Prior to the 2020 season, the AFC West was viewed by many as a competitive division mainly held up by the elite talent of the Chiefs. Some thought the Chargers could surprise given the talent at important position, but overall no team really exceeded expectations. It was just the Chiefs and everyone else fighting for some semblance of relevancy.
Now, I’d say things are certainly more up-in-the-air than they were before.
According to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, the AFC West comes in as the third-best division in all of football, behind just the NFC West and the AFC North.
“The Chiefs are quite likely the best team in football with that rebuilt offensive line and with a generational QB just entering his prime,” says La Canfora. “That alone is going to carry some weight in this exercise. I am buying the Chargers as a playoff team given Justin Herbert’s remarkable rookie campaign and the moves they have made on the offensive line. Denver’s defense is going to be a problem for other teams and Teddy Bridgewater will provide a baseline of professional quarterbacking long missing there. I see them as a potential wild card if Teddy protects the football as he has most of his career. The Raiders will be bad again because of that defense but at least can do some fun things on offense sometimes. And they play really well against the Chiefs, which has to count for something. (Notice a trend here with which conference is superior?)”
I actually agree with all of La Canfora’s thoughts on the division. The Chiefs are going to be the team to beat, and the division will run through Kansas City, despite them re-vamping the offensive line with some younger, talented bodies. The success of the team stems from their trio of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce. As long as those three are still playing together, KC will remain who they’ve always been.
The Chargers should be considered a playoff contender simply based on the fact they’re not likely to repeat their blasphemous special teams play. Now you add in the best offensive line they’ve had in a decade on top of defensive starter returning and you’ve got one heck of a cocktail to look forward to.
As I said in my own record predictions for the division, the Broncos have a defense that can win them games by itself. All they need is somewhat competent quarterback play from Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater and you’ve got a team that can surprise on any given week.
And unsurprisingly, the Raiders are expected to be in the basement after blowing up their offensive line and not doing enough to take their defense to the next level. Yannick Ngakoue is still a great player, but that unit needed more than a pass rusher. The offense can, and will, have it’s moments, but the overall roster leaves much to be desired.