Around the AFC West: How did the division turn into this big of a mess?

Nov 18, 2022, 2:00 PM
The Las Vegas Raiders face off against the Denver Broncos, two teams in the AFC West....
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 02: Running back Mike Boone #26 of the Denver Broncos rushes the football against the Las Vegas Raiders during the NFL game at Allegiant Stadium on October 02, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 32-23. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos are not a good football team. Yes, they have arguably the league’s best defense, but their offense is so bad it brings them down to the cellar of the NFL.

The Broncos have a big game this weekend against the Las Vegas Raiders. While we thought the AFC West would be the league’s best division before the start of the season, we’re now in Week 11 and there are only two teams vying for a playoff berth – and neither is the Broncos or Raiders.

Let’s take a spin around the AFC West to see what the competition is up to.


Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have a big game on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chiefs sit atop not only the AFC West but the enitre conference with a 7-2 record after nine games. They are undefeated in the division (2-0) having already beaten the Chargers earlier this year by a score of 27-24 in Week 2.

The Chiefs are in cruise control, but there are some injury concerns cropping up on the team’s offense, especially at the wide receiver position. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (concussion) may not be able to play in Week 11 against the Chargers after he suffered a scary injury in Week 10.

Wide receiver Mecole Hardman (abdomen) ended up on Injured Reserve on Thursday. This means he will miss at least the next four weeks while he heals from his injury. In Hardman’s place is former first-round pick Kadarius Toney. The Chiefs traded for Toney a few weeks ago, and he continues to do more in the offense on a weekly basis. Without Hardman, Toney could be a primary weapon in the Chiefs’ offense.

Wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling (illness) seems to be getting over his illness. After a “DNP” designation on Wednesday, Valdes-Scantling was limited in practice on Thursday. Without Hardman and perhaps without Smith-Schuster, we could see Valdes-Scantling take over as a primary target for quarterback Patrick Mahomes.


Las Vegas Raiders

Josh McDaniels might be a worse coach than Nathaniel Hackett. That’s saying something as both coaches are bad, and their teams are bad as well. Just like the Broncos, there are some bright spots on the roster, but the coaching causes the team to fail in most weeks. Things are bad with Hackett, but at least he didn’t lose to a first-time NFL head coach with zero coaching experience in the college or the pros. That’s what happened to McDaniels and the Raiders last week, falling 25-20 in the Jeff Saturday-led Indianapolis Colts.

Even in a loss, there were some good performances – mainly from the passing game. Raiders QB Derek Carr completed 24 of his 38 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns in Week 10. WR Davante Adams caught nine of his 14 targets for 126 yards and a touchdown. TE Foster Moreau caught three of his four targets for 43 yards and a touchdown. Against the Broncos, Carr is going to try and feature guys like Adams, Moreau, and Mack Hollins in the passing game. On the ground, we’ll see if RB Josh Jacobs can gash the Broncos again like he did in Week 4 when he had a then career-high 144 yards rushing.

In addition to losing to new coaches, the Raiders have been a little busy adding talent to their roster. Free-agent defensive lineman Jerry Tillery (Chargers) was claimed off waivers by the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday, Nov. 14. A first-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft, Tillery was waived by the Chargers just a little over a week ago. He’s appeared in 54 games, posting shaky stats for the Chargers and that’s why they declined his fifth-year option earlier this year and it’s why they ultimately decided to move on. Tillery will work his way into the mix as a rotational player for the Raiders.


Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers currently have a 5-4 record, and they are 2-2 at home this season. We’ll see if they can win on their home turf on Sunday night against the Chiefs. Getting a win over the Chiefs would be huge for their playoff prospects. They are a good team, but the Chargers need to get healthy and string together some wins so they can go on a playoff run.

As the playoffs draw near, we might see the Chargers get healthy at the right time. WR Keenan Allen (hamstring) was limited during practice both on Wednesday and Thursday this week. He’s trending in the right direction and getting him back would be something strange this season. Allen appeared in two games, Week 1 and Week 7, mustering only six catches for 77 yards during that time. He’s a fine player, but this season has been thrown off course for the veteran because of his bad hamstring.

In addition to Allen, the Chargers have been missing WR Mike Williams (ankle) over the last couple of weeks. He hasn’t been on the field since Week 7 as he deals with a high-ankle sprain. Even though he’s missed time, Williams is the team’s leading receiver, and he has great chemistry with QB Justin Herbert. We should see him get back in action perhaps as soon as Week 11.

If the Chargers can get both Allen and Williams back healthy, they will be a dangerous foe as the rest of the regular season rolls on. If they can get to the postseason with that offense intact, then the Chargers are the type of team nobody will want to face in the playoffs.

This story was first published by Sactown Sports‘ sister station, The Fan, 104.3 Denver. Follow Cecil Lammey on Twitter at @CecilLammey.


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Around the AFC West: How did the division turn into this big of a mess?