Why you should watch the AFC West this season

Denver Broncos

Established: 1959
Stadium: Empower Field at Mile High
Coach: Nathaniel Hackett
Key Player: Russell Wilson

Reasons to watch: A quarterback, finally…

Ever since Peyton Manning retired in 2016, the Broncos have been looking for an A-grade quarterback to take the reins.

During that time they have given Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater a chance and even tried a wide receiver, Kendall Hilton, at quarterback but after years of trying they may finally have an A-grader at the helm, with nine time Pro-Bowler and Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson signing with the Broncos.

Wilson ends the quarterback position which has cursed the Broncos for six years and could contribute to a team looking for the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

The Broncos have a talented squad already and would aim to improve on their last place finish in the AFC West which saw a 7-10 win-loss record (they missed the playoff by three wins), but with the team only needing one piece to its puzzle, Wilson could be the answer to head the team back to the post-season.

Kansas City Chiefs

Established: 1960
Stadium: Arrowhead Stadium
Coach: Andy Reid
Key Player: Patrick Mahomes

Reasons to watch: Fresh defence

The Chiefs dynasty is not over by any means, but the other teams are closing the gap. Take for instance the Cincinnati Bengals, they stopped the Chiefs from making a third straight Super Bowl when they defeated them in the AFC Championship game in overtime winning 27 to 24.

Since then, the dynamic duo of star quarterback Patrick Mahomes and wide receiver Tyreek Hill are no longer, with the latter signing a four-year deal at the Miami Dolphins.

Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Hill will be a huge loss to the Chiefs, but will be the Dolphins gain.

The Chiefs did get a return of investment in the Hill trade, as they received first round, second round and fourth round picks in the 2022 draft while also acquiring a fourth round and sixth round pick in the 2023 draft. Could we see the Chiefs bleed more youngsters in the group?

Kansas City drafted extremely well, adding cornerback Trent McDuffie with their first pick (pick 21), defensive end George Karlaftis with pick 22, wide receiver Skyy Moore with pick 30 (second round), Byran Cook with pick 30 (second round) and they also picked up six other players in rounds three, four, five and seven.

Most of the picks in the draft that the Chiefs selected are in the defensive team, with Cook (safety), Leo Chenal (linebacker), Joshua Williams (cornerback), Darian Kinnard (guard), Jaylen Watson (pick 22 round seven, cornerback) and their last pick in the draft in Nazeeh Johnson (cornerback) all looking to add a different element to the Chiefs defence.

The Chiefs will head into the season with a new-look defence from their draft, and could that be a sign that a mini rebuild is on the cards? Time will tell.

Las Vegas Raiders

Established: 1960
Stadium: Allegiant Stadium
Coach: Josh McDaniels
Key Player: DeVante Adams

Reasons to watch: A new era

The Raiders had a torrid backend of last year and off-season, as they fired their head coach Jon Gruden for racial and sexual remarks, then lost one of thier most promising wide receivers in Henry Ruggs III for a DUI offence.

All that in the last couple weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs, but despite the challenges the organisation faced they regrouped, and got on with the job to finish the 2021 season in a Wild Card defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals going down 26-19.

But now heading into the new season, the Raiders can have a breath of fresh air, as they have a new coach in former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (in his second stint as head coach), signed a new wide receiver and possibly the best in the NFL, with the arrival of DeVante Adams and defensive end Chandler Jones also making the switch to Las Vegas from Arizona.

There is no doubt that the AFC is one of the hardest conferences in the NFL especially this year with the teams getting stronger and stronger, but much of the expectation will be on quarterback Derrick Carr.

Carr’s future is set after signing a three-year extension after there were rumours that the Raiders may offload him, however, he had a very stellar season last year throwing 4804 yards (fifth in the NFL) and throwing 23 touchdown passes (13th in the NFL).

With the previous experience of McDaniels as an offensive coordinator, Carr can take the pressure off him knowing he has an offensive minded coach at the helm. While he has lost his wide receiver from last year in Henry Ruggs III, Carr did get an upgrade with Adams replacing him which means he has the tools take this team to a better finish in a tough AFC.

McDaniels, Carr and co can bring new life into Las Vegas and build on their 10-7 win-loss record from last year.

Los Angeles Chargers

Established: 1960
Stadium: SoFi Stadium
Coach: Brandon Staley
Key Player: Justin Herbert

Reasons to watch: Fun

The Chargers are fun to watch.

A famous quote from Forrest Gump sums up the LA Chargers: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.”

One week they beat Super Bowl contenders, the next they lose a close game to a team they should beat, then the week after they win a nail biter against another team contending for the Super Bowl, and then so on, and very rarely do they win and it’s convincing. Doesn’t that sound so much fun?

If you answered yes, then get along for the ride in 2022 as the Chargers look set to build on their progression from last season.

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Chargers coach Brendan Staley, who is in his second season, showed glimpses of what his team can do in the season and potentially in the playoffs if they get a chance (they came so close last season), by being aggressive. However, a lot of the playoff hopes for Staley and the Chargers rest on their star quarterback Justin Herbert.

Herbert, who was the sixth pick in the 2020 draft, looks the crème de la crème when it comes to rookie quarterbacks. Herbert finished second in terms of passing yards last season, throwing 5014 yards, 38 touchdowns (third most in the league) and was second in passing yards per game with 294.9.

While Herbert was instrumental for the Chargers, he couldn’t quite make them a playoff team as they finished with a 9-8 win-loss record, placing them third in the AFC West. It was the last game that would break the Chargers faithful hearts the most when they travelled to Allegiant Stadium to take on the Las Vegas Raiders in a do-or-die clash.

It was this game that pretty much summed up the Chargers, as they lost the game in overtime by three points in what many described as a classic finale to the regular season. There is no doubt that a field goal from the Raiders felt like a massive kick in the guts for Staley’s team.

However, still expect Staley and Herbert to be attacking, but they have the cavalry to finish and close games as they signed Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C Jackson to protect Herbert. They also drafted well to give another edge to their offensive line by drafting offensive guard Zion Johnson and running back Isaiah Spiller, to an already talented team which includes Austin Ekeler.

Expect much of the same from last season this year, but the Chargers this time have more protection. Get along for another fun ride in the 2022 season.

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