AFC West 2022 NFL Preview: Can anyone steal the crown from the Chiefs?

NFL analyst Kyle Brandt joins Tim and Friends to discuss why he feels this is the year where the Kansas City Chiefs are in trouble in the over-loaded NFC West, and why he thinks it's finally time for the Chargers to take over the reigns.

The NFL is back, and Sportsnet is breaking down everything you need to know about the 32 teams looking to book a trip to Super Bowl LVII.

Kickoff for the regular season is set for Thursday, Sept. 8 and today we look at the revamped AFC West…


2021 record: 7-10-0, last in AFC West, missed playoffs

Notable roster additions: QB Russell Wilson, OT Billy Turner, DE Randy Gregory, DT D.J. Jones, CB K’Waun Williams, head coach Nathaniel Hackett

Notable roster subtractions: QB Teddy Bridgewater, QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, head coach Vic Fangio

The good news: Denver’s woeful, seven-year ride on the quarterback carousel finally came to an end in March with the acquisition of Russell Wilson, who launches this club’s projections into a realm not seen since Peyton Manning took them all the way to the promised land. The former Seahawk instantly gives this offence the kind of can’t-miss quality that until now has been reserved only for its excellent defence, and that shiny new contract he signed Thursday morning eliminates any questions about how long he’ll be staying.

Wilson’s presence is the gift that will keep on giving to young playmakers looking to break out like Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler and mid-level veterans like Courtland Sutton poised to take his game to the next level.

New ownership, a new head coach, and a new starting quarterback has Broncos Country bursting with fresh voices in leadership on and off the field. Playoffs aren’t merely a possibility now – they’re an expectation.

The bad news: The injury bug struck early, ruling Tim Patrick (ACL) out for the season and hindering camp chemistry and pre-season reps for several important pieces along the offensive line including Billy Turner. Russell is elite when it comes to thinking on his feet, but if the Broncos can’t keep him on them, it could spell trouble in a division as strong as this one. Depth could be tested early, and there’s little room for error.

Super Bowl Odds: +1500
Division Title Odds: +260
Wins Total: 9.5 wins (Over -135/Under +115)


2021 record: 12-5, first in AFC West for sixth straight year, beat Steelers and Bills in playoffs before losing to Bengals in AFC Championship

Notable roster additions: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, DE Carlos Dunlap, S Justin Reid, LB Jermaine Carter, CB Trent McDuffie (rookie), DE George Karlaftis (rookie), RB Isiah Pacheco (rookie), WR Skyy Moore (rookie)

Notable roster subtractions: WR Tyreek Hill, S Tyrann Mathieu, WR Byron Pringle, OT Mike Remmers, G Kyle Long, DE Melvin Ingram, CB Charvarius Ward, CB Mike Hughes

The good news: After an off-season of much change, three of Kansas City’s most integral offensive weapons remain: quarterback Patrick Mahomes, top target Travis Kelce, and the coach who best understands how to use them in head coach Andy Reid. It’ll take a small army to try to replace Tyreek Hill, and Kansas City has assembled its best attempt with a deep group of receivers that includes free agents Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster and speedy rookies like second-round receiver Skyy Moore and running back Isiah Pacheco, a potential late-round gem. Offence will be in the spotlight – with Mahomes at the helm, how can it not? – but GM Brett Veach’s efforts to renovate his defence, featuring promising first-rounders in Trent McDuffie and George Karlaftis, could bring some excitement on that side of the ball as the Chiefs look to return to the Super Bowl appearance for the third time in four years.

The bad news: While Kansas City brought in several veterans throughout the lineup, many of the most significant job openings – wide receiver, running back, pass rush and secondary – are being filled by rookies. That can, of course, be really good news, but there’s also an inherent risk in relying so heavily on first-year players getting their initial reps as pros, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Chiefs are still the favourites to win the division, but with the rest of the AFC West loading up to challenge them for the crown, these rookies could ultimately be the difference.

Super Bowl Odds: +1000
Division Title Odds: +140
Wins Total: 10.5 wins (Over -115/Under -105)


2021 record: 10-7, second in AFC West, lost to Bengals in Wild Card game

Notable roster additions: WR Davante Adams, DE Chandler Jones, OL Dylan Parham (rookie), WR Mack Hollins, CB Rock Ya-Sin, S Duron Harmon, head coach Josh McDaniels

Notable roster subtractions: DE Yannick Ngakoue, LB K.J. Wright, LB Cory Littleton, CB Casey Hayward, CB Desmond Trufant, interim head coach Rich Bisaccia

The good news: The road through 2021 was bumpy, filled with twists and turns and turmoil leading to some major mid-season departures. In the months since, new GM Dave Ziegler has been busy paving the way for a much smoother ride in 2022. He brought in a new head coach in Josh McDaniels, extended franchise leaders Derek Carr and Maxx Crosby, and gifted both with a new teammate that will elevate their respective games. Carr will be throwing TDs to friend and former college teammate Davante Adams while Crosby will be setting his sights on opposing QBs opposite fellow edge rusher Chandler Jones. The release of underperforming 2021 first-rounder Alex Leatherwood sets a precedent that opportunity with the Raiders waits for no one and tells the rest of the division that Vegas is ready to win now.

The bad news: If you look around the AFC West you’ll see three other teams echoing that win-now mantra across what is undoubtedly the deepest division in football this year. The Raiders have, predictably, one of the toughest strengths of schedule (seventh hardest) and there’s no easing into this one – their first five opponents are the Chargers, Cardinals, Titans, Broncos and Chiefs. Stumbling out of the gates could see them playing behind the eight ball right from the start. Releasing Leatherwood helped Vegas let go of the past draft mistakes from the Mike Mayock era, but holes along the offensive line tell us they’re still paying for the old regime’s errors. McDaniels’ first campaign as a head coach (with Denver from 2009-2010) ended with him promptly returning to New England. Will things be different this time?

Super Bowl Odds: +3500
Division Title Odds: +650
Wins Total: 8.5 wins (Over -115/Under -105)


2021 record: 9-8, third in AFC West, missed playoffs (and no, it wasn’t because of a certain timeout call…)

Notable roster additions: CB J.C. Jackson, DE Khalil Mack, DT Sebastian Joseph-Day, DT Austin Johnson, OLB Kyle Van Noy, G Zion Johnson (rookie)

Notable roster subtractions: OT Bryan Bulaga, DE Uchenna Nwosu, DT Linval Joseph, CB Chris Harris Jr., TE Jarden Cook

The good news: As long as Justin Herbert is your quarterback, you’re in good hands offensively. This group is loaded. But defensively? That’s been a whole other issue in L.A. – one that ultimately cost the football world a shot at seeing Herbert take post-season snaps. Fixing the Chargers’ dismal run defence was priority No. 1 this off-season and it showed with a series of signings headlined by the acquisitions of Khalil Mack and Sebastian Joseph-Day and including Austin Johnson and Kyle Van Noy. The big-money addition of J.C. Jackson instantly makes L.A.’s secondary more dynamic. Staley now has pieces better suited to his schemes on that side of the ball, and we’ll soon find out what that means for the fate of this Chargers’ defence.

The bad news: Considering the Chargers’ disastrous injury luck over the years, it would be easy to overreact to the news that J.C. Jackson underwent a procedure just a few short weeks ago. Jackson himself called it a “minor setback,” but considering how much of Staley’s defence depends on his elite skillset, the possibility he’ll start the season on the sideline is understandably worrisome.

Super Bowl Odds: +1400
Division Title Odds: +225
Wins Total: 10 wins (Over -125/Under +105)

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