2020 NFL AFC West Preview

September 9, 2020

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 16: General views of Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders on August 16, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

For the overall 2020 NFL Preview click here, and see the links below for the rest of the divisional previews.

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West

NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

Overview | Playoffs | Awards

Chiefs 12-4

Kansas City said (and did) everything expected from a repeat champion: They have an urgency to get back to the Super Bowl, return 20 of the 22 starters from their come-from-behind championship win over the 49ers and added explosive talent to an already-explosive team.

The Chiefs grabbed Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round of the draft, who Andy Reid has already proclaimed as a better version of Brian Westbrook. If that’s even remotely true, Kansas City has the best skill position players in the league for their colorfully-described Super Bowl MVP quarterback.

The defense, however, is what will hold this team from its Super Bowl aspirations. Chris Jones and Frank Clark will get good push upfront, but beyond Tyrann Mathieu, there’s not a player that scares offenses in the secondary or linebacking corps. Don’t forget, this team won a Super Bowl by staging double-digit comebacks in each of its playoff games — that’s not a sustainable recipe for success.

Bet on another dominant regular season and a deep playoff run that comes to an end in Baltimore.

Raiders 8-8

The Black Hole is gone. Say hello to the “Death Star.”

The Raiders are set to play their first season in Las Vegas without fans in the gaudy new stadium that lured them to Sin City, but it won’t slow the expectations for the Silver and Black in Year 3 of the Jon Gruden era.

In a make-or-break year for Derek Carr, the team drafted speedy receiver Henry Ruggs in the first round, which had the team’s owner reminiscing about Raider great Cliff Branch. Beyond tight end Darren Waller, there aren’t many other receiving targets capable of aiding Carr’s Rodney Dangerfield-esque quest for respect.

But with a good offensive line and a strong second season from Josh Jacobs, the run game promises to be solid enough to take some pressure off Carr.

The Raiders need significant improvement from their other two 2019 first round picks, Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abram, if the defense is going to climb out of the bottom third in yards and points.

It feels like the Vegas offense will make positive strides but the defense will be middle-of-the-pack — which is exactly where I expect the Raiders to be in the standings.

Broncos 7-9 

John Elway has swung and missed on every quarterback he’s acquired not named Peyton Manning, but he might just have something in Drew Lock.

Lock was 4-1 in the Broncos’ final five games — the lone loss coming on the road against the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Lock wasn’t necessarily the catalyst in those games, but he’ll have more help in 2020 thanks to Denver using its first two picks on receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, along with the addition of Melvin Gordon to help the run game. The only thing holding this offense back is inexperience.

Losing Chris Harris to rival Chargers hurts, but that loss was basically offset by the trade for A.J. Bouye. The Broncos have a defensive-minded head coach and the duo of Bradley Chubb and Von Miller coming off the edges, so don’t bank on Denver’s D being significantly worse than its 10th-ranked scoring defense from last season.

This is a team that could be in contention for a wild card or one that struggles to stay above .500. It ultimately falls on whether Lock can build on last year’s strong finish.

Chargers 7-9

For the first time in more than a decade and a half, someone not named Philip Rivers will be the starting quarterback for the Chargers.

Tyrod Taylor thinks this team will “turn a lot of heads” with him under center, but history suggests he’s a much better backup than he is a full-time starter. Regardless, he’s little more than a placeholder for sixth overall pick Justin Herbert, who looked pretty good on Hard Knocks. Yet, with a bevy of weapons at the skill positions but a questionable offensive line (even with the seemingly-lopsided trade for Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner), it’s hard to get a gauge on how good this offense can be.

The defense is strong upfront with the newly-paid Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa on the edges, and Linval Joseph coming west to clog up the middle, but the secondary was dealt a blow when it lost Derwin James to a season-ending injury for the second straight year. If first-round linebacker Kenneth Murray pays immediate dividends, I could regret putting the Chargers this low, but the likelihood is that having arguably the worst quarterback situation in the division will have them ranked accordingly.

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