The Kansas City Chiefs have had the most recent string of success within the AFC West division. With all the new moves being made in free agency and the upcoming 2022 NFL draft, will the Chiefs be unseated as the reigning champions?
Chiefs Leading The Way
With the emergence of Super Bowl Champion quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs have been yearly favorites for quite some time. In the hopes of competing for the title as well, the Los Angeles Chargers drafted Justin Herbert, who is rising to prominence in his own right. The Las Vegas Raiders have attempted to compete in the division as competition intensifies. However, Derek Carr has logged a record of 3-13 against the Chiefs since he entered the league in 2014. The Broncos have also done very little since 2015 and have been having a hard time finding a quarterback since Peyton Manning left.
2022 is going to be a completely different ball game in the West. The division itself is not even being compared to a sporting event, but a legitimate battlefield. Not to compare football to military action but in the words of the late but iconic Raiders owner, Al Davis; “They said you had to take what the defense gave you. No, we are going to take what we want.”
2022 NFL Free Agency
The rest of the AFC West is certainly going to attempt to get what they want, as free agency has been an arms race between the four teams that make up the group. As stated earlier, teams have been building their rosters in order to not only mirror the Chiefs and their weapons, but to beat them. There has been a gradual increase by several teams within the league, but the AFC West has made leaps and bounds since the 2021 season concluded.
The Broncos opened up free agency with a mind-blowing acquisition as they coaxed Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson out of the Northwest and snaked defensive end Randy Gregory from the Cowboys. Los Angeles doubled down and signed Patriots lockdown corner JC Jackson, former Raider/former Bear pass-rusher Khalil Mack, and re-signed one of their pass-catching weapons, Mike Williams. Not to be outdone, the Raiders signed Chandler Jones, extended star defensive end Maxx Crosby, and surprised the NFL community by signing former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams.
Free agency is not done yet and the draft is still a month away, so these rosters are far from complete. The reason this season is so memorable is that these are the strongest rosters that these three teams have fielded in recent memory. The Chiefs, who were left out of the free agency roundup above, have made some moves, adding Steelers receiver Juju Smith-Schuster and safety Justin Reid. This is mostly because of the long-term contracts of Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who is due for another big deal.
Who Has Been Winning?
The only fact that truly matters is that the Chiefs are the only team in the AFC West that has won a Super Bowl in the last six seasons. The Chiefs have won the AFC West six times in a row since 2016, after the Broncos won the Super Bowl in 2015. The Chargers’ last AFC West win came in 2009, and the Raiders have suffered the longest drought, failing to win the AFC West since 2002. This is a memorable year, and not in a good way, as it was the last year the Raiders made it to the Super Bowl and lost in a devastating fashion to former head coach Jon Gruden.
Weak Link In The Defensive Chain
With the drastic improvements made by the three teams attempting to catch up to the Chiefs, it is a very real possibility that the Chiefs may come back down to earth and the dynasty they were supposed to start might be delayed. The Chiefs’ defense was fairly ineffective last season, coming out as the No. 27th ranked unit out of 32. Their pass rush was lacking, certainly, and significant big plays were being let up by their secondary that we haven’t seen in past seasons. The team was still largely successful in fielding their “track team” styled offense led by Andy Reid, finishing with a 12-5 record, first in the AFC West, with the Raiders trailing behind at No. 2 with a record of 10-7.
If the AFC West arms race continues at this pace and Chiefs general manager Brett Veach doesn’t find a way to improve his defensive unit at the rate the other AFC West teams are developing, there is a significant chance that another AFC West team will be Super Bowl bound in February.
*Top Photo: Charlie Riedel/Associated Press