This was a rough week for the AFC West, despite going 2-1, as just about every fanbase should feel worse about the outlook of their team than they did this time last week.
How does the AFC West stack up with Week 9 on the horizon? Let’s take a look.
1. Las Vegas Raiders
With the rest of the AFC West raising more concerns than they eased and the Raiders on the bye week, this section should have been a fairly bland lookahead at their impending matchup with the Giants.
However, early Tuesday morning the Raiders had to manage their second calamitous scandal of the young season when breakout receiver Henry Ruggs was involved in a drunk driving accident that resulted in the death of another human, aged 23.
Football aside, this situation is tremendously tragic. It was so easily avoidable considering modern ride-sharing technology and the fact the NFLPA offers all players a free service to help avoid situations just like this one. Now, the life of the young woman Ruggs hit is over, the incredibly promising young career of Ruggs is likely over, and Ruggs’ significant other reportedly suffered “serious” injuries as the result of the crash and will likely always have to deal with some level of trauma from the incident.
Call an Uber, people, please.
Back to football, the incident does have the potential to derail what was shaping up to be an excellent season in Vegas. Ruggs was a critical piece of this offense, and the Raiders don’t have anyone else on the roster who could replace him. Plus, it will be difficult for the Raiders to stay steady through another ugly scandal in such a short time frame.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers should have taken back the top spot this week, but they just couldn’t take care of business at ‘home’ against the Patriots, in the type of game that reminded you that relocating to L.A. probably wasn’t the best move for the Spanos family.
The crowd felt like it was 50/50 between Chargers and Patriots fans, and that presence loomed fairly large in this one.
However, the biggest factor has been Justin Herbert’s continued descent back to Earth. By no means is he playing poorly, but he’s also playing at a level that’s a far cry from the MVP-caliber performances he was putting up on a weekly basis, back when the Chargers looked like they might potentially be the class of the AFC.
With the Raiders still under the control of an interim head coach, as they now have to manage their way through another scandal, it seems fairly likely that wunderkinds Brandon Staley and Justin Herbert will manage to capture the division, but they’ll have to get back on track offensively first.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Many keep expecting the Kansas City Chiefs to right the ship and turn things around, but they appear to be regressing instead of progressing as the weeks go on.
They barely managed to escape a primetime home matchup against the lowly New York Giants with a win, but despite emerging victorious, their offense seemed to take major steps back.
Kansas City has not been able to create explosive plays this season as defenses are willing to sit back, force the Chiefs to be patient, and count on the occasional mistake, and Andy Reid has been unable to develop a counter punch. On Monday night, Mahomes was reduced to throwing the ball to a target behind the line of scrimmage 15 times. That’s horrific.
The solution, in theory, would be the Chiefs finding a strong ground game and committing to it, but that happening seems pretty unlikely as of now.
With the offense starting to stumble, and the defense a trainwreck, it’s safe to start wondering if KC can even make the playoffs.
4. Denver Broncos
Another week on the bottom of these power rankings for the Denver Broncos.
After coming away with a victory on Sunday, the Broncos had an opportunity to climb up in the power rankings, but the Chiefs escaped their close game with the New York Giants, and the Broncos would trade Von Miller the next day.
Now, the Miller trade is entirely sensible. The Broncos were going nowhere this year, felt Miller was likely to leave in the offseason, and they’ll likely get more out of those second and third-round picks aiding their rebuild than they would have gotten out of Miller in nine games on a losing team.
With that said, the Miller trade poses two negatives for Denver.
For starters, it’s the franchise publicly admitting that this team is not in postseason contention and that this season is effectively over. Trading Von Miller isn’t making this a bad team, but it is the team acknowledging this is a bad team, and that’s a big step. Especially considering they continue to also publicly say the team is in postseason contention and refuse to move on from their head coach.
Secondly, things could get much worse defensively now that Miller is out of the picture. Denver’s pass rush has been horrifically bad this year. The Broncos have the fourth-worst Pass-Rush Win-Rate in football, and that was with Miller owning the opposition and pressuring the quarterback at an elite level. Now, the Broncos have lost their top pass-rusher and teams can devote their double-teams towards whoever is set to take Miller’s place.