It’s been a while since we looked in on what is happening with the rest of the AFC West. But since life is returning to normal – meaning that I no longer have to cut my own hair while standing in the bathtub – it’s time for our football news writing to get back to normal. Or in the case of this feature, our mocking of the rest of the division.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are a last place team that lost their longtime quarterback and did very little to replace him for the 2020 season. So naturally, like the yearly return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano, this nonsense is starting again.
Sure. If we pretend that new starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor wasn’t once benched in favor of Nathan Peterman. If we pretend that the highest win total of his nine previous seasons isn’t eight. If we pretend that when the Chargers and Chiefs play Andy Reid doesn’t turn into Bo Jackson from Tecmo Bowl, while Anthony Lynn becomes Sammy Winder. (Seriously, Winder should be offended how terrible they made him.)
If we pretend that none of that exists, maybe the Chargers get to third. But first place? If it happens they will ride there on a unicorn that farts four-leaf clovers.
In truth, our friends at PFF have identified a far more realistic scenario for the Inglewood Chargers.
Worst than the Jaguars? I don’t hate it. And in a quarterback driven league, I don’t care that you have a 1st round rookie sitting behind Taylor ready to play. He’s no better than the 6th best quarterback in the division. And I really don’t care that you think Keenan Allen is the best route runner in the division. He was the same level of good last season and it added up to 5 wins.
Of the four teams in the AFC West, the Chargers improved the least.
To be fair, the Broncos did have a very good offseason. It helps that John Elway wasn’t tasked with drafting a quarterback in the first round. For that they have Drew Lock, who after five career starts they are ready to bet the house on.
Lock has an upgraded offensive coordinator in Pat Shurmur. He has a pretty good pass catching running back in Melvin Gordon. And Denver used its first two picks in the draft on wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, a couple of big play guys. Add in Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, and Phillip Lindsay, and if this team doesn’t score points it will completely be on Lock.
Although left tackle Garett Bolles is likely to have some influence too.
And they are going to need that offense to actually work. They downgraded in the secondary, going from Chris Harris, Jr. (who is now with the Chargers) to A.J. Bouye. In 2019 against the Chiefs Bouye received a 52.8 grade – his fourth lowest of the season – and gave up 19.8 yards per catch. For the season he failed to make the top 50 corners in the NFL. Harris was 36th.
Von Miller is coming off the lowest full season sack total of his career – just 8 sacks in 15 starts – and at 31 he is beginning to show his age. He’s also very candid about the task of winning in the AFC West.
The Broncos have not closed the gap between themselves and the Chiefs. They simply don’t have reliable playmakers like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce and a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes. No one does.
But if things go well in Denver, Vic Fangio doesn’t screw it up, and Drew Lock takes another step forward, this could be a playoff team by the end of the season.
Las Vegas Raiders
As with everyone that plays against the Chiefs, keeping up with the Super Bowl champs will be judged by the play of their quarterback. And as the Raiders move into their new digs in Las Vegas, quarterback is still a problem.
They could have gone for Cam Newton. They could have made a play for Tom Brady. Heck, they could have even signed Andy Dalton, who has shown that he can be a playoff quarterback when given weapons to throw to. Instead, when it came to signing a free agent quarterback, the Raiders went for Marcus Mariota.
Not exactly a guy to breathe life into the new Vegas era. He’s more like Mike from Swingers who doubled down against the dealer’s deuce and lost, and then spent the rest of the trip to Vegas anxious to leave town.
Again, if we’re fair, the Raiders did improve their offense this offseason. Henry Ruggs was a good pick at #12. With Tyrell Williams at the other wide receiver position, Darren Waller at tight end, and Josh Jacobs at running back, it’s solid set of skill players. But the problem is that defense still smells like the semi-dried sick in your bedside trash can following a 48-hour bender of Crown Royal, Taco Bell, and soul crushing disappointment.
Or so I’m told.
The Raiders’ big defensive signing this offseason was linebacker Cory Littleton, who will make $35.25 million over three years with $22 million guaranteed. That’s all well and good, until you remember that the last time Littleton faced the Chiefs his defense gave up 51 points. So yeah, Raiders, put him on Kelce.
All of these additions are fodder for myopic Raiders fans to get themselves worked into a lather, but in reality this year’s incarnation won’t be much different than last year’s team that finished 7-9.
Furthermore, the Raiders had a legitimate home field advantage in Oakland, with away teams having to play in a garbage dump inhabited by Max Mad: Beyond Thunderdome background rejects. Now they are playing in a fancy new stadium that will be filled with fans from across the country looking to make a weekend out of their team’s trip to Las Vegas. If you’ve looked into purchasing tickets to a Raiders game and seen the current prices, you know this to be true.
Bottom line on the Raiders – they still have Derek Carr, and no one good to challenge him. And that means this team is going to battle it our for third place with the Chargers, in spite of what David Carr tries to sell you on TV.