The AFC West has been and continues to be a circus. Each week, multiple teams are playing for first place, and after Week 13, there is even less clarity. Any given Sunday, they say, and that has never felt truer. As all AFC West teams wrap up their 12th game of the season, here is how the teams rank.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
They’re (mostly) back. The annual Super Bowl contenders, the AFC West kings, and the most explosive offense in the NFL have returned to their original form. After a five-game win streak, it’s safe to say Kansas City has turned their season around.
The Chiefs started the season 3-4. They lost more games in the first seven weeks than all of last season. Their defense was ranked 32nd and their offense looked lost. Each week, NFL fans found themselves wondering if it was a fluke or if the Chiefs had finally fallen off. Just when everyone was starting to give up hope, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs made a comeback. Yikes.
What started as the worst defense in the league has now moved up to 24th, and an offense that found its way into the twenties is now ranked 10th per Pro Football Focus. After beating the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football in Week 13, the Chiefs will take on Las Vegas at home this Sunday.
2. Los Angeles Chargers (7-5)
Second-year quarterback Justin Herbert and new head coach Brandon Staley have looked like the duo the Chargers have been longing for. Herbert is an aggressive quarterback that has paired well with Brandon Staley’s aggressive play calling.
The Chargers’ quarterback and head coach duo are complimented tremendously by the rookies they have this season. Rashawn Slater is in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year, while cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. is being mentioned for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The Chargers looked good at the beginning of the season, but they have recently begun to struggle. The offense doesn’t look as cohesive as it once did, and their defense is having trouble stopping anyone for four full quarters. In true Charger form, they seemed to bring their best in the first half and fall off in the second. They are coming off a win against the Bengals in Week 13 and will face the Giants this week.
3. Las Vegas Raiders (6-6)
The Raiders were living large in Week 9. Back then, they were sitting at 5-2 and first place in the AFC West. They were not only first in their division, but also the AFC’s second seed.
Cue: Midseason collapse.
Las Vegas has now lost four of their last five, including a Week 13 loss to a team with no name. The only thing keeping them ranked third in the AFC West is the victory against Denver in Week 6. The offense is slow and the defense can only hold on for so long. An offense that once sat atop the NFL now ranks 15th, and a top-10 defense is now 17th. The rest of their schedule is unpredictable at best, as the Silver and Black travel to Arrowhead this week to face the Chiefs. The Raiders will need a 4-1 finish to have a shot at making the playoffs. “Maybe next year,” we say, for the 19th year in a row.
4. Denver Broncos (6-6)
The Denver Broncos are as unpredictable as they come. They can serve up a beat down to the 7-1 Dallas Cowboys, but they can also be served the same fate by the Baker Mayfield-less Cleveland Browns. Vic Fangio and the Broncos seem to have no identity through 12 games and now, it seems to be too late.
The Broncos will finish their season with three division games in a row, following Week 14 vs. the Lions and Week 15 vs. the Bengals. If they want to leave an impression on the NFL this season, it will have to be done within the division. Otherwise, people may forget they even played in 2021.
*Top Photo: Courtesy of NFL.com