A whole lot of unexpected in the AFC West with Week 5 in the books

At the beginning of the season, the AFC West was one division where the paths were pretty well set in stone.

It was expected that the Kansas City Chiefs would be in the front of the division. It was expected that the Los Angeles Chargers would be fighting them tooth and nail for the No. 1 spot. The Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos were expected to be rounding out the rear, fighting to get a win on the board, even with new additions of Antonio Brown and Joe Flacco, respectively.

What was not expected is how the AFC West looks right now.

Kansas City Chiefs: 4-1 (1st place)

Pretty much the only thing that is going as planned this season is that the Chiefs are dominating the division. What wasn’t expected so far this season? The Chiefs have all these wins without star Tyreek Hill. There was a possibility of suspension looming over most of the offseason, but a suspension isn’t why Hill hasn’t been playing. A hit from Jalen Ramsey is the reason. Hill suffered a dislocation related to both his shoulder and chest and hasn’t seen a snap yet since Week 1. His role was quickly filled by Demarcus Robinson and rookie Mecole Hardman.

It was also expected that Mahomes’ first game in a dome would lead to a monstrous high score, not that it would be the Chiefs’ first near loss at the hands of the Detroit Lions (although that may say more about the Lions than the Chiefs). It was also not expected that an Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts team would deliver the Chiefs their first loss and leave Patrick Mahomes limping.

Oakland Raiders: 3-2 (2nd place)

This team has had its fair share of struggles in recent years and to be in second place in the division and two games above the third-place team is completely unexpected. The biggest offseason news for this team was the selection of Josh Jacobs as running back and Antonio Brown as wide receiver. As with all rookies, Jacobs held some suspicion as to how well he would play on the big stage, but he has ended up playing great. Meanwhile, Antonio Brown left Oakland and joined and left the New England Patriots. Brown left his former team high and dry for their Week 1 matchup against the Broncos. Most football fans expected the Raiders to pull out a win to prove to Brown that they didn’t need him, and they did.

At the beginning of the season, it was expected that Oakland would win against the Colts, but after the Colts played strong games against the Chargers, the Titans and the Falcons, a Raiders victory moved them into the win column.

The most unexpected thing the Raiders have done this year is win against the Chicago Bears in London. While the Bears were operating without quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, they still had one of the strongest defenses in the league on the field in full force. The Raiders scored 24 points on them and held off the Bears as they had a 21-point surge in the third quarter and no additional points in the fourth.

Los Angeles Chargers: 2-3 (3rd place) 

This was a team with the second-best record in 2018. It was expected that Melvin Gordon would be the primary running back and Hunter Henry would resume his role as tight end after missing the previous season due to injury. Gordon decided to hold out over contract disputes, an odd demand from a player who frequents the injury report as much as he does. Henry got injured again in Week 1 and hasn’t seen the field since. This year, L.A. opted not to re-sign veteran Antonio Gates to replace Henry and his absence has been felt.

Going into Week 6, the only loss this team was expected to possibly have was against the Houston Texans. Instead, when their season opened against the Colts, a mere two weeks after Luck’s announcement to retire, they barely squeaked out an overtime win before losing to both the Lions and Texans. While the strength of the Lions is probably one of the lesser discussed topics in the NFL today, a Chargers win was still expected. L.A. then managed to win against the Miami Dolphins as expected. A Week 5 loss against the Broncos with Gordon back, however, was completely unexpected. The Broncos held Gordon and Ekeler to 38 rushing yards combined.

Denver Broncos: 1-4 (4th place)

It was expected that the addition of Joe Flacco would pump life into a Broncos team that has not had a winning season since 2016. It was expected that they would be able to have at least a few wins under their belts at this point. Flacco has been off to a slow start this year with a mere six touchdowns, three of which came in a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars that saw the Broncos still lose. It was expected, especially with the poor quality of football Denver had been playing, that they would lose to the Chargers with Gordon back in action, but instead, they managed to secure their first victory of the year.

Of all the teams in the division, the Broncos have had probably the roughest schedule to date. They have faced two division rivals as well as the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. The Broncos have had the unexpected work in their favor in one instance. Each of the other teams in this division have had a valuable, big-name player leave their offense, the Chiefs with Hill, the Raiders with Brown, and the Chargers with Gordon and Henry. Considering the laundry list of injuries in the league at only Week 6, it’s fairly unexpected that the Broncos would walk away so unscathed.

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One of the joys of football is that is it full of the unexpected. Right now, expectations have shifted and the track each team is on is likely to be what the remainder of their season looks like. Then again, in football, one should always expect the unexpected.

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