I have stated on many occasions how improved the AFC West division is. The overwhelming favorites for many reasons are the defending champs the Chiefs. The Chiefs besides having one of the most talented rosters in all the NFL has a bit of history on its side as five of the last six Super Bowl champs make the playoffs the following year, and four of those won their respective division.
However, the AFC West has the potential for some close and meaningful games to determine who makes the playoffs. With the 2020 schedule being altered for an extra team to make the playoffs what are the chances that the AFC West can have multiple representatives? Let’s look at each team’s schedule and predict their record.
Week 1: Houston Texans (W, 1-0)
Week 2: Los Angeles Chargers (W, 2-0)
Week 3: at Baltimore Ravens (L, 2-1)
Week 4: New England Patriots (W, 3-1)
Week 5: Las Vegas Raiders (W, 4-1)
Week 6: at Buffalo Bills (W, 5-1)
Week 7: at Denver Broncos (W, 6-1)
Week 8: New York Jets (W, 7-1)
Week 9: Carolina Panthers (W, 8-1)
Week 10: Bye
Week 11: at Las Vegas Raiders (L, 9-2)
Week 12: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (W, 10-2)
Week 13: Denver Broncos (W, 11-2)
Week 14: at Miami Dolphins (W, 12-2)
Week 15: at New Orleans Saints (L, 12-3)
Week 16: Atlanta Falcons (W, 12-3)
Week 17: at Los Angeles Chargers (W, 13-3)
The Chiefs should have little-to-no problem defending their crown in 2020 as they return the vast majority of their title-winning squad. Kansas City’s offense will be scary until the $450 million (up to $503 million) man Patrick Mahomes retires. With the addition of LSU rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire the Chiefs offense maybe better than ever.
Mahomes is joined by a stellar receiving corps which includes All-Pro stars Tyreek Hill—who has his sights set on 2,000 receiving yards this year and Travis Kelce, not to mention dynamic weapons Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson.
On defense, the Chiefs are still incredibly solid, and that’s all they need considering that their offense is arguably the most potent in the league. DT Chris Jones was resigned to a 4-year deal up to $85 million. Outside of Jones, Kansas City has other transcendent talents like defensive end Frank Clark and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
The Chiefs’ star power should be benefited by a winnable schedule. Kansas City could very well win at Baltimore (Week 3), at Tampa Bay (Week 12) and at New Orleans (Week 15), but I would expect them to lose at least 1. Overall, I predict the Chiefs to earn the #2 seed in the AFC for the 2nd straight year.
Las Vegas Raiders
Week 1: at Carolina Panthers (L, 1-0)
Week 2: New Orleans Saints (W, 1-1)
Week 3: at New England Patriots (W, 2-1)
Week 4: Buffalo Bills (W, 3-1)
Week 5: at Kansas City Chiefs (L, 3-2)
Week 6: Bye
Week 7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (L, 3-3)
Week 8: at Cleveland Browns (L, 3-4)
Week 9: at Los Angeles Chargers (W, 4-4)
Week 10: Denver Broncos (W, 5-4)
Week 11: Kansas City Chiefs (W, 6-4)
Week 12: at Atlanta Falcons (L, 6-5)
Week 13: at New York Jets (W, 7-5)
Week 14: Indianapolis Colts (W, 8-5)
Week 15: Los Angeles Chargers (W, 9-5)
Week 16: Miami Dolphins (W, 10-5)
Week 17: at Denver Broncos (W, 11-5)
As the franchise transitions to Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium, the Raiders may very well bring some excitement in their first year.
Quarterback Derek Carr’s 3 Pro Bowl seasons have flown under the radar, as he has just one winning campaign since entering the league in 2014. The Fresno State product continued his solid play in 2019 to the tune of 4,054 yards, 21 TDs and 8 INTs. He stated a week ago he was tired of people disrespecting him. The way you gain respect is by winning ball games.
Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden has done a great job adding talent around him, namely superstar running back Josh Jacobs, wide receivers Tyrell Williams, Henry Ruggs—my sneaky pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Hunter Renfrow, and tight end Darren Waller. Can Carr finally eclipse 4,100 yards and 35 passing touchdowns?
