New Series Pt, 3: AFC West
By: Jamar Brown (@Jamar2698)
This is my third straight day working and publishing a blog, and that’s wilder than the West in the NFL this year. Today, we’ll be looking at the AFC West, which, aside from first place, is up for grabs. Everyone knows who the favorites are and for a good reason. Everybody else will just be begging for second place in the second most competitive division in the conference. Let’s get to it.
Kansas City Chiefs
Duh. Is there anything else to say? The defense could be terrible (which it just might be), and this team could still win by 35. How do you stop this offense? For starters, they have a man who, in 12 short years, will have made a quarter of a billion dollars playing football at quarterback. They also have the fastest, most dynamic receiving core led by Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. Pair that along with Travis Kelce, who may or may not be biracial and newly minted running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and you’ve got an offense that looks virtually unstoppable. The offensive line is serviceable at best, but when you have a guy who can throw the ball 80-yard downfield with a sneeze, time in the pocket doesn’t matter too much. Also, did you see how much money this man is going to make? The defense resembles the Jets in terms of it being super strong up the middle (which better be the case considering how much they paid Chris Jones) and then pedestrian at best on the outside. Justin Houston is getting older, and T-Sizzle is still a free agent. If they could make a move for Jadeveon Clowney, that would upgrade the pass rush exponentially. The corner situation is abysmal, which could lead to a lot of shootouts, but let’s be honest, who could keep up with this offense?
The ability for this team to blown out is going to be needed early and often because they are playing a schedule worthy of being super bowl champs. Out of the gate, they play the Texans in a game that is sure to infuriate Bears fans. This is a game they should probably win (after dropping 56 points). After that, they have an exciting game against the Chargers that should be an interesting victory. They then travel to Baltimore to play what should have been the AFC championship game from last season on a Monday night (two days after my birthday if anyone is interested $jamar2698). Baltimore will more than likely win this one because they have the best roster in the league and are terrifically coached. Regardless of the loss against the Ravens, I still see them going on a tear against the rest of the league (aside from probably Tampa and New Orleans, both on the road). If there’s a team that can compete with them in their division, it’s either Denver or possibly L.A. If Tyrod Taylor plays for those games, his lack of turnovers could propel the Bolts to at least one win. Denver looks built to challenge the champs all season if the defense can perform to expectations. I don’t see them finishing any lower than 11-5; however, the possibility of them finishing the regular season undefeated isn’t so ridiculous.
Projected Record: 13-3, AFC Championship Game
This could be the most improved team in the league this year. Drew Locke has the potential to have one of the better sophomore seasons out of all the second-year signal-caller. Aside from his obvious talent, he has some of the best talent and protection around him—the team drafter Jerry Jeudy who was by far my favorite receiver in the draft. I projected them to pick Henry Ruggs III to add a speedster to their arsenal. They ended up missing out on Ruggs but got their burner in K.J. Hamler during the second round. If you pair that with Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant along with the newly acquired Melvin Gordan, the skill position players are second to very few in the league. The offensive line also has the potential to keep Locke upright for long enough to use that super strong arm of his. The defense has one of the best edge rusher duos in the perennial Hp[all of Famer Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. They lost Chris Harris to their division rival but replaced him with A.J. Bouye. They also added Jurrell Casey from Tennessee, who is one of the best interior pass rushers in the league. They have a decent linebacking core that should solidify this defense and make them a consistent force.
Looking at the schedule, they open with a very winnable game against the Titans at home. They then head to Pittsburgh in a 50/50 game, depending on how the defense gels. They’ll likely go 3-1 in their next four games against the Patriots, Jets, Bucs, and Dolphins. They’ll probably get into a shootout with the Chiefs that they’ll eventually lose. They’ll then likely have yet ANOTHER 3-1 stretch against Falcons, Raiders, Chargers, and Saints before ending the stretch against a loss to the Chiefs AGAIN. Deja vu is a crazy thing, huh? Their final four games will decide whether or not they can squeak into the playoffs. The game against the Panthers will be an interesting test that will set the tone. They’ll then likely lost to Buffalo and L.A. They’ll then wrap with a victory against Las Vegas in a game that’ll mean everything to the season. This is an impressive team that doesn’t have a low floor at 7-9, with a ceiling of 11-5. I’ll go as far as saying that the final playoff spot in the AFC will come down to either this team or the Browns. It’ll be some ridiculous scenario to decide the spot. I think Cleveland will get it.
