We’re on the cusp of the 2021 NFL Season. Before we get there, it’s time to prepare by looking at each of these divisions and the prospects for the season. Finally, we come to the AFC West, where the Chiefs will look to make a third straight Super Bowl.
The AFC West featured four talented teams but produced predictable results in 2020. The Chiefs rolled thanks to a high-powered offense. The Raiders started strong and faded at the finish, missing the playoffs. Justin Herbert looked good for the Chargers, but the team couldn’t win the close games. And the Broncos’ lack of situational awareness and consistent quarterback play wasted a solid defensive effort.
Kansas City Chiefs
2020 Record: 14-2
Key Additions: Orlando Brown, LT, Joe Thuney, G, Nick Bolton, LB, Creed Humphrey, C
Key Departures: Eric Fisher, LT, Le’Veon Bell, RB, Damien Williams, RB, Sammy Watkins, WR
Key Question: Can anything slow down the Chiefs’ dynasty?
The Kansas City Chiefs have turned into the power of the AFC. The team has appeared in three straight AFC Championship Games, two straight Super Bowls and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. With Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, Travis Kelce at tight end, Tyreek Hill at receiver, and Andy Reid as the coach, there appears to be little standing between the Chiefs and another AFC West title and playoff run. The question is if any of these other AFC contenders have caught up.
Las Vegas Raiders
2020 Record: 8-8
Key Additions: Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Kenyan Drake, RB, Nick Martin, C, Alex Leatherwood, OT, Trevon Moehrig, S, Casey Hayward, CB, Solomon Thomas, DE
Key Departures: Trent Brown, LT, Nelson Agholor, WR, Devontae Booker, RB, Tyrell Williams, WR
Key Question: Can the Raiders finish the season well?
In each of the past two seasons, the Raiders have started strong and stood in playoff contention. And in each season, the team has slumped to the finish and fallen short of the goal. The Raiders poured into the defense this off-season, hoping to add pieces and new coordinator Gus Bradley can be the answer. On offense, meanwhile, the Raiders are looking for a big second-year leap for receivers Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards to help carry the load along with all-world tight end Darren Waller. If they can manage it, the team might crawl above .500 and return to the playoffs.
Los Angeles Chargers
2020 Record: 7-9
Key Additions: Rashawn Slater, OT, Corey Linsley, C, Jared Cook, TE, Asante Samuel, Jr., CB, Josh Palmer, WR
Key Departures: Trai Turner, G, Melvin Ingram, LB, Casey Hayward, CB, Hunter Henry, TE, Tyrod Taylor, QB
Key Question: What can Brandon Staley do with the Chargers?
Last season the Chargers looked good at times, finding their franchise QB in Herbert, but it wasn’t enough. The team finished below .500 and missed the playoffs, costing Anthony Lynn his job. Enter Brandon Staley, who led the Rams to the top defense in the NFL in 2020. He inherits a talented core on both sides of the ball but a team that never seems to be quite good enough to make the playoffs. In Staley’s first year, can he get the Chargers turned around enough for them to return to the post-season? It’s a tall order, but after a strong finish in 2020, fans are excited to see what this team can do.
2020 Record: 5-11
Key Additions: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Javonte Williams, RB, Kyle Fuller, CB, Ronald Darby, CB, Patrick Surtain II, CB
Key Departures: Phillip Lindsay, RB, Royce Freeman, RB, Ju’Wuan James, OT, Jurrell Casey, DE, A.J. Bouye, CB
Key Question: Can Teddy Bridgewater be the answer to the Broncos’ QB quagmire?
Since Peyton Manning led the Broncos to the Super Bowl win following the 2015 season, the team has been in purgatory when it comes to the quarterback position. Rookie Drew Lock went 4-1 in five starts to close the 2019 season, and the Broncos thought they found the answer. In 2020, Lock struggled and led the league in turnovers. So, the team went out and got veteran Teddy Bridgewater from the Panthers and handed the job over to him in Training Camp. Now, Bridgewater inherits a talented group of skill position players with the Broncos and has a strong defense backing him up. If the Broncos can solve their riddle at quarterback, the team seems poised to make a run toward returning to the playoffs. Is Bridgewater that answer?
AFC West Prediction:
I think we’re going to see some fun things in the AFC West. While it’s still the Chiefs division, and I expect them to win the AFC West and be a high seed in the playoffs, I think the other three teams will make strides. The AFC West is one of two divisions where I project all four teams to be above .500. That could make the season fun to watch and bring some drama to the playoff chase.
Kansas City Chiefs—12-5
Las Vegas Raiders—9-8
Los Angeles Chargers—9-8
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL Fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.