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AFC West Predictions and X-Factors

AFC West

1. Chiefs

The Chiefs still stand as the top team in not only the AFC West, but most likely the AFC with Patrick Mahomes another year better and a reloaded offensive line. The additions of LT Orlando Brown Jr. from the Ravens, LG Joe Thuney from the Patriots, and RT/RG Kyle Long give them instant upgrades. With the loss of Sammy Watkins, WRs Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson will need to step up outside of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. The run game is led by Clyde Edwards-Helaire who should be even better in his 2nd season, but a veteran backup may still be needed.

X-Factor – WR Mecole Hardman – The other speedster of the offense may now be forced into a #2 WR role with the loss of Sammy Watkins and he has the skillset to do so.

The Chiefs defense is still led by a strong D-line around DT Chris Jones and DE Frank Clark and much added depth. The LB core led by Anthony Hitchens and Willie Gay Jr. in his 2nd year should continue to make plays behind an active line with one of the top Safeties in Tyrann Mathieu roaming in the backfield. Their young secondary will have to step up big, especially when it’s time for the playoffs and a veteran addition may be needed.

X-Factor – LB Willie Gay Jr. – Gay was playing well before a late injury and with a year of experience under his belt he will be expected to be even better, but his physical play is much needed.

2. Broncos

The Broncos defense should be the reason they are 2nd in the AFC West, but the offense could be a lot better than expected with a QB competition between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater and the return of WR Courtland Sutton. The offensive line should be a year better and the added depth will help down the stretch. TE Noah Fant should be due for a big year and Albert Okwuegbunam could make his mark this season, as well. The run game will be led by Melvin Gordon again and while I don’t like the loss of Phillip Lindsay, the addition of rookie Javonte Williams should be a nice draft find.

X – Factor – WR Jerry Jeudy – Jeudy was once considered to be the best WR in his class and an elite route runner but hasn’t shown it on the field; hopefully this will be the season, which could really help the QB play.

The Broncos defense should benefit greatly from the return of a motivated and healthy Von Miller, as well as Bradley Chubb which should give teams nightmares. Behind that pass rush, is one of the deepest secondaries with the additions of Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, and 1st round draft pick Patrick Surtain Jr. which should help give the Broncos one of the best pass coverage units in the league. While I like the move of re-signing DE Shelby Harris, I didn’t like the loss of Jurrell Casey, so the defensive line could be a unit to watch.

X-Factor – CB Patrick Surtain Jr. – If Surtain is as good as advertised he will be a starter in no time and could form a solid duo across from Kyle Fuller; with his talent and pedigree the question is more when than if.

3. Chargers

The Chargers should continue to excel on offense with Justin Herbert in his 2nd year after winning Offensive Rookie of the Year. WRs Keenan Allen and Mike Williams continue to lead the way, along with 2nd year WR Jalen Guyton who showed flashes. The loss of TE Hunter Henry will be tough to replace, but free agent Jared Cook has proven to be a reliable pass catcher and Donald Parham who is a big target. The running game should be led by Austin Ekeler with Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley seeing carries also. The key will be the O-line with Center Corey Linsley from GB as a big signing and rookie 1st round pick, LT Rashawn Slater.

X-Factor – OT Rashawn Slater – As a rookie protecting the blindside of last season’s rookie of the year, Slater is thrown into the fire and has a big job ahead of him, but he has the talent and athleticism to be the long-term answer.

The Chargers defense has potential with a big and active D-line, along with a healthy and motivated Joey Bosa who they plan to move around under new HC Brandon Staley. The LB core will need to step up this season and a lot is expected from MLB Kenneth Murray Jr. in his 2nd year to make more impact plays. The secondary should be a lot better if they can have a healthy Derwin James on the field, but 2nd year CB Michael Davis being a year better and the addition of rookie CB Asante Samuel Jr. gives them a much-needed nickel CB who should find his way on the field often due to his talent and pedigree.  

X-Factor – S Derwin James – James hasn’t been able to stay healthy, but his talent and skillset to be one of the best in the league is undeniable; hopefully, this is the season he will be allowed to showcase his talents.

4. Raiders

The Raiders should be the last place team in the division, but the offense could be explosive at times led by a strong running game of Josh Jacobs and free agent pick up Kenyan Drake. Derek Carr continues to be one of the most underrated QBs in the league and will have the task of trying to get the most out of his young WRs, luckily, he does have TE Darren Waller coming off a big season. The Raiders released their Center and right side of the O-line which may be a concern, as they had one of the top units in the league.

X-Factor – WR Henry RuggsRuggs proved to be a deep threat in splashes, as many people expected, but he needs to show more consistency and add more to his route tree to be a more complete receiver. 

The Raiders defense should continue to be a big concern unless a few players can play above expectations. The addition of DE Yannick Ngakoue helps a pass rush in need, but he didn’t last with the Vikings or Ravens last season, but he may be motivated, along with DTs Solomon Thomas and Gerald McCoy. DE Maxx Crosby has proven to be a very underrated pass rusher on the team and should only get better. The addition of veteran CB Casey Hayward Jr. should help a very young, inexperienced secondary as he hopes to recover from a down year. The LB core, safety positions, and younger CBs will all need to step up their play for this unit to not rank near the bottom, so new DC Gus Bradley has his hands full.  

X-Factor – DE Clelin FerrellFerrell was a very high draft pick going 4th overall in 2019 which most people were surprised he went that high, so far, he hasn’t lived up to expectations and he could be out the door soon along with GM Mike Mayock who picked him if he doesn’t produce.  

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