The AFC West, where chalk is beautiful and the defending champions have no competition. Will anyone challenge the Chiefs? Survey says… unlikely.
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The AFC looks so loaded heading into the 2023 season that we already covered two elite divisions, and this might be the best of the bunch. The AFC West was supposed to have four playoff contenders last year. That never materialized, but there is reason to think that at least a trio could be real contenders this coming season. Will the magic materialize?
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The Kansas City Chiefs are clear favorites in this division, which is understandable considering they have the lowest odds of any team in the league to win the Super Bowl. Los Angeles and Denver are bunched together in the middle, being given over/unders of 9.5 and 8.5 wins respectively. Bringing up the rear are the Las Vegas Raiders, at least according to the oddsmakers. How will it play out in real life? Probably with Las Vegas bringing up the rear if we’re being honest. Chalk is chalk for a reason.
Who Wins The AFC West?
Todd Salem: Chalk Can Be Beautiful
In terms of the top of the division, there is a lot to like with both the Broncos and Chargers. It is why each team felt intriguing last year. And I have to say, I’m being suckered in again. The question is can either team top Kansas City.
I’m going with no. Yet again, the Chiefs reign supreme until they give us a reason to think otherwise. Denver is a fun pick to go worst-to-first, which we’ll get to in a moment, but this KC team won 14 games and the championship a year ago, and they don’t seem appreciably worse.
We still have Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Chris Jones. We still have arguably the best offensive line in football. There are young pieces at all three levels of the defense, which could be the team’s undoing a bit. But it doesn’t strike me as a bad unit unless Jones goes down.
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So with KC finishing first, the real battle begins. Denver has a new head coach to turn the franchise around and get the most out of the backside of Russell Wilson’s career. There is an above-average offensive line here and loads of playmakers on the offense. On defense, Denver could be the best group in the West division. Led by an elite secondary, the Broncos will need more out of their pass rush to cement that title.
You know who probably knows what they’re getting out of the pass rush though? The LA Chargers. If the West’s best defense isn’t Denver, it will be Los Angeles. And if the Broncos don’t have the best all-around collection of offensive playmakers in the division, it’s because the Chargers do instead. And while Denver’s o-line should be in the top half, LA could sport a top-10 unit. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore should be a big help for Justin Herbert, and (I know we say this every year but really this time) this team feels elite.
I do like the Broncos, but not over either of the teams projected to finish ahead of them. The unbalanced talent throughout the conference and the league strikes again. It’s probably why a potentially solid Raiders club ends up getting decimated; too many elite opponents.
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No one here has it easy, but Las Vegas projects as having the second-hardest schedule in the NFL. There are lots of pieces to like on the roster but not enough to overcome that. I don’t like Jimmy Garoppolo leading this club either. He feels like a place-holder with a low ceiling, the worst of both worlds.
It is kind of sad to see that a team with blue-chip players at some of the most important positions in the game likely won’t be able to compete this season. Davante Adams, Maxx Crosby, and Chandler Jones can cover a lot of warts elsewhere, just not enough to carry this team above the basement of the AFC West.
1) Kansas City
2) Los Angeles
4) Las Vegas
Dan Salem: No One Can Touch Kansas City
Man, do I want to believe this is going to be a competitive division. It has the excitement, the quarterbacks, the hype, and the expectations. But the AFC West had all of these things last season, only to disappoint us across the board, with the exception of our Super Bowl champions. Kansas City keeps proving us wrong each year, meaning we MUST STOP underestimating them. The Chiefs are the favorites and will once again win the west. There is no alternative.
Are the Chiefs the favorite to repeat as champions? That is a tougher question, but no other team returns a complete package like Kansas City. It’s unlikely they will repeat, but I could see it. As for the other teams in the AFC West, I believe the Chargers make the playoffs. Justin Herbert is excellent and this is the year… he gets his team a wildcard berth. It has to happen, right? I mean if he doesn’t, then do we finally admit he’s not good enough? It can’t all be blamed on the team around him… again. Los Angeles gets in, because they stay healthy enough to keep it together.
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I suppose we see this division in an identical manner. If the Chiefs win it and Los Angeles makes the playoffs, that leaves Denver and Las Vegas in no-man’s land. Russell Wilson will bounce back, but that doesn’t mean he has a great season. Last year’s low was so unbelievably terrible, anything will be better. He plays okay, then slowly becomes the bridge quarterback to Sean Payton’s next choice in the draft. I can see the Broncos getting close to .500 on the year, but nothing about them excites me.
Leaving the best for last, Las Vegas is hitting reset. Garoppolo is once again a bridge quarterback for a team aiming to draft high next year and grab their quarterback. The Raiders are hoping their playmakers want to stick around for the new guy, but they could easily deal assets for draft picks by midseason. I’m not saying the Raiders are going to tank, but why wouldn’t they?
1) Kansas City
2) Los Angeles
4) Las Vegas
Meet our Writers:
Dan Salem is Lead Editor, Writer, and Co-owner of BuzzChomp. He’s a published author, as well as an award winning Actor, Director and Producer. Visit M Square Productions for his film work, or get lost in his old-school comedy on Pillow Talk TV. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Todd Salem is a Staff Writer and Contributing Editor at BuzzChomp. He’s also a fantasy football and fantasy baseball Staff Writer for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter or comment below for his unfiltered opinions.
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