Coming into the season, the AFC West was shaping up to be one of the best divisions in football. Now that there only four games left in the NFL regular season, the story is very different. This is the time where a few things are happening: you are pushing for the playoffs, not making the playoffs and playing the role of the spoiler or you’re a team in tank mode and getting ready for the 2018 NFL Draft.
This season, the AFC West has all of those and as a result has remained one of the most interesting divisions in the league but in a very different way than expected. There were several storylines the AFC West had going for it heading into the season. The Chiefs were going to the Super Bowl, right? Are Raiders going to have the same high-powered offense on the field as they had on paper? Will the Los Angeles Chargers be any good this year? Are the Denver Broncos going to grow off of the 9-7 year a season ago? Let’s take a look at what has happened this season and where to go from here.
Kansas City Chiefs
Let’s start with the leader of the AFC West for now: the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs started the season 5-0 but in their last seven games, they are 1-6. In their first five games, they were averaging 32.8 points a game and only giving up 22.2 points a game. Their point differential was +53. In their last seven games they are only scoring 19.8 points and are giving up 23.2 points and have a point differential of -24.
One thing I have noticed is Alex Smith‘s and Kareem Hunt‘s production drop during their slump. Smith had a completion rate of 76.5 in the first five games of the season yet in the last seven games his completion percentage has dropped to 61.8. Hunt was averaging 142 yards from scrimmage the first five games but in the last seven games he is only churning out 58.8 yards per game.
On the defensive side of the ball the Chiefs have been nothing short of a mess. The Chiefs rank 30th in rush defense and 28th in pass defense. They have given up 280 first downs which is 18 more than any other team in the NFL. Additionally, this team has only 21 sacks this season. To put it into comparison, the NFL’s individual leader in sacks is Demarcus Lawrence who has 13.5 sacks. The Chiefs only pressure the quarterback on 4.72 percent which is not very good.
The Raiders went into the season poised as one of the favorites for the Lombardi but have been a disappointment so far. Going into last Sunday’s contest against the Chiefs, the team is only averaging 20.8 points a game. This season they have scored 17 points or fewer five times. Last year this team scored 27 points or more 11 times.
Derek Carr has thrown eight interceptions this season which is more than the six total he threw last season. Wide receiver Amari Cooper has dropped off badly as a result. Cooper has 42 catches for 499 yards which sounds like tight end numbers. 210 of his 499 yards came in an October 19th game against the Chiefs which the Raiders won 31-30.
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders defense is pretty bad. They are giving up 23.2 points a game and have only put up 22 sacks for the season. Their season has been the definition of up-and-down as they started of 2-0 followed by a four game losing streak and now they are 4-2 in their last six games.
The Denver Broncos are a Mile High disaster. This team has lost eight straight games and are in a total free fall. The Broncos were beat down 35-9 by the Miami Dolphins last Sunday. The same Dolphin team who went into this game putting up 15.8 points a game and suffering a five-game losing streak. Denver only had 270 total yards in the game.
This team has not won a game since October 1st and since they beat the Dallas Cowboys 42-17 on September 17th, they have scored a total of 140 points. So far on the season, Denver is putting up 17.2 points per game and giving up 26.3 points per game.
Their quarterback situation has been an issue all year. Trevor Siemian has 11 touchdowns to 13 interceptions while Brock Osweiler has struggled with his accuracy throughout the season. Meanwhile former first-round pick Paxton Lynch is averaging 2.9 yards per pass. To put in plain in simple the Broncos do not have a quarterback. This defense with Von Miller, Bradley Roby and Aqib Talib make up a Super Bowl defense but until they find a quarterback they will be at the bottom of the AFC West.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers, formerly known as the San Diego Chargers, have been playing well as of late. They started the season of in “Charger form” at 0-4 but are 4-2 on their last six games. Wide receiver Keenan Allen, who has had a lot of injury issues lately, has 1,032 yards and he will likely be in the Pro Bowl this season.
On the defensive side of the ball, this team boasts the best defensive end tandem in football in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The two have a combined 20 sacks and are visitors in opponent’s backfield a lot. You better know where these two guys are at all times. The Chargers defense only gives up 17.7 points a game.
When it is all said and done I believe the Los Angeles Chargers will win this division. The have the division’s best defense, offense and they are playing great at the right time. I do not trust the Raiders nor the Chiefs defense and the Denver Broncos have already been eliminated from the playoffs.