2023 NFL PREVIEW- AFC WEST

2023-09-02 · 6 min read · NFL/Football
Frank Clark and Jimmy Garoppolo

SportingNews | Art by Bleacher Report

In three of the past four NFL campaigns, the AFC Super Bowl representatives have come from the AFC West, and there’s plenty of reason to suggest that’ll be the case again when next February rolls around.
There’s plenty of championship experience in this division, both on the field and the sidelines, as three of the four AFC West head coaches have at least one Super Bowl ring, and three of the four starting quarterbacks have played in the big game at least once.
The only team that didn’t have either was the Los Angeles Chargers, yet they were able to grab a playoff berth with a second-place finish as the Raiders and Denver Broncos had incredibly underwhelming seasons.
With a new coach in the Mile-High City, an experienced pivot in Las Vegas, the talent and creativity of Patrick Mahomes, plus the moxy of Justin Herbert, this could be another year full of razzle-dazzle stuff from all four clubs.
Here’s a breakdown of each team and where I believe they will finish.
Denver Broncos
Key Additions
  • Sean Payton- Head Coach- New Orleans Saints
  • Frank Clark- Linebacker- Kansas City Chiefs
  • Zach Allen- Defensive End- Arizona Cardinals
Key Subtractions
  • Brandon McManus- Kicker- Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Dre’Mont Jones- Defensive End- Seattle Seahawks
  • Latavius Murray- Running Back- Buffalo Bills
Biggest Strength
In a season littered with disappointments on offence, the Broncos defensive unit had a solid 2022, allowing an average of 322 yards per game, ranked seventh in the NFL.
Russell Wilson and company couldn’t get much going when they had the ball, but the Broncos' secondary was perhaps the most consistent component of their game last year, led by Justin Simmons, who was tied for the lead in the regular season for interceptions (six).
Biggest Weakness
Denver had a 4.4-yard average per carry in 2022, and while I think Samaje Perine is an upgrade from what they had a year ago, I also think that Russell Wilson is going to have to show off his scrambling ability to make this group look a little better running the ball.
Prediction- Second in AFC West
Like the Jaguars a season ago, I see the Broncos experiencing a similar rise up the standings this year thanks in large part to having a competent head coach, who’s been out of the game for a while but has such an extraordinary ability to get the best out of his players.
Wilson should be refreshed, the receiving corps anchored by Jerry Jeudy is deep, and defensively they look just as good if not better than a season ago.
Los Angeles Chargers
Key Additions
  • Eric Kendricks- Linebacker- Minnesota Vikings
  • Quentin Johnson- Wide Receiver- TCU
  • Nick Williams- Defensive End- New York Giants
Key Subtractions
  • DeAndre Carter- Wide Receiver- Las Vegas Raiders
  • Drue Tranquill- Inside Linebacker- Kansas City Chiefs
  • Kyle Van Noy- Linebacker- Baltimore Ravens
Biggest Strength
When healthy, the Chargers receiving corps can be a nightmare to contain, though they still made the postseason a year ago even without Keenan Allen through the early portion of the campaign and an injury to Mike Williams in the latter stages.
Justin Herbert has plenty of poise and toughness and should have a dependable group of pass catchers, who look more dangerous than a year ago by drafting the talented Quentin Johnson.
Biggest Weakness
Austin Ekeler is a good short-yardage back, who can be dangerous in some short dump-off and screen situations, but on paper, I don’t see the running game out of the backfield doing much better than what we saw a season ago when they only averaged 3.8 yards per carry, the third-lowest ratio in the league.
Prediction- Third in AFC West
True, the NFL is very much a passing league, and that’ll keep the Chargers in playoff contention in 2023, but Brandon Staley keeps getting in the way of this team’s success with questionable decisions.
That offence, along with star defensive players like Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, should be enough for this team to compete with the best in the AFC, but I don’t have much confidence in Staley being able to make the right tactical decisions in a division which outside of KC could be pretty tight.
Kansas City Chiefs
Key Additions
  • Jawaan Taylor- Offensive Tackle- Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Drue Tranquill- Linebacker- Los Angeles Chargers
  • Mike Edwards- Safety- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Key Subtractions
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster- Wide Receiver- New England Patriots
  • Frank Clark- Defensive End- Denver Broncos
  • Orlando Brown- Left Tackle- Cincinnati Bengals
Biggest Strength
Anyone who thought Mahomes' success before last season was mainly due to the brilliance of Tyreek Hill is severely mistaken, and in 2022, the Chiefs #15 proved a significant point.
The reigning NFL MVP led the regular season with 5,250 passing yards and 41 touchdowns without Hill, and with a messed-up ankle was pivotal to their Super Bowl run.
Biggest Weakness
Losing a key member of their linebacking corps could leave Chiefs’ opponents with a glimmer of hope that they could upset KC with a solid running attack.
Steve Spagnuolo will have to get creative and find ways to stop teams from running successfully on this group.
Prediction- 1st in AFC West
Without Frank Clark, they might be easier to run against, while Mahomes could have to scramble more with the loss of Orlando Brown.
That being said, Mahomes is magical, and he and Andy Reid always find creative ways to get the last laugh on their competitors, and as much as teams will be studying this offence, those two football geniuses are likely to have a few new tricks up their sleeves.
Las Vegas Raiders
Key Additions
  • Jimmy Garoppolo- Quarterback- San Francisco 49ers
  • Jakobi Meyers- Wide Receiver- New England Patriots
  • Austin Hooper- Tight End- Tennessee Titans
Key Subtractions
  • Derek Carr- Quarterback- New Orleans Saints
  • Darren Waller- Tight End- New York Giants
  • Mack Hollins- Wide Receiver- New Orleans Saints
Biggest Strength
Josh Jacobs had an outstanding 2022 season, leading the league in rushing yards (1,653) and scrimmage yards (2,053).
His speed and power will be a big help to Josh McDaniels’ passing game, as Jacobs showed toughness and plenty of fortitude to battle through some injuries and still put up fantastic numbers.
Biggest Weakness
Outside of Maxx Crosby, who registered 12.5 sacks last year, this defensive line looks thin, and I believe they will get burned down the field consistently because they simply don’t have the personnel to hurry to oppose QBs.
A lack of consistent pressure played a big part in all their blown leads during the 2022 campaign and that could be their Achilles heel this season.
Prediction- Fourth in AFC West
I think Jimmy G is a more competent quarterback than Derek Carr, and his emotional stability will help; however, this team for my money, didn’t improve much defensively over the offseason, and though the offence has plenty of flash, that won’t be enough to compete for a playoff berth.
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By: Joel Lefevre

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