Projected Record: 10-6, 20th overall pick
Los Angeles Chargers
I like this team a lot. I’m picking the Chargers to finish 3rd in the division, but I think it’ll be based on a coin toss because the Broncos look eerily similar to this team. Tyrod Taylor is probably the safest choice at quarterback. I love Justin Herbert, but I think it’ll take him a season to be truly ready to take over this high-powered offense due to having no OTAs or rookie minicamp. Learning from Taylor will be just what he needs to be ready for 2021. The offensive line in improved (finally), but they’re missing a tackle and a guard even after signing Brian Bulaga and trading for Trai Turner. The receiving core is still talented with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Hunter Henry is also a top tier tight end if he can stay healthy. They lost Melvin Gordon, but Austin Ekeler can do a lot of the same things and won’t be asking for money he doesn’t deserve. The offense has the potential to be decent, but this defense is going to be one of the top units in the league. They have it all at all three levels. Their weakest link is at linebacker, but they addressed that in the draft by picking up Kenneth Murray out of Oklahoma. Their secondary got even better with the acquisition of Chris Harris. This team can make noise right away if the offense can live up to their full potential.
This is an extremely tough division. The offense can hold this team back if it underperforms. There’s a big chance we can see Justin Herbert go up against Joe Burrow week one if Herbert wins the job outright in camp. While that would be exciting, I think they need to succeed for this team is too great and will lead to Tyrod starting the gate. They then face the division Chiefs in the home opener. That is almost definitely a loss for the Bolts, so they’ll be looking forward to a matchup against a winning Panthers team. I think L.A can win this game comfortably depending on how the front seven handle Christian McCaffery. They then have a tough road stretch against the two toughest teams in the NFC South before playing a very similar Jets team. They then have three games that they should win, but who knows with this team. This is the most frustrating team to write about because this team just screams break or bust. Their floor looks a lot like 5-11 while their ceiling looks like 10-6.
Projected Record: 8-8, 18th overall pick
Las Vegas Raiders
Such an ugly name. They should’ve never left Oakland, but that’s a moot point at this point. Jon Gruden has assembled a team that is built to succeed, but certain decisions (and the division they’re stuck in) will keep them from reaching their full potential. Let me just say: I love Derrick Carr, and I hate how they’ve been treating him. He has some excellent talent and finally has all the tools he needs to succeed: a deep receiving core spearheaded by Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, and Henry Ruggs III, a perfect tight end in Darren Waller, a three-down running back in Josh Jacobs, and a top-five offensive line unit. All Carr needs to do is take some shots down the field. It doesn’t matter the talent around him if he can’t get the ball them. The defense is expected to be improved, but they’ll likely get torched by every quarterback in their division, specifically Patrick Mahomes. Their secondary is either inexperienced or mediocre at best. Their best bet at stopping the pass is hoping Clelin Ferrell lives up to expectations so he can help Maxx Crosby get after the gunslingers in the west. Stopping the run should come with ease with a bevy of talented interior defensive lineman led by Maurice Hurst and an improved linebacking core.
The schedule makers must hate Chucky because nothing is going to come easy. They open up against Carolina on the road in Matt Rhule and Teddy Bridgewater’s first game for the Panthers. I think this will be one of the few victories Carolina will have all season, which will start a black hole (pun intended) of losing for the Raiders. In my eyes, they don’t have another winnable game after Carolina until week nine and that’s because that’s a road game against a Chargers team who might have already rolled out Justin Herbert. This season might be super ugly, considering after that, I don’t think they have a chance to win again until week 13 against the Jets. This will likely be one of the worst teams in the league due to defense and schedule. Their floor is 2-14 while their ceiling isn’t much better at 4-12
Projected Record: 3-12, 2nd Overall Pick (Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson)