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Season preview: AFC West

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There are questions aplenty to be answered in our AFC West 2020 season preview…

  • Will the Chiefs go undefeated against divisional opponents like they did in 2019?
  • Will any of the other three teams win enough games to capture the new 7th seed spot in the play offs?
  • How long will Derek Carr and Tyrod Taylor keep their starting jobs for?

Many questions hang over the AFC West going into 2020 but one thing is certain – the reigning NFL champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, will the team to beat. They have now won four AFC West divisions in a row, taking over from the Broncos who won five in a row from 2011-2015.

Kansas City Chiefs (13-3)

The reigning Super Bowl champions start as one of the favourites to repeat their 2019 success and with Patrick Mahomes leading this offence, it’s hard to look past the Chiefs to be the top seed coming out of the AFC. The first round selection of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who will instantly become the lead running back after Damien Williams opted to sit out the 2020 season, adds to an already dominant skill position set which includes Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.

When you have just won the Super Bowl and have kept pretty much everyone on your roster, there isn’t much need to change a winning formula.

The Chiefs start with a potentially high scoring game in Houston and also have to play the Ravens and Patriots by week 4, but it’s not until week 14 when they travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints where they should be troubled again – this has the makings of a Super Bowl preview written all over it! A record of 13-3 is the floor for the Chiefs who will have eyes on going undefeated and becoming the NFL’s next dynasty.


Denver Broncos (8-8)

After a strong end to the 2019 season which saw them win four out of their last five games with Drew Lock at quarterback, there is hope that the Broncos can be regular post season contenders once again.

The offence has been invested in during the off season – running back Melvin Gordon arrived from the Chargers and should form a dynamic 1-2 punch with Lindsay, and wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler were picked up in the draft. The notoriously strong Broncos defence got upgraded with the additions of Jurrell Casey and AJ Bouye to go with a resurgent Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.

The Broncos face a tough start with match-ups against the Titans and Steelers in the first few weeks but as their inter-conference games are against teams in the NFC South in 2020 there will be opportunity to go at least 2-2 in those games. Add in games against the Jets and Dolphins, plus the four divisional games against the Raiders and Chargers, and an eight game winning season should be within their reach, but unfortunately they will miss out on a wildcard place in the play offs.

Las Vegas Raiders (record 7-9)

Hopes were high at the beginning of the 2019 season – the Raiders seemed poised to make the play offs for only the second time in seventeen years and running back Josh Jacobs was having a great rookie season but early optimism soon turned to disappointment as they lost 5 of their last 6.

There are still questions over whether Derek Carr is the right man to lead the Raiders in their new home of Las Vegas and with the free agency signing of Marcus Mariota, it seems likely that Carr might be on borrowed time. First round draft pick Henry Ruggs will improve the Raiders receiving core and the additions of Cory Littleton and Carl Nassir are a boost to an underwhelming defence.

A winnable opener against the Panthers is followed by tough games against the Saints, Patriots, Bills and Chiefs. They will fancy their chances of winning both games against the Chargers and also have the Jets, Colts and the Dolphins towards the back end of the season, so 6 or 7 wins is what I am predicting for the 2020 season.

Los Angeles Chargers (record 5-11)

For the first time since 2004 there will be a new quarterback in Chargers colours to open the season at their brand new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.

All signs are pointing towards Tyrod Taylor being the starter but surely it is only a matter of time before first round draft pick and the future face of the franchise Justin Herbert gets his shot. Joey Bosa, fresh off signing a new monster contract, is one of the best defensive players in the NFL and Melvin Gordon’s departure to the Broncos opens the door for Austin Ekeler to be the lead back, but after Keenan Allen there is a lack of productive receivers that won’t help the quarterback. The Chargers found many ways to lose games in 2019 and this season has the feel of the start of a rebuild.

The Chargers have some winnable games against the Bengals, Jets, Dolphins and the Jaguars in 2020 and five wins should be their floor. A lot will come down to how many divisional games they can win to avoid finishing last for the second straight season.

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