drafted as a running back out of Kentucky but is a versatile piece for Gruden’s offense and you should expect to see him at wideout as well. Edwards is a beast from South Carolina who will bring some strength to a relatively small bodied wide receiver group.
These pieces should bring out the best in Derek Carr along with taking some pressure off of Josh Jacobs. Their explosiveness after the catch will be something to watch out for and their additions have added some much needed speed to a sluggish Raiders offense.
The Broncos also had a strong offseason, with PFF saying ‘they have quietly built one of the best rosters in the NFL’. After a couple of savvy trades for Jurrell Casey and AJ Bouye, their defense looks significantly improved. The additions of OL Graham Glasgow and RB Melvin Gordon adds to an impressive Denver running game.
To match the useful FA additions, John Elway started by taking Jerry Jeudy at 15 in the draft, who many considered to be the most NFL ready receiver prospect, to pair with Courtland Sutton. In round 4, they picked up TE Albert Okwuegbunam who ran a 4.49 40 yard dash and has known chemistry with QB Drew Lock. Arguably, they now have one of the most talented offensive rosters in the league. Will Drew Lock step up and prove himself? One thing’s for sure, Elway is giving him one hell of an opportunity.
Want to read more about the Broncos draft? Click here
Los Angeles Chargers
Replacing Phillip Rivers was the main objective of Chargers GM Tom Telesco, despite pre-draft rumblings they would head into the season with Tyrod Taylor under centre. They filled this gap with the sixth pick of the draft, taking former Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. Many consider this to be a reach, with PFF rating him as the 30th player on their board. However, if Telesco thinks he’s “the guy”, then a top ten pick for a potential future franchise quarterback is a small price to pay.
As a result of free agency, Herbert certainly won’t be in a bad position. The Chargers picked up two key OL pieces in Bryan Buluga and Trai Turner alongside two veterans in corner back Chris Harris Jr and defensive tackle Linval Joseph; bolstering an already talented defense.
Year one in the SoFi stadium should be a fun one.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were strapped for cash in free agency, but when you possess one of the best rosters in the NFL, the task is retaining, not improving.
They started by franchise tagging one of the league’s best defensive tackles in Chris Jones, a big and important move. The Chiefs gave up 128.2 rushing yards per game last season, the 7th most in the NFL. If they wish to improve on this, keeping PFF’s 6th ranked interior defender is a key piece to build around.
In the draft, they addressed the running back position with pick 32 with
Wondering who got the best bargain players in the draft? Find out here
Way too early predictions
|Kansas City Chiefs||11||5||0||4-2|
|Las Vegas Raiders||9||7||0||4-2|
|Los Angeles Chargers||7||9||0||1-5|
Yes, the Chiefs still dominate the AFC West, but the Raiders and the Broncos both pick up a win against Kansas City. Losing twice against divisional rivals hasn’t happened for them since 2014, so there are some minor positives.
With the expansion of the playoffs to seven teams the Raiders claim a wildcard spot over the Broncos, giving the city of Las Vegas their first taste of a playoff experience.
The AFC West is overloaded with talent. Have the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders done enough to combat the Chiefs dominance? Who knows, but it looks set to be an explosive, exciting and action packed season.