How has the AFC West left the Denver Broncos in the dust yet again?

Denver Broncos fan following the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Empower Field at Mile High.
Nov 14, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos fan following the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Yet another Denver Broncos season will end with disappointment and a losing record following the team’s demoralizing loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers.

They’ve been outclassed by the rest of the division, and now, it’s time to start counting down to the 2022 NFL season.

How do the rest of the Broncos’ divisional foes stack up against one another as they all race towards the playoffs? Let’s look.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

This one is kind of a no-brainer, even despite the nail-biting loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and young superstar Joe Burrow.

The Chiefs have already locked up first place in the division, arguably have the best defense in the division – and now that it’s rolling once again – the best offense in the division as well.

After being flummoxed for months on how to attack the conservative defenses they were facing, they’ve finally developed an effective counterpunch that has unlocked the offense’s potential and has them soaring high once more.

Their cold second half against the Bengals does raise some concern for the offense, but with the defense already proving it can carry the load at times, that isn’t too much of a concern.

Not only is Kansas City the top dog in the division, but they also feel like the favorites in the AFC, and there isn’t a clear No. 2 as of now.

2. Los Angeles Chargers

This Chargers team is ridiculously bipolar and as scary as their lows can be, their highs are excitingly high.

One week, they’re allowing Royce Freeman and Rex Burkhead look like the reincarnation of the Marcus Allen-Bo Jackson backfield of the 80s. The next week, they’re stifling an actually special tandem in Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. One week, they’re allowing Davis Mills to outduel Justin Herbert and drop a 40-burger on them. The next they’re making Drew Lock look like, well, a marginally better version of Drew Lock.

They’ve found the right quarterback, obviously, and they’ve found the right coach in Brandon Staley, but their roster is in desperate need of an overhaul. Their depth is some of the worst in the league, and their talent on the defensive side of the ball doesn’t match what Staley wants to do yet.

They’re trending in the right direction, and they should be a fun playoff team this year, but they still have a way to go before they should be taken seriously as a legitimate contender.

3. Las Vegas Raiders

Right when it seemed like the Las Vegas Raiders were utterly hopeless, the Football Gods gifted them a three-game stretch that featured two COVID-depleted playoff teams in the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns, and the Drew Lock-led Broncos, allowing them to right the ship and re-enter the playoff mix.

In fact, the Raiders have the second-best shot at the playoffs out of anyone in the division.

While that generous slate of games allowed the Raiders to solve their problems in the win-loss column, it hasn’t necessarily helped them to solve their problems on the field. The offense still feels lost, and while the defense has been playing well, they’re still far from being a difference-making unit.

The one positive development has likely been the re-emergence of Josh Jacobs, who is currently experiencing one of his best stretches of play since his impressive rookie campaign.

One major negative development for Vegas was having yet another one of their young stars get in trouble for driving under the influence, as standout rookie cornerback Nate Hobbs was busted after celebrating the victory over the Colts on Sunday night.

One would think the horrific nature of the Henry Ruggs incident would’ve served as a lesson to the rest of the team.

Please, just get an Uber.

4. Denver Broncos

As we enter the final week of the 2021 season, it has become clear that the rest of the division has left the Broncos in the lurch.

The Broncos are currently riding a three-game losing streak, during which their offensive production has cratered entirely. It would be soothing to be able to pin that on the team’s recent outbreak of the Omicron variant, but oddly, that matchup against the Chargers was their most productive offensive showing of the last three games.

Lock’s play has clearly matured, as he seems to be processing the field better and making the right decisions, however, he’s still leaving a lot to be desired, especially in critical third-down situations.

This team just feels dead in the water with how they’ve performed over the last month, save for a rousing win over the bottom-feeding Detroit Lions.

Once again, the Broncos feel fairly rudderless, and contending in the AFC – or even in their own division – is going to require them to solve their coaching and quarterback conundrum in the same offseason, when they haven’t been able to solve either for the past half-decade.

The source of optimism for Broncos fans moving forward is the potential of landing an established superstar at quarterback via trade, and the remarkable amount of young talent the roster boasts after a tremendous draft from George Paton.

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