Week 8 brings a bye week to the desert. The Las Vegas Raiders will use this week to rest and get healthy before heading to New York to take on the Giants in Week 9. As of Sunday, the Raiders sit atop the division at 5-2, but what else is going on in the AFC West?
Los Angeles Chargers (4-2)
Second place in the AFC West right now belongs to the Los Angeles Chargers. The team sits at 4-2 after their bye week last week. This season, the Chargers have a new head coach in Brandon Staley and one of the most explosive second-year players in QB Justin Herbert. Through the first half of the season, it seems the Chargers are clicking on a new level and proving to be a deep-run playoff contender.
The Chargers have only lost to the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens this season, two other teams that are highly regarded throughout the league. Justin Herbert has been on fire and is commonly referred to as a 2021 MVP candidate. Herbert has led the Chargers offense to an incredible start as their passing game and run game both have been explosive.
WR Keenan Allen and WR Mike Williams have been the core of the Los Angeles receiving core as they lead the team in both targets and receiving yards. RB Austin Ekeler has had a career season so far with 356 yards and 4 touchdowns. His stats hardly tell the story of his contribution to the team.
LA is also home to two of the highest-graded rookies this season in CB Asante Samuel Jr. and OT Rashawn Slater. The two have made a major impact on the field and are both in talks for Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year, respectively.
The Chargers have beaten two division rivals in the Las Vegas Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs so far this season. They currently sit at 2-0 in the division. They still have four more division games to go, and the AFC West is only getting more competitive. Time will tell if their early-season success continues or tapers off down the line. This week, the Chargers will stay home to take on AFC rival the New England Patriots and their rookie QB Mac Jones. A win would mean a tie for first in the division with Las Vegas.
Denver Broncos (3-4)
The first seven weeks of the season have brought struggles on both sides of the ball for Denver. After a hot 3-0 start, the team has now lost four in a row. They currently sit in a tie for last in the AFC West.
Quarterback struggles have been the name of the game in the Mile High City this year. Before the season, Head Coach Vic Fangio held a QB competition between Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock. Bridgewater eventually won the job but has been far from stellar thus far. Many analysts and fans are calling for a QB change to see if Lock can turn the Broncos offense around.
This week, the team will get their second-year WR Jerry Jeudy back for the first time since Week 1. Jeudy’s return is significant as he was expected to be one of their top receivers this season. Broncos RB Javonte Williams has been the highlight of their offense and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
The Broncos defense started the season as one of the top units in the league, but their production rate has decreased steadily in the last four weeks. The Denver pass rush is struggling, and their run defense isn’t much better. With injuries to Bradley Chubb and Von Miller among others, the Broncos are starting to worry what another loss will mean for their season.
The Broncos have played just one division game so far this season. In Week 6, they lost to the Raiders and will not play another division game until Nov. 28. The 3-4 team needs to find their rhythm if they have a chance to climb the AFC West ladder before it’s too late. This week, the Broncos will take on the Washington Football Team in a match they’re favored to win.
Kansas City Chiefs (3-4)
You know it, I know it, the whole league knows it. Kansas City just doesn’t look like Kansas City this season. The annual super bowl contenders sit in a tie for last place in the AFC West with a 3-4 record.
QB Patrick Mahomes is tied for most interceptions in the league with 9 through just 7 matchups. Many of those interceptions, however, have come at the hands of dropped or tipped passes by the receivers, another uncharacteristic downfall of the Kansas City offense so far. The Chiefs also lost their RB1 as they placed Clyde Edwards-Helaire on injured reserve early on. He is expected to return sometime this season, but as of now, their run game is hurting because of it.
The Chiefs defense also has their fair share of problems as they are the 31st ranked defense in the NFL. They have allowed 203 points this season (t-29th) and have just six takeaways through seven weeks.
Kansas City has also only played one division game so far against the Chargers. The Chargers beat Kansas City 30-24. Many analysts believed the Chiefs early-season struggles would be a distant memory by now, but each week shows this is no fluke. Kansas City isn’t a major threat right now and they have a long way to go if they want to show that’s not the case.
Andy Reid and the Chiefs take on the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. The Chiefs are favored to win against a 2-5 New York team.
The AFC West has been a battle each week. The standings are constantly changing and it appears it will be that way the remainder of the season. Raiders QB Derek Carr and Chargers QB Justin Herbert have their teams ready to battle for first place and do whatever it takes to win. Late-season divisional games may be the tie-breaker down the road as the rest of the AFC West tries to dethrone the Kansas City Chiefs for the first time in five seasons.
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