In 2018, the AFC West came down to a tiebreaker for the divisional crown. We could see a repeat performance in 2019. The Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs were both giants of the league last season. Each team finished with a record of 12-4. The Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders however, were among the worst teams in the league. Each team in the division have schedules ranked in the top 16 based on schedule difficulty.
That being said, lets break down the AFC West and take a look at key moves by each team over the offseason.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: 13-3 (4-2 Division)
Key Additions: Jerry Tillery, Thomas Davis, Tyrod Taylor
Key Losses: Tyrell Williams, Jason Verrett, Darius Philon
The Chargers had a decent off-season while not losing much from one of the most talented rosters in football. Wide receiver, Tyrell Williams, and interior defensive linemen, Darius Philon, signed elsewhere. The Chargers went out and added defensive tackle, Jerry Tillery. Tillery is exactly what the Chargers need to bolster the defensive line between talented edge rushers, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The Chargers also return one of the best two way running attacks in the NFL. Melvin Gordon averaged five yards per carry in 2018.
The Chargers have the 16th hardest schedule in terms of difficulty for the upcoming season. They managed to win 12 games in 2018 with the third hardest schedule across the league. As long as Phillip Rivers can repeat his performance from last year, the Chargers are the division favorite. Look for the Los Angles Chargers to shine across four prime time games and make the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: 11-5 (5-1 Division)
Key Additions: Frank Clark, Tyrann Mathieu, Carlos Hyde, Kieth Reaser
Key Losses: Kareem Hunt, Justin Houston, Tyreek Hill (?)
The Kansas City Chiefs have had a turbulent off season. Between trading for edge rusher, Frank Clark, and the domestic violence allegations against star receiver, Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs are both better and worse from a year ago. The league has yet to hand down a punishment for Hill after the District Attorney initially declined to charge Hill citing a lack of the evidence to convict. The DA has since decided to reopen the case after potentially incriminatory audio of an exchange between Hill and his partner was leaked to the media.
Depending on how the Tyreek Hill situation pans out, the Chiefs offense could stand pat as one of the NFL’s best or take a pretty significant step back. The Chiefs did their best to address the biggest problems from last year through free agency and the draft. Adding Mathieu and Clark to a defense that often struggled in 2019 is no small feat. Proven veteran running back, Carlos Hyde, will serve a pivotal role for the Chiefs this season as a replacement for Kareem Hunt. Hunt was cut from the Chiefs roster last season after he allegedly lied to team officials about an assault. An ‘under the radar move’ I think fans should be on the lookout for is the addition of American Alliance of Football (AFF) standout defensive back, Kieth Reaser. He was far and away the best corner in the now defunct league. Reaser has a chance to make a real impact for a unit that often struggled in 2018.
DENVER BRONCOS: 7-9 (3-3 Division)
Key Additions: Joe Flacco, Noah Fant, Ja’Waun James, Kareem Jackson
Key Losses: Case Keenum, Matt Paradis, Brandon Marshall
Very quietly, and I mean very quietly, GM John Elway had a smart offseason. They moved back in the first round of the draft in a trade with the Steelers. That netted them an extra pick and allowed them to take Noah Fant later in the first round. They were able to address issues at the tackle position and secured their QB of the future in Drew Locke. Elway did all of that without having to reach once. Locke slid all the way to pick 42.
Sadly, for all the progress the Broncos made, the ghost of Joe Flacco isn’t winning more than seven or eight games in 2019. Locke will sit and develop for a year barring an injury to Flacco. The Broncos will move on and evaluate what they have in 2020 offensively. Disappointingly enough for Bronco fans, John Elway isn’t walking through those doors this year…at least not in a helmet and pads.
THE OAKLAND RAIDERS: 5-11 (0-6 Division)
Key Additions: Antonio Brown, Trent Brown, Lamarcus Joyner, Tyrell Williams, Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs
Key Losses: Kelechi Osemele, Jordy Nelson, Donald Penn,Marshawn Lynch
It’s almost hard to know where to start with the Gruden circus in Oakland. The 100 Million dollar man once again showed off his football brain by taking a player who was arguably the third best Clemson defensive linemen available. I don’t often rip personnel decisions until they’ve had the chance to pan out but Gruden is different in more ways than one. Whether it was sending the scout teams home before the draft or taking a safety who was graded by some experts as low as the third round with the 27th pick, Gruden has seemingly blown it at every turn. John Gruden took what could have been a historic draft and turned it into a total clown show.
The Raiders addressed issues along the defensive line and got a pair of great receivers in Tyrell Williams and Antonio Brown. Pray that Derek Carr pulls it together in 2019 and Clelin Ferrell pans out. Otherwise it’s going to be another difficult season in a tough division for the black and silver crew.