NFL: 2022 AFC West Preview

Expedia

Written by Jake Bowtell & Jack Johnston (@thejbse on Twitter)

DENVER BRONCOS (Jake)

Last season

SI

The Denver Broncos got off to a 3-0 start in 2021, with wins over the Giants, Jaguars and Jets, before collapsing to a record of 4-10 across their next 14 matches. The team’s offense registered 20+ points just 5 times in that stretch, as Head Coach Vic Fangio was shown the door after 3 seasons and a 19-30 record.

Team Ins & Outs

NFL

It’s been quite the off-season for the Broncos, adding a new Head Coach in former Packers’ offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, and former Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. Former 1st Rd TE Noah Fant and QB Drew Lock went out the door in exchange, as well as Denver’s 1st Rd picks in 2022 and 2023. That left their 2nd Rd pick as the Broncos’ highest Draft asset in 2022, which they subsequently expended on OLB Nik Bonitto. To further bulk the defense, Denver signed former Cowboys DE Randy Gregory. In a significant loss for the offense, WR Tim Patrick suffered a season-ending ACL tear in training camp.

The Big Question

104.3TheFan

Can Hackett and Wilson get this offense cooking? There is a strong two-headed running game in place in Denver, with Jevonte Williams and Melvin Gordon combining for a combined 2,350 yards from scrimmage and 17 total TDs in 2021. But can Hackett help WRs Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton unlock their potential with Russell Wilson at the helm? The two combined for 1,510 yards and just 2 TDs last season, with former 1st Rounder Jerry Jeudy not finding the scoresheet all year. This defense can be feisty, but can the offense hold up its end of the bargain?

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (Jack)

Last season

KY3

The Kansas City Chiefs found it tough getting into a rhythm to start the season, facing a 3-4 record by Week 7. But as should be expected from this squad by now, they found their groove and lost just once more for the season (to the Bengals, fittingly) to finish with a 12-5 record. The offense and defense hit a better balance than previous seasons, and the team looked poised for a third consecutive AFC Championship, before Joe Burrow’s fairy-tale Bengals spoiled the party.

Team Ins & Outs

Forbes

There is a significant change at some key spots on the roster front for the Chiefs this season. They traded star WR Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins and lost DE Melvin Ingram and S Tyrann Mathieu to free agency. But the Kansas City were sure to make adjustments to offset those losses by acquiring DE Carlos Dunlap and S Justin Reid on defense, while picking up WR J.J. Smith-Schuster and WR Marques Valdes-Scantling to improve that receiving core. The receiver room was also bolstered in the speed department with the Drafting of Skyy Moore, who had 95 catches for 1,292 yards and 10 TDs in his final season at Western Michigan.

The Big Question

KSHB

The big question for the Chiefs is… how quickly can they adjust their game plan to adapt to the loss of Tyreek Hill? Kansas City have been a quick strike offense for three seasons in a row but with another year of film for opponents to study and the aforementioned loss of Hill, how will the Chiefs back up their incredible form? Do Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes have another bag of tricks up their sleeves? If Skyy Moore plays as advertised, perhaps Kansas City won’t lack top-end WR speed in 2022, but they will have to adjust regardless as opposition defenses had begun to work out how to slow the Chiefs’ roll and frustrate Mahomes into turnovers.

LA CHARGERS (Jake)

Last season

Fox

The LA Chargers shot out of the gate with a 4-1 start in their first 5 games, before being beaten in back to back weeks by the Ravens and Patriots. There followed an inconsistent season of football, as the team from LA middled out at 5-5 in their final 10 games, ultimately going 9-8 and falling short of playoffs after losing to the Raiders in the final game of the campaign.

Team Ins & Outs

Forbes

The Chargers were busy bees in the offseason, bolstering the defense with a pair of experienced LBs in former Raider and Bear LB Khalil Mack, as well as former Patriot Kyle Van Noy. In the Draft, the biggest move for the Chargers was their 1st Rd pick, which they used to select Zion Johnson, a 2021 First Team All-American Guard out of Boston College. The next move to accomplish, which may have been achieved by the time you listen to this, is to get pen to paper on a new contract for hold-in Safety Derwin James.

The Big Question

ChargersWire

The offense was electric in 2021, but can former defensive coordinator turned head coach Brandon Staley get that side of the ball up to scratch? The Chargers defense is loaded with talent, but they were sloppy last year in giving up 25+ points on 9 occasions, going 2-7 in those games. The critical nature of the defense’s struggle epitomised in the final month of LA’s season, as the team went 1-3 and conceded 123 points, while their offense managed to score exactly the same amount. A handful of stops in those critical games could have drastically changed the Chargers’ season. Can they fix it in 2022?

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (Jack)

Last season

TheSpun

A 10-7 record and a playoff appearance might not seem like an incredibly impressive season for the team from Vegas, but was a monumental achievement given the off-field chaos that surrounded the campaign. Head coach Jon Gruden was fired halfway through the season while multiple players were found to be on the wrong side of the law, including star WR Henry Ruggs, who could face prison time over a fatal car crash. With all that in consideration, a 10-7 record for the Raiders, and a playoff loss to the eventual AFC champs, was a pretty decent footballing outcome.

Team Ins & Outs

Yahoo

Vegas replaced interim head coach Rich Bisaccia with long-time New England OC Josh McDaniels. This will be McDaniels’ second stint as a head coach in the NFL after his two year tenure in Denver from 2009-10. The most notable loss on the player personnel side was the departure of DE Yannick Ngakoue to the Colts, but the team upgraded that position by acquiring former Patriots and Cardinals DE Chandler Jones. The Raiders made a massive acquisition on offense with the trade for QB Derek Carr’s former Fresno State teammate, WR Davante Adams.

The Big Question

APNews

With the move for Adams, it looks like the Raiders are going all in this season. First time coach Josh McDaniels has an incredibly talented roster at his disposal with the Carr/Adams duo being enough to get fans excited for a little more than 10-7. But can they put it all together on the field? There are plenty of teams in the league with great talent but poor win-loss records every season. Can Josh McDaniels harness the resources he has at his disposal across the board and create a team that can take on this nightmare of a division and make a deep playoff run? Time will tell.

Jack’s Prediction:

1. Raiders

2. Chargers

3. Broncos

4. Chiefs

Jake’s Prediction:
1. Chargers
2. Raiders
3. Chiefs
4. Broncos

Listen to this episode of The JBSE on Spotify

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