The AFC West is the pre-season pick for the Red’s NFL Division of Excellence in 2022. Red’s best guess is that three teams from the West make the playoffs come January.
Kansas City Chiefs – Once again Andy Reid is directing the Patrick Mahomes Show with regular stars Travis Kelce, Juju Smith-Schuster and Clyde Edwards-Hellaire featuring a really good offensive line and supporting cast members Marquez Valdez Scandling, Isaiah Pacheco and Jerrick McKinnon. With an offensive cast like that who needs a great defense? The Chiefs may not have a great defense but it is more than adequate to hold most teams to 20 points or fewer and let the offense take care of business. Yes, losing Tyreek Hill was tough, but there is enough talent here to take this team a long ways. Does Red foresee a game in February? Chiefs are 13-4 and would be better if not facing a brutal schedule with 9 games against 2021 playoff teams including the AFC and NFC champions, the NFC runner-up and the BIlls. Ugh.
Los Angeles Chargers – Every time Red has picked the Chargers to excel, they have disappointed him. This season may not be any different but Red is willing to roll the dice anyway. Justin Herbert is the best “young” quarterback in the league. He has a solid running game with Ekeler and Sony Michel to fill in. A capable receiving corps in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. If he had a stud TE, the offense might be unstoppable. What the Chargers also have this season is a defense that can rise to the occasion and get a stop when needed in the 4th quarter. If the Chargers can ever figure out how to finish and win those innumerable one-score games, they might just challenge the Chiefs. Chargers might be better than the 12-5 slot that Red has them in.
Las Vegas Raiders – The much traveled Raiders seem to settle into the desert last season. There is no lack of talent if the Raiders can also settle on an offensive scheme that allows the options he needs to succeed. If the Raiders can hang around until Week 12 (including bye) with a 7-4 record, what looks to be a brutal closing stretch (Chargers, Rams, Patriots, Stealers, 49ers, Chiefs) will tell if the Raiders are playoff worthy or another also-ran. Red gives them a shot at a 3-3 close and a 10-7 record that might let them slip into the last wildcard spot.
Denver Broncos – The Broncos will be better and benefit somewhat from the last place schedule in getting to play the Jets. And as with the rest of the West they play the weak sisters of the AFC South. But with the top competition in the AFC West, the Broncos will struggle to keep up. Having a real quarterback helps, but not enough. Broncos are last and least in the West with a 7-10 record.