April 24, 2024

AFC West Predictions for 2022

5 min read

AFC West Predictions for 2022

By Tim Lazenby

Almost any expert is in agreement that the AFC West will be the most competitive division in the NFL in 2022.  Featuring the already strong Kansas City Chiefs, all three other teams have made massive improvements to compete.  Exploding with talent, how will the four fair in the upcoming season?  I haven’t been this excited to watch a division battle it out in quite some time.  Let’s discuss.

Denver Broncos

Record in 2021: 7-10-0  

Predicted Record in 2022: 9-8-0

Strengths and Weaknesses

Obviously Russell Wilson makes this team loads better, and the continued growth of this young receiver core is very appealing.  Let’s not forget about Javonte Williams and Denver’s criminally underrated defense.  The glaring weakness is next year’s draft capital.  In a loaded draft class, the Broncos will be watching as the Seattle Seahawks use Denver’s first and second round picks.  Russell Wilson had better be the long term solution or this plan has backfired tremendously.

Situation to Watch

With Wilson taking almost every headline in the mile high city, my attention actually focuses elsewhere.  Patrick Surtain was an absolute gem last season and many people didn’t notice.  Although he’s not at the level of players like Jalen Ramsey yet, the rookie was still very dominant.  The once mighty Denver defense has not been up to snuff in the past few seasons, but the future looks bright with Surtain at corner.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt in my mind that this team will improve.  There’s almost no area in which they regressed in the offseason and the team hasn’t had a star quality quarterback since Peyton Manning led the charge.  If they were in any other division, the record would be even better, but this squad just won’t measure as well as a couple others.  The record will look brighter, but it won’t be enough in 2022.

Kansas City Chiefs

Record in 2021: 12-5-0  

Predicted Record in 2022: 10-7-0

Strengths and Weaknesses

The trio of Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Andy Reid gives even the worst team in the NFL a chance at glory.  Creed Humphrey is also a big reason for the success of the offense.  But JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore are not a replacement for Tyreek Hill.  And even though the group is not terrible, it’s hard not to see it as a weakness when you consider what they had before.

Situation to Watch

I will be closely monitoring the backfield moving forward.  If I’m being honest, I’m still a Clyde Edwards-Helaire truther, but signing Ronald Jones is the final nail in the coffin that tells me CEH will not succeed until he moves on.  This team will have to lean on the ground game more now than ever to make up for the loss of dynamic Tyreek Hill.

Conclusion

Although this team will take a step back or two, trading away the Cheetah will not cause this team to buckle.  The once guaranteed champion of the AFC West, however, will be a thing of the past.  With the other three improving, the Chiefs are far and away the least improved, leaving someone else to take the lead next season.

Las Vegas Raiders

Record in 2021: 10-7-0  

Predicted Record in 2022: 8-9-0

Strengths and Weaknesses

If you thought the Raiders’ offense showed promise last year, you’re in for an awakening.  Not a rude awakening, mind you, but a breath of fresh air.  Las Vegas offensive stars were largely unheralded, but it’s a new day with Davante Adams in town.  That being said, the defense let this team down more than anything.  There are studs like Maxx Crosby but the loss of Yannick Ngakoue hurts.

Situation to Watch

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t watching the connection of Derek Carr and Davante Adams.  You have to believe Adams will take a step down now that he’s not with Aaron Rodgers, but let’s not forget the bromance between he and bestie Carr going all the way back to college.  In a side note, I’ll also be watching Josh Jacobs closely.  Las Vegas not picking up his fifth year option is flat out stupid.  I’m sure he’ll make them regret it.

Conclusion

Make no mistake, in this division anyone has a chance to take the lead, but I don’t think it will be the Raiders.  Even I question my prediction of 8-9-0.  How will they do worse than last season even though they’re improved?  Much like the Broncos, the Raiders play in this division, which is a flat out juggernaut.  The Raiders, to make things worse, have the 7th toughest schedule in the entire league.  I predict three straight losses out of the gate, making it really hard to succeed in the standings.

Los Angeles Chargers

Record in 2021: 9-8-0  

Predicted Record in 2022: 14-3-0

Strengths and Weaknesses

I need to be honest when I say this is my favorite team.  That being said, I believe I am an impartial writer.  I have seen the woes before and do not always see the light with this squad.  Now that you know this, the number of strengths are at the top of the league.  The offense led by Justin Herbert and defense led by Derwin James equals flat out dominance.  If I have to pick a weakness, it’s Brandon Staley’s fourth down guts.  His boldness cost the team greatly in 2021 and he needs to be more conservative.

Situation to Watch

I think most fans will be watching for the newest additions on defense like JC Jackson, Khalil Mack and Sebastian Joseph Day; and rightfully so.  I, however, will be watching for first round pick Zion Johnson out of Boston College.  The solidification of the offensive line was their biggest need and this kid dazzled me at the combine.  When I threw his name out there on twitter on March 4th, I may have been the biggest believer that wasn’t being paid to analyze the situation.

Conclusion

Part of me wants to be cautious.  I’ve had so many times watching my favorite teams across all pro sports when I felt there was a giant there only to be disappointed.  But this time, I think I’m right in my assessment.  The three losses I predicted for this team were generous.  On a rookie contract for Justin Herbert, this team is Super Bowl or bust and I don’t think there will be a bust in 2022.

 

Follow me on Twitter @NFLazenby

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