Los Angeles Chargers are the best of the AFC West after Monday night win against Las Vegas Raiders

The Los Angeles Chargers beat the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football. The Chargers are the best in the AFC West, but does it matter?

The Los Angeles Chargers are the best team in the AFC West after beating the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football. However, being the best team overall does not automatically grant a team the divisional crown. And with Patrick Mahomes on the team they directly oppose in the division, the more likely outcome is a Wild Card berth for Los Angeles. Let me explain.

The Los Angeles Chargers have the AFC West’s best roster

We can go through this site by site, comparing the Chiefs and the Chargers. Honestly, I’m not sure the Chiefs compete with the Chargers’ roster construction.

The offensive depth charts

LA has the more talented running back in Austin Ekeler. This is especially true given Clyde Edwards-Helaire isn’t a fantastic fit for Kansas City’s run-blocking scheme.

Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce hold their own against the slew of weapons for the Chargers, but Jared Cook is a real difference-maker on top of Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. Unfortunately, there is one area the Chargers lack. They have speed in Jalen Guyton, but that speed doesn’t translate to a dangerous downfield threat.

The offensive line is one-sided. The Chiefs improved drastically on the offensive line during the offseason. They’re also receiving stellar performances from rookies Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith. Kansas City has the better unit.

The defensive side of the ball

The defense is where things take a turn for the worst for the Chiefs.

Chris Jones can’t do it himself. Frank Clark isn’t the same player he once was, and they have no other legitimate pass-rush options. The Chargers have Joey Bosa and Linval Joseph. While that’s not the group the Las Vegas Raiders field, they’ve gotten pressure through other means.

For example, Drue Tranquill was used as a blitzer Monday night. He continually helped Bosa get into one-on-one situations against Storm Norton. That’s always going to be a win for the older Bosa brother. Jerry Tillery even got in on some of the action in prime time.

Although the Chiefs have spent draft capital at linebacker in the past two drafts, the return has been underwhelming thus far. Chargers LBs haven’t been great either so far in 2021, but they played well against a bad running team in Las Vegas.

The secondary is the biggest difference. Nasir Adderley and Derwin James are difference-making safeties. James might be the best in the league, and Adderley is sticky in coverage and not afraid to bang as a tackler. Chris Harris Jr. and Asante Samuel Jr. flash while Michael Davis simply survives. The Chiefs can’t compete there.

It all comes down to quarterback play

Justin Herbert is still young, so there will be days he isn’t firing on all cylinders. On those days, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will beat them. But if Herbert plays like he did in Week 3, Mahomes will have a tough time making up the difference all on his own, even if he is on another planet as a player.

Kansas City’s defense is a legitimate issue, and it could derail their dreams of three straight Super Bowl appearances. It could also keep them from winning the division. But it doesn’t take much improvement to be enough for Mahomes and that offense.

The Chargers must sustain drives

This is my biggest fear with the Chargers. They don’t necessarily have a big-play threat on their offense, so they must trust in Herbert to guide them methodically down the field. It’s a tall task for a young quarterback, but he appeared poised to do it on Monday night against the Raiders.

The Chargers had touchdown drives of 12, 6, 9, and 10 plays. With no splash-play candidates on the offense, that’s how they’ll have to win. That takes high-level quarterbacking to accomplish. It’s asking a lot of Herbert. But so far, Herbert’s film has passed every test with flying colors.

The Las Vegas Raiders (and Derek Carr) need more urgency

Carr looked uncomfortable for the entire first half. He almost gets into these spells of impending doom when his creativity in the pocket takes a back seat to his inner Eli Manning, which ends in protecting the ball and falling to the fetal position.

It’s almost like things need to go wrong before Carr can slap himself into form and right the ship. Tonight, it just took too long. By the time it was time to claw back, the Chargers’ defense was able to pin its ears back and pick on a Las Vegas offensive line devoid of serviceable play outside of Kolton Miller.

It’s not fair to take away a play to make a point, but it’s also not fair to Raiders fans to pick up one first down in the first half. If we take away the 51-yard dime to Henry Ruggs, Carr threw for 145 yards on 33 attempts for a 4.4 yards per attempt average.

They’ve clawed their way to victory in each of their first three games but weren’t able to against a good Chargers team.

Yet, maybe the biggest development of the night was when it looked like the Chargers might be “Chargering,” they turned it around, scored another touchdown, and sealed the game with an interception.

Maybe — just maybe — the curse has been lifted.

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