AFC West among NFL’s most competitive divisions heading into Week 4

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Heading into Week 4, the AFC West is one of only two divisions in the NFL to have multiple 3-0 teams. Before the beginning of the season, many people would have told you that the Los Angeles Chargers or Kansas City Chiefs had the best chance of starting 3-0, but the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos have proved them wrong. As we put a pin in Week 3, here’s how the division stands:

  1. Raiders (3-0)
  2. Broncos (3-0)
  3. Chargers (2-1)
  4. Chiefs (1-2)

For the first time in a long time, the AFC West is one of the most competitive divisions in football. Here we will break down how each team has started and what Week 4 looks like for them. 

Las Vegas Raiders

We’ll start with Vegas’ and arguably Los Angeles’ most beloved, the Raiders. The Raiders have been in the rebuild phase since the re-hiring of head coach Jon Gruden in 2018. Gruden’s first three seasons back with the team ended at .500 or less; this year looks to be a little different.

The Raiders have started 3-0 for the first time in 19 years. They are the first team in NFL history to go 3-0 with all three wins coming against teams with ten or more wins the previous season. All three wins came against AFC teams.

After Week 3, the Raiders lead the league in total offensive yardage, and QB Derek Carr leads the NFL with 1,203 passing yards. The Raiders are the only team in the league to have four receivers with over 200+ receiving yards on the season.

Second-year offensive players are blossoming, and the veterans continue to earn their praise week after week. The Raiders have scored the second-most points in the AFC West with 90.

The Raiders defense ranks 15th in the league in points allowed, a massive jump from 2020, when they ranked 30th. The hiring of Gus Bradley seems to be the game-changer Las Vegas has been looking for. The defense is fast, powerful, and aggressive every week. As the season goes on, the defense will be tested repeatedly, but if the first three weeks are any indication, they are up to the challenge. 

The Raiders were the underdogs in Weeks 1 and 2, but their quick defense and the powerful offense put skeptics to rest relatively quickly. Las Vegas has climbed the power rankings and earned the praise of analysts across the league. As they sit atop the AFC West heading into Week 4, their next test comes against division rival, the Chargers.

Denver Broncos

Since their Super Bowl win in 2015, the Broncos have had only one winning season (2016). They have been the prime example of the “quarterback carousel” in the NFL and have yet to find one that works for them. In 2021, they’re rolling with veteran QB Teddy Bridgewater.

The Broncos are 3-0 right now, primarily thanks to their explosive defense. With wins coming against the Giants, Jaguars, and Jets, the defense has held their opponents to a combined 26 points over three weeks. The Broncos defense is 1st in points allowed and 2nd in total yards allowed, behind only the Carolina Panthers.

The Broncos offense is ranked 14th in total offense. They have scored the third-most points in the AFC West with 76. In training camp, the Broncos weren’t sure who would be their starting quarterback, but they seemed to have made the right decision with Bridgewater. Bridgewater is constantly being praised by his teammates and has followed it up on the field. Denver’s QB1 has thrown for 827 passing yards, 4 TDs, and no interceptions on the season. 

The Broncos have lost EDGE Bradley Chubb, WR Jerry Jeudy, and WR K.J. Hamler due to injury this season. Chubb and Jeudy are both expected to miss 6-8 weeks, while Hamler will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.

Week 4 brings the Broncos biggest challenge yet – the Baltimore Ravens. While adjusting to lost players and preparing for one of the NFL’s most explosive teams, it will be interesting to see if the Broncos can remain undefeated atop the AFC West in Week 4.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers have started 2-1 this season, with road wins against the Washington Football Team and the Kansas City Chiefs. Their only loss came at home against Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys.

Justin Herbert, the Chargers QB1 and reigning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, is having another fantastic start to the season. In two consecutive weeks, new head Coach Brandon Staley has made it a point at the post-game press conference to praise Justin Herbert. The Chargers are sure they found their franchise quarterback. In the words of Staley, “[The Chargers] are fortunate we have a gangster quarterback.”

The Chargers offense has scored the least amount of points in the AFC West with 67, but the Chargers ranks 9th in the league in total offense. QB Justin Herbert and WR Mike Williams have been the MVPs of the Chargers offense thus far. The two have connected for 295 yards this season, the sixth-most in the league.

Herbert has also relied on WR Keenan Allen and RB Austin Ekeler. As the Raiders prepare to take on the Chargers Monday night, those are the most prominent names to watch.

The Chargers rank 17th in total defense, partially thanks to rookie CB Asante Samuel Jr. The rookie leads the Chargers in interceptions with two and has been a powerhouse on the field week in and week out. Samuel Jr. is on many analysts’ watch lists for defensive rookie of the year. 

Kansas City Chiefs

The 2019 Super Bowl champs and annual playoff contenders have found themselves at the bottom of the AFC West for the first time in QB Patrick Mahomes’ career. Weeks 2 and 3 handed Mahomes his first two career losses and first three interceptions in the month of September. Right now, Kansas City isn’t the team people expected them to be.

After a Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, the Chiefs replaced their entire offensive line to help protect their $500 million quarterback investment. After three weeks, that decision hasn’t played out how they’d hoped. Mahomes has been sacked 4 times through three games, and the offensive line has seen many, many penalties.

The Chiefs have scored the most points in the AFC West with 92 and rank 6th in total offense. Mahomes is ranked 6th in overall passing yards, but tied for 6th-most interceptions. The Chiefs’ QB1 currently has a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio. 

Former first-round pick RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire has also seen his share of troubles. The second year running back has fumbled at crucial times two games in a row and has heard the criticism of NFL fans everywhere. Edwards-Helaire is the team’s leading rusher, but his ball handling skills will need to improve.

Kansas City is ranked 30th overall in total defense. The team has accumulated 4 interceptions and 14 tackles for loss. SS Tyrann Mathieu leads the team in interceptions with 2. 

Kansas City is coming off a brutal Week 3 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Kansas City as a team seems to be lacking the fire and chemistry we are used to seeing. As they sit at the bottom of the AFC West, fans and analysts are left wondering if this is a fluke, or if this team is falling off the radar.

The AFC West hasn’t been this competitive in years. With the Raiders taking on the Chargers and the Broncos with their first big test in Week 4, we should start to see some clarity in the standings and find out who is the real deal. If the Week 4 standings are any indication, the AFC West will be a battle until the end. 

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