1. Kansas City Chiefs
Doing this team overview for the Chiefs was an interesting exercise, as I tried to view the team from an outsider’s perspective. Having now done a couple dozen of these, I have to say that slate of impressive wins is, indeed, impressive. Those were arguably the 4 best teams in the NFL last year besides Kansas City, all on the road, and the Chiefs handled them without much problem.
It also highlights how inherently conservative my “notable changes” are. For all the hype around our offensive line improvements, I really only have one notable upgrade. But to have a quarterback on a veteran contract and still be able to have a notable upgrade without any notable downgrades is remarkable. Even teams with cheap quarterbacks tended to have notable downgrades on the roster.
For the team itself, there’s no real reason to believe they’ll be anything but dominant again. Including the playoffs, Mahomes is 30-5 the last 2 seasons. That’d be an average of 14.5 wins over 17 games.
2. Denver Broncos
I hate saying this, but the Broncos had a really nice offseason. Maybe even the best in the NFL. With the addition of Darby and Fuller their defense will be legit, and Bridgewater will provide the kind of steady competence at the quarterback position that they’ve been sorely lacking ever since Manning retired. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they’d be favored to host a playoff game if they were in the AFC North or AFC South.
But while their defense is good, the gap between Mahomes and Bridgewater is just too great for them to seriously compete for a division title barring Chiefs injuries.
3. Los Angeles Chargers
I was surprised when I did the Chargers overview. I thought they would have improved a lot more. I was even generous in including Feiler as notable. But in total there’s not a lot of reason to believe they’ll be much better than they were last year, barring Herbert taking a jump (which, to be fair, is entirely possible).
The impressive/bad games really highlights how they’re not nearly as good as they should be. Their best games were close losses, while they struggled to put away (and even lost to) a lot of bad teams.
They look to be solidly behind the Broncos, and will be lucky to get the 7th seed.
4. Las Vegas Raiders
On the surface, the Raiders seem primed to improve. With a dreadful -11 turnover ratio and the addition of Ngakoue, improvement should be easy. But the Raiders being the Raiders, they were forced to lose a number of their offensive linemen this offseason, which is really bad news for them.
Derek Carr is one of those solid-but-not-great quarterbacks, but tends to be inconsistent. He occasionally has big games, but also has trash performances. This is due in large part to him struggling to handle pressure. When he’s protected he does great, but when the defense is getting to him, he’s prone to make mistakes.
With a dramatic decline in offensive line play, we should see a corresponding dramatic decline in Carr’s performance. Look for them to have another opportunity to waste a top 10 pick in 2022’s draft.