Turning to Jon Gruden’s defense, Las Vegas developed a young edge rushing combination in 2019 rookies Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell. Also, General Manager Mike Mayock had a spending frenzy in free agency, as he added defensive pieces Nick Kwiatkowski, Cory Littleton, Prince Amukamara, Damarious Randall and Jeff Heath.
Week 1: Tennessee Titans (L, 0-1)
Week 2: at Pittsburgh Steelers (L, 0-2)
Week 3: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (L, 0-3)
Week 4: at New York Jets (W, 1-3)
Week 5: at New England Patriots (W, 2-3)
Week 6: Miami Dolphins (W, 3-3)
Week 7: Kansas City Chiefs (L, 3-4)
Week 8: Bye
Week 9: at Atlanta Falcons (L, 4-4)
Week 10: at Las Vegas Raiders (L, 4-5)
Week 11: Los Angeles Chargers (W, 5-5)
Week 12: New Orleans Saints (L, 5-6)
Week 13: at Kansas City Chiefs (L, 5-7)
Week 14: at Carolina Panthers (W, 6-7)
Week 15: Buffalo Bills (W, 7-7)
Week 16: at Los Angeles Chargers (W, 8-7)
Week 17: Las Vegas Raiders (L, 8-8)
In just several months, the Broncos totally overhauled their entire roster. Arguably most important, rookie quarterback Drew Lock emerged as Denver’s future potential starter in Week 14 by defeating the Houston Texans on the road. Lock went on to throw for 1,020 yards, 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in 5 games for the Broncos, numbers good enough to unseat 2019 starter Joe Flacco. In fact, Flacco was cut.
Wide receiver Courtland Sutton, posted over 1,100 yards en route to his first Pro Bowl nod. What seemed to be an issue entering 2020 was a lack of weapons outside of Sutton and 2019 draftee Noah Fant, but General Manager John Elway addressed that by adding electric wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler in the draft while also signing former Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, who should form a nice tandem with Phillip Lindsay.
Denver’s defense, too, appeared to get closer to mimicking its historic 2015 form. Elway traded for AFC South stars Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye while also retaining Shelby Harris and Justin Simmons, and edge rusher Bradley Chubb should wreak havoc alongside the aging Von Miller.
I think Denver has what it takes to be a playoff team but the question is how good will Drew Lock be? Will he have a sophomore slump?
Los Angeles Chargers
Week 1: at Cincinnati Bengals (W, 1-0)
Week 2: Kansas City Chiefs (L, 1-1)
Week 3: Carolina Panthers (W, 2-1)
Week 4: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (L, 2-2)
Week 5: at New Orleans Saints (L, 2-3)
Week 6: New York Jets (W, 3-3)
Week 7: at Miami Dolphins (W, 4-3)
Week 8: Jacksonville Jaguars (W, 5-3)
Week 9: Las Vegas Raiders (L, 5-4)
Week 10: Bye
Week 11: at Denver Broncos (L, 5-5)
Week 12: at Buffalo Bills (L, 5-6)
Week 13: New England Patriots (W, 6-6)
Week 14: Atlanta Falcons (L, 6-7)
Week 15: at Las Vegas Raiders (L, 6-8)
Week 16: Denver Broncos (L, 6-9)
Week 17: at Kansas City Chiefs (L, 6-10)
After a stellar 2018 campaign, the Chargers had a miserable 2019 due to a bad year from franchise quarterback Philip Rivers. To little surprise, the Chargers opted to move on from their franchise legend; in fact, losing may have been a blessing in disguise because they were able to draft incredible Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert.
L.A.’s current projected starting quarterback is Tyrod Taylor, who has not started an NFL game since playing for the Browns in 2018. Taylor will likely begin Los Angeles’ crusade, but I expect Herbert to enter around Week 6-9 just as things may begin to spiral out of control for Taylor. Herbert only needs to be decent for the Chargers to contend this year as their defense is potentially the best in the NFL, and certainly top 5.
I wouldn’t sleep on the Chargers. They very well could make the playoffs, but I think little success from Taylor plus Herbert’s learning curve may be the determining season factors. I project LA to finish 6-10 or they could very well be 8-8, as their loss to the Broncos in Week 16, whom they have not beaten at home since they played in San Diego, would be the nail in the coffin.
Final AFC West Standings
Kansas City Chiefs: 13-3
Las Vegas Raiders: 11-5
Denver Broncos: 8-8
Los Angeles Chargers: 6-10