How Every AFC West Team Can Win Super Bowl LVIIby Ryan Potts March 17, 2022 0 comments
With free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft approaching, franchises all have a level of excitement. Some are looking to contend this season, while others just want to move in the right direction. The league is unique in that every team has a chance to win the Super Bowl each season. The NFL can be volatile, and the smallest of breaks could launch a championship run, as exemplified by the Cincinnati Bengals last season. It may be unlikely to happen again, but football is unpredictable for a reason. There is a path for all 32 teams to win Super Bowl LVII.
Today, that path is for teams in the AFC West.
Kansas City Chiefs
2021 did not go as planned for the Kansas City Chiefs, but there was one overwhelming positive takeaway. The Chiefs underachieved, still won the division, and still were a play away from the Super Bowl. No team matches the Chiefs’ floor. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce are the NFL’s best trio, and the offensive line is among the best in the league. Defensively, the Chiefs have the likes of Chris Jones and new addition Justin Reid. The team has shown in years past that as long as they have a competent defensive unit, they can go far. Competent is the perfect word to describe the 2022 unit.
Having Mahomes is enough to have a reasonable shot at the Super Bowl. He had another phenomenal season in 2021 despite throwing a career-high 13 interceptions. The high-end plays will never disappear, but the low-end plays will probably be limited in 2022. Once again, Mahomes has his two All-World running mates in Hill and Kelce. Hill posted 1,200 yards and at least nine touchdowns for the third time in four years. Kelce put together his fourth season in a row with 1,100 yards from scrimmage, and he tacked on nine more touchdowns.
The scariest part of the Chiefs is that it seems they have not hit their full potential again. They led the NFL in scoring and yardage in 2018, but they have finished fifth, sixth, and fourth in the last three years. It is reasonable to expect the Chiefs to eventually put the pieces in order again and post more than 500 points in a season. 2022 could be that season.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders are the clear-cut fourth option in the division, but they occupied this spot last season too. Despite the chaos of 2021 (including losing one of their best receivers and their coach), the Raiders snuck into the playoffs. With Josh McDaniels at the helm, continuity could play to the high-end of the Raiders’ potential. Derek Carr might not be a slam-dunk top-10 quarterback, but he is not far off. Having a star quarterback helps any team in their quest to get to and win a Super Bowl.
To win, the Raiders will have to work around the edges once again. Daniel Carlson had one of the most clutch seasons in NFL history last year, contributing to many last-second wins. Carr and the offense can put Carlson in advantageous positions, and the Raiders could once again overachieve. If Darren Waller is healthy, the Raiders could lay out a path to 10 or more wins.
The defense is not exactly an elite unit, but Maxx Crosby had a monster season, and he is poised to have another. If he can match even 80 percent of his 2021 production, the Raiders will force additional three-and-outs and extra punts, preserving the defense and helping the offense with better field position. The Raiders will be competitive with elite special teams, a good offense, and a playmaking defense led by Crosby.
Los Angeles Chargers
With a massive disappointment of Week 18 behind them, the Los Angeles Chargers should be entering the 2022 season with a chip on their shoulders (along with every other cliche). They have answered the underachievement in a big way by agreeing to terms with J.C. Jackson and trading for Khalil Mack. While neither of these moves solves their’ biggest issue, Jordan Davis could be available with the No. 17 pick. Davis would almost certainly turn the abysmal Chargers run defense into a passable unit. By shoring up the gargantuan hole, the Chargers will have a higher floor.
However, no team in the NFL has a ceiling like the Chargers. Justin Herbert is oozing with untapped potential despite having two electric seasons so far. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are one of the better receiver duos in the NFL, and the Chargers have a sturdy offensive line. If they tack on a Day 2 guard, they should have one of the more unstoppable offenses in the league. Throw in Austin Ekeler and the Chargers have several ways to win.
The defense was a full-blown disaster in 2021. They were 29th in points allowed and 23rd in yards allowed. Their run defense was a bottom-five unit, and even the vaunted pass defense finished 22nd in yards allowed per pass. Some of the greatest hits from the 2021 defense were 42 points and 531 yards allowed to the Browns, 37 points allowed to the Steelers, and 41 points allowed to the Texans. Somehow, the Chargers won two of those three games, losing to the Texans. The Chargers must win the rematch.
Welcome to the AFC West, Russell Wilson. The Denver Broncos sent Drew Lock, Noah Fant, Shelby Harris, and several picks back to the Seattle Seahawks in the trade. The deal helped the Broncos significantly in their quest to win a Super Bowl. Heading into 2022, the Broncos have a high-upside offense with Wilson, Javonte Williams, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and a solid offensive line. The defense is on the overrated side, and they moved on from Vic Fangio. There is talent including Patrick Surtain and Bradley Chubb, but the assumption is that it will be an elite unit even without Fangio.
As a team, the Broncos had a 91.7 passer rating in 2021. Wilson has eclipsed 103.1 in each of the last four seasons, and his career-low is 92.6. Wilson is a sizable improvement to a team that went 7-10 last year despite having generally below-average passing production. If the Broncos “let Russ cook,” Wilson could have massive personal numbers to go along with team success. Wilson could be the difference-maker in a playoff game assuming the Broncos make the playoffs.
The defense will likely take a step back without Fangio, but the offense will compensate. If the defense coalesces as the season goes on, the Broncos could be a nightmare to play in December and January. The division will be difficult (and will likely hurt Denver’s defensive stats), but they have the advantage of a last-place schedule. Instead of facing one of the competent AFC East teams, the Broncos will play the New York Jets. Additionally, the Broncos get a matchup with the Carolina Panthers. These games could give the Broncos the edge in the division and help them get home-field advantage in the playoffs.