Here we go—the AFC West. Undoubtedly the toughest division in the NFL. The Chiefs have been perennial Super Bowl favorites since Patrick Mahomes became the starting QB, the Chargers have a top 5 offense, the Broncos now have Russell Wilson as their QB, and the Raiders scored WR Davante Adams.
It will be quite an entertaining season for this division, especially when the rivals square off against one another. You can make a case for any of these 4 teams to win the division. So, who do we like? Let’s break down the teams’ win total projections.
Win Total Over/Under: 10 (-120/+100)
The Broncos made a gigantic splash this offseason when they traded away Drew Lock, Noah Fant, and picks to the Seahawks for Pro Bowl QB Russell Wilson. To say this is an upgrade would be a vast understatement. Wilson joins a Denver squad that managed to scrape together 7 wins with a combination of Teddy Bridgewater/Lock at QB. In addition, he inherits a top 10 defense, a solid running game, and an underrated receiving corps featuring WRs Jerry Jeudy, Cortland Sutton, and Tim Patrick.
After years of dealing with an inefficient offensive line, Wilson now has a firm set of linemen in front of him and should be able to acclimate to Denver’s offense smoothly. However, the obstacles standing in the Broncos’ way are not in their roster but their division opponents and strength of schedule. There’s no question the AFC West is perhaps the toughest division in the NFL. All 4 teams are playoff-caliber squads and will battle it out for the title. Denver also must face the NFC West teams, which include the Rams, 49ers, and Cardinals. Still, if there is a QB who can elevate this team, it is Wilson. He brings veteran experience and leadership and knows the NFC West opponents better than any other QB.
If the Broncos want to make the playoffs either by Wild Card or the division title, they will have to reach double-digits in the win column. Not only is the West loaded with top-tier teams, but so is the AFC as a whole. Just like Peyton Manning was the missing piece the Broncos needed during their Super Bowl run a few seasons back, Wilson could also be the answer. Take the Over.
Kansas City Chiefs
Win Total Over/Under: 10.5 (-115/-105)
The last time we watched the Chiefs play, we witnessed an epic collapse in front of their home crowd in the AFC Championship game. Up 21-10 at the half against the Bengals, the Chiefs managed to accumulate only 3 points in the 2nd half en route to a 27-24 loss in OT. The defeat would have a ripple effect as WR Tyreek Hill sought to be traded after contract negotiations fell through. In response, the Chiefs shipped away Hill to the Dolphins and signed former Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster to replace him.
It was a strange 2021 season for the Chiefs. Kansas City struggled from the onset, with a 3-4 record through the first 7 weeks. However, the Chiefs silenced all doubters, ready to write them off by winning their next 8 games and securing another division title.
Should the Chiefs falter again to begin the season, the same naysayers will be back questioning if this is finally the season Kansas City will be dismantled as division leaders. And with all the competition among their division rivals, it may be the year.
Yes, the Chiefs still have Pat Mahomes under center, but it may not be enough. The running game is still susceptible and with Hill gone, expect more teams to double cover TE Travis Kelce. And to make matters worse, the Chiefs have a grueling schedule outside their conference play, including matchups against the Bucs, Colts, Cardinals, Bills, 49ers, and even the Super Bowl Champion Rams. It will be quite a challenging year for a team that, on paper, appears to have less talent than in years past. The Chiefs may be able to squeak in a playoff berth via the Wild Card, but they will be fortunate to accumulate 10 wins or more.
Las Vegas Raiders
Win Total Over/Under: 8.5 (-120/+100)
The Raiders made headlines in the offseason when they traded for Davante Adams from the Packers, which sent shockwaves around the league. Unfortunately, they weren’t the only team in their division that traded for one of the best players in the NFL as the Broncos acquired QB Russell Wilson and the Chargers signed Khalil Mack.
If the Raiders played in any other division in the AFC, they would be ranked near the top, competing for the division title. To their misfortune, they play in the most brutal division in the league. Still, there is no discounting this Las Vegas squad. Besides Adams, QB Derek Carr has quite the arsenal in his pocket, with WR Hunter Renfrow, TE Darren Waller, and RB Josh Jacobs rounding out the offense.
All eyes, though, will be on their new head coach Josh McDaniels, former Patriots offensive coordinator. Let’s not forget McDaniels struggled in his prior head coaching stint with the Broncos as he failed to develop Jay Cutler and ended his tenure with a dismal 11-17 record.
The Raiders, on paper, should be in playoff contention, but they lack the talent they need to surpass the 3 other teams in their division. Carr is a solid QB and a brilliant leader, but he ranks last in the West among the other 3 QBs. A ton will be riding on McDaniels, especially since the Raiders failed in their Jon Gruden experience the past few seasons and had to deal with the fallout of his leaked emails last season. It will be a grueling season for Vegas, and they will ultimately fall short of making the postseason. Under all the way.
Los Angeles Chargers
Win Total Over/Under: 10 (-135/+115)
The Chargers watched their playoff hopes crumble in the closing seconds of OT against the Raiders in the final game of the regular season. Had Vegas failed to make a game-winning FG, the contest would have ended in a tie and secured a Wild Card berth for both teams. Unfortunately for LA, with the loss, the Steelers were awarded the final Wild Card spot, and the Chargers were sent home, despite a remarkable season by young QB Justin Herbert.
This season, the Chargers return their dynamic offense led by Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams. However, their Achilles’ heel remains on the defensive front, where LA allowed the 3rd-most points to opposing teams in the league. While LA did upgrade by bringing in LB Khalil Mack, there will still be a magnitude of pressure on the Chargers to deliver, given they play in the West with high-powered offenses like the Chiefs and Broncos.
Like the other teams in their division, the Chargers will need double-digit wins to lock in a playoff position. Luckily for LA, the Chargers have a relatively easy out-of-conference schedule before their bye week in Week 8 as they will face off against the Texans, Jaguars, Seahawks, and Browns (who will most likely be without DeShaun Watson) and get to play the Falcons following the bye. It will be the second half that will be the ultimate test for the Chargers, but this is a team that continues to improve every season. LA will have no problems racking up points on the scoreboard. It can be argued that the Chargers have the most complete offensive depth out of any other team in the division. Take the Over.