AFC West – Excuse me

Biggest Questions for every NFL Team.  

One division at a time.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Can BOTH of Denver’s new wideouts make noise in the Broncos offense?

I really liked Denver’s decisiveness in moving forward with Drew Lock.  He’s a promising young quarterback that could well be the face of the franchise for the next decade if they play their cards right.  That’s why I was so interested to see them draft wide receivers back to back in the first two rounds. 

But can both Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler become viable weapons in year one?

My personal guess is that they’ll be deployed differently out of the gate, so yes. 

Jerry Jeudy is a classic possession receiver who will easily fall into the number two receiver slot right out of the gate.  Opposite Courtland Sutton, Jeudy will have opportunities in every game to make plays.  I see him excelling in third down scenarios. 

Hamler is a bit different, as his scintillating speed and vision make him a home run threat on any given play.  I see him like early career Tyreek Hill, a burner with game-changing burst and dynamic ability to outrun defenses.  If used properly, Hamler will give the Broncos a scary option on reverses, not to mention torching slower defenders in the flat on slants.  I expect Jeudy to see more snaps on offense in 2020, but don’t be shocked if Hamler provides Broncos fans with more than a few “wow” moments.   

Kansas City Chiefs

Can they repeat?

I mean- on the surface, yeah.  Yeah, they can. 

Simmering just underneath the surface of the Chiefs Super Bowl win, though, is the realization that they had to come from behind in every single playoff game. 

Houston had Kansas City beat after the first quarter, sporting a 21-0 lead before the KC comeback. 

Tennessee got out to a 10-0 lead early and looked ready to run over Kansas City with Derrick Henry before Mahomes got going. 

San Francisco was in the cat bird seat up by ten at the start of the fourth quarter before the Chiefs rolled off three straight TDs to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. 

From a fan perspective, it’s great.  “No lead is insurmountable” and all that.  But from my view, it’s more like: “Kansas City keeps putting themselves in bad positions, operating on the assumption that Mahomes can bail them out…”.  Confidence in your guy is one thing, complacency in NFL playoff games is something else entirely. 

I’m sure Andy Reid isn’t preaching: “Wait until the second half to get rolling…”  If the Chiefs want to repeat, I suspect they’ll look to dominate early and often all season long.  Whether anyone in the AFC can keep up with them is one of 2020’s most intriguing questions.  

Las Vegas Raiders

How will the Raiders new home affect the team?

So, let’s be honest, shall we? 

The Raiders haven’t exactly been challenging for the AFC West title very much in the past few seasons. 

Since Jon Gruden left the first time in 2001, the Raiders have recorded only two winning seasons, and one of those was 2002, with Gruden’s roster more or less intact.  That team would lose to Gruden’s Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. 

But I digress. 

Point is, the 2019 campaign, in which they won seven games was actually a pretty big improvement for a team that has more or less lived in the two-to-five win range for two decades. 

That’s the good news. 

The bad news is that the Raiders sported a -106 point differential last season, so there’s some flukiness about even getting close to .500. 

Will heading to a new home in Sin City be the shot in the arm that the Raiders need to contend again? I mean, it can’t hurt. 

Stadium-wise, pretty much anything is a huge step up from the Coliseum.  I’ve publicly pondered if the Raiders will wither without the sort of devoted fans that turned Oakland into the Black Hole for decades, but they might be just fine.  Raider fans are fanatical, and there are still plenty of them down in L.A., a short trip for a game in Vegas.  With a few early wins, the atmosphere in America’s adult Disneyland could become a full-on frenzy on Sundays. 

Is that enough for the Raiders to challenge the champs for the divisional title? 

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, folks.  Derek Carr is still the quarterback. 

Los Angeles Chargers

Is there a quarterback controversy in La-La land?  

Probably not, right? 

The Chargers grabbed Oregon QB Justin Herbert with the sixth overall pick, so the gig is probably his.  The thing that makes the waters murky is the fact that Los Angeles also brought in former Bills starter Tyrod Taylor and frankly, neither of these cats is going to play the game the same way that Philip Rivers has for the last decade and a half.  Both have more athleticism in their game than the veteran that precedes them, so the temptation will be there to open up the game plan and create some havoc. 

Perhaps the Chargers like what the Saints are doing with Taysom Hill and want to see what Taylor can do in a smaller dual threat role?  Maybe they just felt the need for a veteran backup to help guide their young signal caller?  Or a fall back plan if Herbert struggles mightily as he transitions to the pro game? 

I’m not sure, but I can say definitively that Taylor will be looking for more than a visor and a clipboard.  He’s got to be fuming at the way his tenure in Buffalo ended after getting them back to the playoffs a few seasons ago.  Add in the fact that there are whispers of Colin Kaepernick’s viability as a potential additional backup for L.A. and things could get really, really confusing in Tinseltown.  

For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.

Image Source: AP Images

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