NFL: Could the AFC West’s crazy offseason produce a Super Bowl winner?

By Noah Constantino

The NFL is composed of two conferences, the AFC (American Football Conference) and NFC (National Football Conference). Each conference is then split up into four different divisions based on their respective locations: North, South, East and West.

The NFL as a whole had a fairly interesting off-season, but nothing compared to the action that took place in the AFC West. We will look at the moves made by each team and a prediction on whether these moves will help them be successful for the 2022 season or if the big moves were all for naught. But the ultimate question remains: Could a contender for Super Bowl LVII emerge from this conference?

Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City has won this division for a staggering six straight seasons; and with superstar Patrick Mahomes at the helm, it does not look like they are ready to slow down anytime soon. However, out of all the teams in this division it seems they may have lost the most.

In March of 2022, they traded away their star offensive weapon Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins and lost a star on defense in Tyrann Mathieu to free agency. They also lost key defensive pieces in cornerbacks Mike Hughes, Charvarious Ward and defensive tackle Jarran Reed.

It didn’t take much time for them to turn around and fill the losses, however. The Chiefs were able to bring in JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Marquez Valdes-Scantling from Green Bay. While neither of them brings the explosion to the field that Tyreek Hill did, they do give more variety for Patrick Mahomes to throw to.

Kansas City was also able to replace Tyrann Mathieu with standout player, Justin Reid from the Houston Texans. Reid and Mathieu are very similar players and Reid brings the benefit of being five years younger than Tyrann, at only 25. Justin can come up and make plays in the box and has the speed and discipline to guard receivers in both zone and man coverage. This was clearly was the best pickup for Kansas City this off-season.

Lastly, the Chiefs had a successful draft as they were able to bring in two first-round selections (one they received from the Tyreek Hill trade). With those two picks, they went all defense, selecting CB Trent McDuffie and DE George Karlaftis. However, it is still obvious that the rest of the division has gotten better over the offseason. This could potentially be the year that the kings of the AFC West will be dethroned.

Prediction 11-6    2nd in the AFC West.

 Los Angeles Chargers

If you want to talk about teams that made the biggest splash in the 2022 off-season, the Chargers better be at the top of your list. If you have been a fan of Justin Herbert, then you will have witnessed Herbert build double-digit leads just for it to be diminished by defense meltdowns and poor play-calling. This will hopefully just be issues of the past as Head Coach/Offensive Play caller Brandon Staley is entering his second season in charge of the team.

The Chargers also did more than enough to fix their problems on the defensive side of the ball. Bringing in All-Pro’s, Khalil Mack from the Chicago Bears and J.C. Jackson from New England. While the team had to give up draft picks for Mack and a lot of money to bring in Jackson, it was a worthy investment as both players will help them win now.

Some other key signings included bolstering their defensive line even more with Sebastian Joseph-Day from the cross-city rival Rams. They were also able to re-sign star receiver Mike Williams to keep his and Herbert’s on-field chemistry round for a long time to come.

One of their biggest losses however, came on the offensive line after Scott Quessenberry signed with the Texans in free Agency. Yet, they were able to fill that hole in the first round of the draft after taking guard Zion Johnson out of Boston College.

With Justin Herbert entering a season in which I fully believe he can win MVP and the team’s defense looking stronger than ever, don’t be surprised to see the Chargers make a run this season as one of the league’s best teams. After missing out on the playoffs in 2021 by a game-winning field goal from the Las Vegas Raiders, the Chargers most likely have Super Bowl on their minds, and I think they can do it.

Prediction 13-4    1st in AFC West

 Denver Broncos

Usually when a team brings in a new head coach it is typically the biggest news that team will have for the offseason. That would have been the case when the Broncos brought in Nathaniel Hackett to coach the team; if it wasn’t for the fact that they also traded for 9-time Pro Bowl QB Russell Wilson. This was probably the biggest move of the entire offseason. Russ was unhappy in Seattle and the Broncos were unhappy not winning; they both decided to make a change.

The only issue I have with this is that is kind of the only move they made, and they gave up a lot for it. Trading away players Shelby Harris, Noah Fant and Drew Lock, they also had to give up 2 first-round picks, 2 second-round picks and a 2022 fifth-round pick.

It will also be interesting to see how Russ will fair in his new home on a new offense. The team definitely has weapons, the only issue is they can be young and inconsistent. They were able to ink up new deals for Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton. Plus, with Jerry Jeudy still on his rookie contract it looks like the WR core could be around for a long time.

For the sake of the team, their only hope is that their new star QB can build a strong on-field relationship with them. While Javonte Williams will be entering his second season as the most likely to be RB1, the team’s true strength will ride on the success they have airing the ball out.

Prediction 10-7    3rd in AFC West

Las Vegas Raiders

Last year the Raiders were easily the most controversial team in the NFL. After firing head coach Jon Gruden halfway through the season due to a racism scandal and releasing young WR Henry Ruggs after a vehicular manslaughter incident; it was a miracle to see this team make the playoffs. Yet, in the last game of the season, they walked off the division rival Chargers with a field goal in the final seconds of overtime.

After losing to the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild-Card round of the NFL playoffs the Raiders have had plenty of time to fix what was wrong with their team heading into the 2022 NFL season. To start they found a new head coach in Bill Belichick’s prodigy, Josh McDaniels. This already gives them a step up on the team that they were last year after they had to finish the season with interim head coach Rich Bisaccia.

The team also made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason by taking away Aaron Rodgers longtime partner in crime, Devante Adams. This makes the Raiders passing game and receiver room even better than it was before. Adams will play well off the route-running ability of WR Hunter Renfrow and the vertical threat of TE Darren Waller. This addition makes it almost impossible for defenses to be able to guard all three of the players on pass plays. With Derek Carr coming back in his eighth season as the starting QB of the team, offense will not be the issue for the team.

The real issue of the team lies on the defensive side of the ball. The craziest part of this defense is that they potentially could have the best pass-rushing duo in the league with Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones who they acquired in free agency. However, the rest of the nine players on the Raiders defense are just THAT bad.

They lost linebackers Cory Littleton and Nicholas Morrow in free agency leaving a big gap of talent and experience in the middle of their defense. They were able to bring in pieces to help the secondary but nobody that will truly make you turn your head, just average players.

At the end of the day, I think the Raiders do have potential yet, I don’t think they have what it takes to beat any of the teams in their division; at least not enough to make the playoffs. They will be able to beat teams outside of the AFC West, but the inner division competition will just be too much for the Las Vegas Raiders and new head coach Josh McDaniels to handle in year 1.

Prediction 9-8   4th in AFC West

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