After weeks and months spent in the basement of these AFC West Power Rankings, the Denver Broncos are finally on the climb back up towards the top.
How do they compare to their AFC West foes and will they be able to capture the top spot after this week? Take a look below to find out.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Considering they were on their bye, it’s only sensible that the Kansas City Chiefs maintain their perch atop the AFC West.
The last time we saw them, they were undeniably playing as the best team in the division. They also have the best record in the division, as they’re the only team elevated above the mosh-pit of the other three teams.
The offense still has plenty of questions, but it has been playing better than it was earlier in the year, and the defense is looking like an average unit now, which has been a huge development for the team.
Finally, they also have a built-in trust factor from past seasons of the Patrick Mahomes-era that shouldn’t be overlooked. They’re the only team in this division that knows how to win, and that’s worth something.
2. Denver Broncos
All three of these remaining AFC West teams feel so tightly packed together that you could make an argument for any of them, so why not the Denver Broncos, who have been the best of the bunch over the past five weeks?
During that span, the Broncos are 3-1 with blowout wins over the Chargers and Cowboys, and that painful win over the Washington Football Team. Compare that to the backsliding 2-3 Chargers or 1-3 Raiders, and the Broncos feel like the better team presently.
The Broncos are also the only team in the division with an above-average offense and defense according to EPA (expected points added), and while they trail the Chargers in total DVOA, it would be impossible to rank them below the Bolts considering the past week.
You could argue for the Raiders considering how Vegas embarrassed Denver earlier this season, but that was a very different team than what the Raiders presently are. Since the Henry Ruggs tragedy, they’ve looked almost entirely moribund.
The hesitation towards putting the Broncos up here has to do largely with their four-game losing streak back in October, and the extreme inconsistencies they’ve showcased, but their talent is ultimately undeniable.
3. Las Vegas Raiders
Picking between these last two limping AFC West clubs is very tricky, but while it appears the Raiders might be finding solutions for their problems, the Chargers feel entirely lost.
Following Henry Ruggs’ drunk driving incident, the Raiders were completely moribund offensively, putting up a total of just 43 points over their next three games (14.3 points per game) against the paltry defenses of the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals.
During that stretch, their defense appeared to decline as well, compounding the concerns surrounding this Raiders squad.
However, just when it seemed like it was time to give up on the Raiders they outgunned the Cowboys in the best game of the Thanksgiving holiday, and their offense looked like it had re-found their explosive ability thanks to DeSean Jackson.
With that said, Jackson hasn’t been able to produce for long stretches for several seasons now, as nagging injuries have kept him hobbled or sidelined for the most part. An even greater concern though is the loss of Darren Waller, who’s been the driving force of this offense the past few years.
It’ll be interesting to see if Vegas can carry over their offensive momentum from the Dallas game into a tough game with Washington. If their offense goes back to the form we saw against the Giants, Chiefs and Bengals, they’ll quickly find themselves last on this list.
4. Los Angeles Chargers
All three of these final AFC West teams feel so closely packed that this shouldn’t be viewed as too strong a critique of the Chargers, but as things currently stand, it makes sense to put them last.
The Raiders have much more questions surrounding their roster, but whereas they’re coming off a road win against an NFC powerhouse on a short week, the Chargers just suffered one of their worst losses of the entire season.
Plus, it should be mentioned that in the week prior — when their offense looked incredible against the Pittsburgh Steelers — their defense gave Ben Roethlisberger his best performance of the last few years, right before the Cincinnati Bengals defense shut him down entirely.
Justin Herbert and the rest of the Chargers’ offense is extremely talented, but offensive play-caller Joe Lombardi continues to get his lunch handed to him by gifted defensive play-callers, and L.A’s defense has been pretty disappointing considering the hiring of Brandon Staley.
They have no ability to defend the run, ranking 32nd in run-defense DVOA and 31st in EPA allowed per rushing attempt, and their coverage and pass rush has regressed in recent weeks.
Despite all that, if they can get back on track against the Bengals this week, you’ll almost certainly see them rise in these AFC West power rankings.