By Stephen Juza
July 25th, 2023
As we continue our predictions for each of the divisions, our next stop is the AFC West. In what feels like the easiest division to predict its winner (spoiler, the Kansas City Chiefs), there are a lot of intriguing storylines for the remaining three teams that will impact the playoff race in January. Despite some big splashes across the division, expect the Chiefs to win their eighth consecutive division championship.
Kansas City Chiefs Fresh off their second Super Bowl victory during the Andy Reid era, the Chiefs are well positioned for their eighth consecutive division title, which will be the second longest streak in NFL history. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes remains the league's best quarterback and boasts some truly astonishing records against his division opponents. Since he has taken over the starting quarterback role, the Chiefs are 27-3 against AFC West opponents, and a perfect 15-0 on the road.
With the NFL Week 1 odds heavily favoring the Chiefs against the Lions, Chiefs’ fans are eagerly waiting for the season to start as they look to defend their Super Bowl title. Although they lost offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to the Commanders in the offseason, expect the offense to look similar. Matt Nagy was promoted into his second stint as the offensive coordinator this offseason, and while the coordinators may change, it remains Reid’s offense.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers finished second in the division last year and expect them to finish there again in 2023. This team has a lot of key cornerstones in place, but they have the unfortunate position of sharing a division with the Chiefs.
Quarterback Justin Herbert has looked good in his first three seasons in the league. While he is not on the same level as Mahomes or Josh Allen in Buffalo, he looks like he will be consistently toward the top of the QB rankings for the next decade. Running back Austin Ekeler is one of the most versatile running backs in the league, giving Herbert a lot of different options out of the backfield. On the defensive side of the ball, their pass rush featuring Khalli Mack and Joey Bosa will be able to get consistent pressure on opposing offenses.
While they did not likely improve to overtake the Chiefs, they should remain better than the other two teams in the division.
One of the biggest toss ups entering the 2023 season is the Denver Broncos. After finishing last place in the division, the last three seasons, there is a lot of optimism in Denver after the hiring of new head coach Sean Payton. Payton brings experience that will immediately improve the team over last year’s one-and-done head coach Nathaniel Hackett, although that is not difficult.
While quarterback Russell Wilson is on the downslide of his career, he should be better than his 2022 season. Last season, he had the fewest touchdown passes and second-most interceptions of his career. To help Wilson rebound, the Broncos prioritized the offensive line, bringing in free agents Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey to help cut down on the fifty-five sacks Wilson took last year (tied for most in the league)
So, while the team should be better, it is tough to find how they will be good enough to challenge for the division.
Las Vegas Raiders
Rounding out the division is the Las Vegas Raiders, led by head coach Josh McDaniels. While other teams in the division made moves to improve, I do not see improvement happening for the Raiders in 2023. Downgrading from a healthy Derek Carr to a questionable Jimmy Garoppolo has the potential to blow up in the Raiders’ face. Garoppolo has not played a full season since 2019 and had offseason foot surgery, but he should be ready for Week 1.
Their defense needed a lot of improvement after last season, and they prioritized that side of the ball during the draft. Six of their nine draft picks went to defensive players. They will need to do a better job of putting pressure on the quarterback in 2023, and rookie Tyree Wilson should help them in that role.
Look for the Raiders to bottom out in the division, which might lead to Josh McDaniels’ firing come January.
Read our other division predictions: