The Los Angeles Chargers are flying high, but how do the three other struggling AFC West teams stack up with one another? Especially now that we’re following such a calamitous week?
Let’s take a look.
1. Los Angeles Chargers
Once again, the answer to the question ‘who is the best team in the AFC West?’ has a fairly obvious answer, but for the first time since 2015, it’s not the Chiefs.
The Chargers look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders after out-gunning the Cleveland Browns in a home shootout. The fact they also boast wins over the high-flying Dallas Cowboys, aforementioned Chiefs, and the frisky Raiders, give them one of the most impressive resumes of any team so far this season.
Justin Herbert is a football god, Mike Williams is finally looking like a top-10 wide receiver, the offensive line is much improved, and Brandon Staley has the defense playing well-above their talent level.
Meanwhile, the rest of the AFC West is sinking. The clock has seemed to strike midnight on the short-lived Cinderella story that would have been the Raiders or Broncos, and the Chiefs defense is playing like the worst defense in NFL history.
One of the NFL’s longtime red-headed stepchildren may finally be in line for some glory.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Right now, in a power-rankings consisting of what we’ve seen so far this season, it feels like you could rank the remaining three AFC West teams in just about any order you wanted, as they’ve all been pretty disappointing.
With that in mind, it makes sense to give the tiebreaker to the team with the best quarterback and head coach, who has also had the toughest slate to open the season out of the three.
That said, the Chiefs have some massive problems that will prevent them from being a legitimate contender this season if they aren’t ironed out.
Kansas City’s defense is absolutely awful. Entering this week, they ranked last in the league in total defensive DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) and were 31.3% worse than the league’s second-worst defense in that category. Their pass-defense DVOA was the second-worst in the league, while their run-defense DVOA was by far the worst in football, as it is more than twice as bad as DVOA’s second-worst run-defense (160.4% worse to be exact).
Other analytics, like Expected Points Added, aren’t much kinder to Kansas City’s defense. In EPA, they rank as the worst defense overall(16.9% worse than the second-worst), third-worst against the pass, and once again, they’re the worst run-defense by a mile (95.8% worse than the next-worst defense).
Even if you want to move away from analytics and more archaic counting stats, the results don’t differ. The Chiefs’ defense is allowing 7.1 yards per play, which means they are making the combined efforts of the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills look like the greatest offense in NFL history.
How bad is the Chiefs defense?
On a per-play basis, the most prolific offense in NFL history is the 2000 Rams. They averaged 7.0.
The 2021 Chiefs are allowing 7.1 yards per play.
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) October 11, 2021
The Chiefs’ offense is still elite, but it’s hard to be dominant enough to offset such a horrible defense. Especially now that defenses have learned what to do to annoy KC’s offense the most.
3. Denver Broncos
This section originally opened with, “The Broncos will not move from this last-place ranking until they finally wake up, as their last two performances were entirely inexcusable, especially this most recent one against a bad Steelers team.”
And then, the second batch of repugnant Jon Gruden emails leaked, leaving the Raiders to rally around a new head coach this week. How gross the scandal is, combined with the bad situation it puts the Raiders in, is enough for Vegas to steal the last-place spot from the Broncos.
However, there has been little-to-nothing on the field over the past two weeks that would lead you to believe the Broncos deserve to be ahead of the Raiders on this list
How could you justify claiming the Broncos have been the better on-field product when the Raiders have already beaten the two teams Denver struggled mightily with?
Of course, whoever wins the game this week will be ranked ahead of the other, but the Broncos deserved to be ranked lower entering this week.
For once, the quarterback position hasn’t been the issue for the Broncos. However, the defense hasn’t been as dominant as expected, while the offensive line has been dreadful and the coaching staff has been even worse.
The Broncos absolutely have to win to get back on track this week, or else they might fall into the AFC West’s cellar, and remain there the rest of the way. Even still, that doesn’t begin to capture how embarrassing and cataclysmic this loss would be.
4. Las Vegas Raiders
What can you say about the Las Vegas Raiders?
On-field, much like the Broncos, the product has been pretty gross the past couple weeks. They were nuked by the Chargers in a matchup that is nowhere near as close as the final score indicates, and then they failed to find anything on offense against a strictly pedestrian Chicago Bears defense.
Off the field, they’ve been an utter disaster. More of Gruden’s horribly offensive emails leaked at the onset of this week, forcing the now-once-again former Raiders head coach to resign from his position as Rich Bassachia takes over.
If the Broncos can’t beat the Raiders this week, it will be one of the most embarrassing losses from either side in the history of this storied rivalry.