Why Each AFC West Team Won’t Win Super Bowl LVIIby Ryan Potts March 20, 2022 0 comments
As free agency continues and the draft approaches, every team has some level of excitement. Some are looking to contend in 2022, while others only want to move in the right direction. The NFL is unique in that every team has a chance to win the Super Bowl each season. At the same time, only one team can lift the Lombardi next February. The other 31 will fall short, and there are reasons why each team will not have what it takes. Let’s continue with the AFC West.
Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes tends to cover up the flaws on the Chiefs. While this helps the Chiefs win many games, and they could even win the AFC West, the team has hit a wall in the playoffs in the last two seasons. In 2020, the Chiefs’ offensive line fell apart in the final weeks, and Mahomes was under siege for the entire Super Bowl. In 2021, Mahomes bailed out the defense in the divisional round before throwing a game-losing interception in overtime in the next round. The Chiefs are too top-heavy to be a Super Bowl guarantee.
The offense might have the NFL’s highest ceiling of production, but its floor can be inconsistent. Mahomes’ skill on a football field is only outdone by his ego on the field. He believes he can make any throw. While this is usually a viable strategy, any lapse in judgment could be the difference between a Super Bowl and a premature playoff exit. The overreliance on Mahomes to be a magician has the benefit of being an immediate Super Bowl contender while having the drawback of reducing the margin of error for Mahomes.
The defense is often good enough, but it has only been good enough to win the Super Bowl once in four seasons with Mahomes. If the offense is not operating at full throttle, the defense is not good enough to keep the team above water in the playoffs. To his credit, Mahomes has led the Chiefs to 30 or more points in eight of 11 playoff games. The problem is that three of those games coincided with the defense allowing 30 points. The Chiefs even lost one of them.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are a lesser version of the Chiefs in almost every regard. The offense is good, but it does not sniff the Chiefs’ offense. Defensively, the Raiders have two stars and many role players. While this strategy has worked in the past, the Raiders will be too reliant on Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones in 2022. If the pass rush does not get home, the Raiders do not have a good enough back seven to have much of a chance in a division with three of the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks.
In 2021, the Raiders had an identity problem. When the offense showed up (and scored 20 points), the team was 8-0. In the 10 games the offense struggled, the team was 2-8. While the Raiders were able to string wins together at times, they were prone to a cold stretch. The Raiders often have a slim margin of error because they do not possess a trump card. Derek Carr is a good quarterback, but he cannot carry the Raiders as the rest of the division’s quarterbacks can. The offensive line is not good enough to elevate Josh Jacobs to stardom, and the aforementioned defense ranked 26th in scoring.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers had a disastrous defense in 2021, one that ranked in the bottom 10 in both scoring and total defense. No matter how great the offense is, the defense could implode at the worst time. While the Raiders had a perfect record when they scored 20 points, the Chargers suffered five losses including a season-ending 35-32 loss to the Raiders. The Chargers allowed 27 points in nine different games, resulting in a 2-7 record. Offseason moves such as Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson will help, the Chargers’ defensive philosophy of not caring about stopping the run could be detrimental to the team’s future.
In games the Chargers allowed 100 rushing yards, they went 5-7. In one of the wins, the Chargers forced four turnovers, so that is far from replicable. Ironically, the Chargers did win the game they allowed 230 rushing yards in, but teams were 3-13 in this situation across the 2021 season. If the Raiders lack a trump card, the Chargers are freely giving each of their opponents a chance at a trump card in the running game. Not every team will take advantage of it, but the 2021 Chargers should not have lost to the Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens (by 28), or Denver Broncos.
Justin Herbert falls into the same realm as Mahomes with the belief he can make any throw. Sometimes, Herbert prioritizes the “male fortitude” throw rather than the smart throw. He only had 13 turnover-worthy plays in 2021, but they tended to pool together. Out of the seven games he had a turnover-worthy play, he had multiple in four of them. The Chargers lost all four of those games, going 1-6 in games Herbert had a turnover-worthy play.
The Broncos had a spectacular defense in 2021, helping them to seven wins despite a 23rd-ranked scoring offense. When they allowed 16 or fewer points, the Broncos went 7-1. In other games, they went 0-9. The problem is that this defensive performance might not be replicable. The Broncos held six teams to 13 or fewer points, tied for the second-most such games in 2021. Their opponents in these games ranked fifth, 23rd, 25th, 28th, 31st, and 32nd in scoring. The Chargers are the black sheep of the group, but the Broncos tended to just take care of business rather than dominate.
Russell Wilson will get much of the publicity this offseason, for good reason, but let’s pump the brakes. Wilson is coming off the worst QBR and PFF passing grades of his career. Some of his throws can be explained away with his finger injury, but others were objectively poor decisions. After returning from injury in 2021, Wilson had a turnover-worthy play in seven of nine games, including a multiple in four of them. He had two of the worst games of his career, and these games tended to hinge on his decision-making rather than his accuracy.
Nathaniel Hackett is a first-time head coach after 20 years of coaching across football and the NFL. He most recently was the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers. Only two rookie head coaches have won a Super Bowl, and it has not happened since George Seifert in the 1989 season. Three additional head coaches have reached the Super Bowl, but the recurring theme is that all five coaches inherited great teams. Each team finished at least two games above .500 in the previous season before heading to the Super Bowl with a rookie coach.
Are you an optimist? All four of these teams have a chance to win the Lombardi.
Follow Ryan Potts on Twitter @MrSplashMan19
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images