Posted at 6:00
Is the American Conference West the strongest of the NFL’s eight divisions?
The North American division is not far behind, but yes, it is the best division. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs have hosted the last four AFC Finals. The Las Vegas Raiders, who have shrugged off several controversies to advance to the 2021 playoffs, have added NFL best receiver Davante Adams and excellent quarterback Chandler Jones to their roster. Led by the talented Justin Herbert, the Los Angeles Chargers have perhaps the best core of players on the circuit. The Denver Broncos, meanwhile, made an offer the Seattle Seahawks couldn’t turn down because they felt Russell Wilson was the missing piece of their puzzle. While unlikely due to the divisional home games they will play, all four teams could qualify for the tournament.
Will the Chiefs offense be just as prolific without Tyreek Hill?
Would be great. Hill forced teams to devote two players to him most of the time, allowing other players to take advantage of wider coverage. Travis Kelce and Mecole Hardman are still there, and the Chiefs have signed veterans JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Green Bay Packers). But it’s rookie Skyy Moore, a round two pick whose play is similar to Hill’s, who could determine whether the Chiefs’ aerial play will remain as productive as it has been in recent years. What helps Mahomes is that it is protected by a great line, which was completely rebuilt last year.
Which team is best equipped to snatch first place in the division from the Chiefs, who will aim for the sixth consecutive division championship?
The Chargers. Justin Herbert looks set to have a great career and is very well surrounded. The team enlisted two strong offensive linemen with their top picks in 2021 (Rashawn Slater) and 2022 (Zion Johnson); Keenan Allen has taken at least 95 passes in each of his last five seasons and is one of the best wide pairs with Mike Williams; and Austin Ekeler is a particularly dangerous midfielder in the air, even if he is a little overrated. In short, the attack should be one of the most productive in the championship. The defense is a little suspicious against running, but the arrival of veterans Khalil Mack and JC Jackson will improve the unit. Mack and Joey Bosa will give the opposition’s offensive lines a hard time, while Jackson, Derwin James Jr., Asante Samuel Jr. and Nasir Adderley are expected to form a first-rate secondary.
Did the Raiders play over their heads in 2021 or will they be able to make the playoffs for two consecutive years for the first time in two decades?
The last time Silver and Black reached the playoffs for two consecutive years was at the turn of the millennium (2000-2002). And it is precisely because the Raiders have come up with so much over the past twenty years that it is so difficult to trust them. Despite his excellent season finale, interim manager Rich Biasacci was sacked and replaced by former New England Patriots attacking coordinator Josh McDaniels. Ahead Adams and quarterback Derek Carr have been good friends ever since they played college football with Fresno State. With these two players, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, Josh Jacobs, Kolton Miller and McDaniels, the Raiders have the ingredients for a great attack. If the quarterback pair of Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby dominate and manage to hide some defensive weaknesses, the Raiders should win at least 9 or 10 games.
Was Russell Wilson the missing piece in Denver?
Let’s hope so for the Broncos, who have given up two first picks, two second picks, tight end Noah Fant, facing Shelby Harris and quarterback Drew Lock to take Wilson from the Seahawks. Thanks to players like Justin Simmons, DJ Jones, Randy Gregory, Bradley Chubb and Patrick Surtain II, defense shouldn’t be an issue. Wilson will be able to throw the ball to a group of young catchers who are expected to emerge in 2022. Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler should all take advantage of his arrival to raise the bar. The offensive line is respectable and running back. Javonte Williams did very well in his 2021 rookie season. If Wilson lives up to expectations, the Broncos will surely have their best season since winning 2015.