AFC West Preview

Story posted September 3, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Daniel Mader

After a long NFL offseason, all 32 teams are about ready for kickoff of the 2021-22 season. Now is the time to look at each team in the league and what they bring to the table -- storylines to follow, roster changes from last season, etc. 
Here, let’s take a look at the AFC West, where only one of the four teams made last year’s playoffs: the Kansas City Chiefs. We’ll start with them, followed with the order of last year’s division standings. 

Kansas City Chiefs

Last season, the reigning AFC champions went 14-2 over the regular season. After falling short in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs retooled by making significant improvements to the offensive line, which was a huge weakness against Tom Brady’s Buccaneers. The biggest splash was trading for former Ravens tackle Orlando Brown Jr., while they also acquired Joe Thuney and Kyle Long via free agency.

Kansas City will be a Super Bowl favorite yet again, which is expected with Patrick Mahomes running the show. The defense is above average, but the Chiefs will rely on their electric offense to win games, just as they have the past few seasons.

Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are two of the game's most dangerous weapons, and with an improved offensive line, Mahomes and the run game will have even more security.

Watch out, league.

Prediction: 15-2

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders started off hot last season with a 6-3 record, including handing Kansas City one of its only two losses in the regular season. However, they fizzled out as the season went on to finish 8-8.

Their defense was among the league’s worst, which forced them to make some improvements on that side of the ball. The additions of Yannick Ngakoue, Solomon Thomas and Casey Hayward, along with some rookies, should help fill some holes defensively for Las Vegas.

On offense, the Raiders brought in former Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake to compliment Josh Jacobs, who was a 1,000-yard rusher last season. However, they lost Nelson Agholor in free agency, and didn’t improve the receiver core whatsoever; Darren Waller will be excellent at tight end as always, but Derek Carr will have his work cut out for him if Las Vegas wants to make some noise this season.

Prediction: 5-12

Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert was beyond excellent as a rookie last season, taking home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors while throwing for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.

However, the Chargers finished 7-9 due to a combination of injuries and bad luck in one-score games. This season, Los Angeles has the potential to be one of the more balanced teams in the NFL.

Herbert has a star receiver in Keenan Allen, a dual threat running back in Austin Ekeler, and solid depth behind both. The offensive line was a huge target for improvement over the offseason, and if the defense can stay healthy, the Chargers could be a wild card team in the AFC (assuming Kansas City takes the division title).

Prediction: 12-5

Denver Broncos

If they can maintain quality play from the quarterback position, the Broncos could be a surprise team this NFL season.

They struggled offensively last season, leading to a last place finish in the AFC West. A high turnover rate and injuries derailed the Broncos’ season early. However, some big names could return from injury this year to create a young, but well-rounded team.

The Broncos’ defense looks excellent on paper. Von Miller will return from injury, and new corners Patrick Surtain, Kyle Fuller, and Ronald Darby will add onto what is a superb secondary. The receiving corps is young but deep, giving Teddy Bridgewater (and possibly Drew Lock) weapons to choose from.

Denver’s success this season seems to be based entirely on two things: health and quarterback play.

Prediction: 8-9


Daniel Mader is a second-year majoring in digital/print journalism. To contact him, email dbm5725@psu.edu.

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