1. Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs claimed the crown in the AFC West last season. While their offense was far ahead of any other in the division, the defense kept them from what could have been a magical ending to an incredible season. In response, the team made some splash moves. They signed safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive end Frank Clark. If that wasn’t enough, they brought in Steve Spagnuolo to head a totally revamped defensive coaching staff. The moves didn’t stop there as they added veteran cornerback Bashaud Breeland and drafted ballhawk S Juan Thornhill to strengthen a secondary that got scorched all season.
So far, the defense has looked much improved and the offense somehow looks better than it did in 2018. To be the king you must take down the king, and right now I don’t see any team in the AFC West that has done enough to dethrone the Chiefs as the kings of the division.
-Andres Maldonado, PFN AFC West Writer
2. Los Angeles Chargers
There’s no doubt the Los Angeles Chargers are talented. They may be one of the best teams in the AFC on paper, but their up and down offseason outweighs their sexy roster. Melvin Gordon’s absence and Derwin James’s injury mixed with their hodge-podge offensive line stymies the Bolts chances of an AFC West crown.
It seems like the same story for Rivers year after year. He’s an elite quarterback that’s always outdueled by a slightly more elite passer. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and now Rivers must deal with Patrick Mahomes. It almost seems like bad luck for the shot-putting gunslinger. The Chargers will scrap with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West, but it’s hard to see a situation where Rivers can keep up with Mahomes.
Just because the Chargers aren’t destined to take home the AFC West title doesn’t mean they should be counted out of the playoff picture. The Chargers will be a team to watch down the stretch when Gordon’s holdout ends and James returns to the field.
-Tommy Call, PFN NFL Columnist
3. Oakland Raiders
As the famous poem goes, “The Autumn wind is a Raider,” and this off-season, the winds of change have blown through Oakland. It began back in late December, with the acquisition of Mike Mayock as general manager. His new regime has overseen a free agency period that bolstered the roster with big-money signings in Trent Brown, Tyrell Williams, and Lamarcus Joyner. The trade for Antonio Brown was one of the biggest stories of the off-season. Alongside head coach Jon Gruden, Mayock orchestrated a draft strategy of bringing in high character individuals to gel together and transform the Raiders back to winning ways.
That is the goal for this 2019 NFL season for the Oakland Raiders. After a 4-12 season in 2018 and a 6-10 record in 2017, a winning record is a must. However, the schedule gods have not been kind with tough games in Indianapolis, Green Bay and Minnesota on top of a difficult division slate. In a loaded AFC West, they aren’t realistically aiming for the playoffs. They aren’t realistically aiming for the Super Bowl.
What will success look like? As Al Davis once said: “Just win baby!”
-Oliver Hodgkinson, PFN AFC West Writer
4. Denver Broncos
There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the Denver Broncos in the upcoming 2019 season. New head coach Vic Fangio hopes to bring his success in Chicago to Mile High, utilizing Denver’s talented veterans, including Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. During the offseason, the team made an aggressive move, trading for former Super Bowl MVP, Joe Flacco. With the addition of Joe Flacco at the helm, Denver hopes his experience can lead the Broncos’ offense to prosperity, and maybe the playoffs.
With a smattering of new faces, Denver fans certainly have hope for improvement. There are plenty of mysteries pertaining to the 2019 Denver Broncos, but the team is full of talented pieces; it is up to Fangio and staff to find the best way to piece them together.
-Daniel Griffis, PFN AFC West Writer
NEXT: AFC PLAYOFFS