Around the AFC West: The division might not be as strong as thought
The Denver Broncos are trying to get back on the winning track this week after losing their first divisional game of the year last week. They were embarrassed last week on the road against the Las Vegas Raiders. It’s a good thing the Broncos are playing on Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts so they can wash the bad taste of Week 4 out.
The AFC West may not be as strong as we originally thought. However, the Kansas City Chiefs are putting distance between themselves and the rest of the division after the first month of the season. Can the Broncos get in the win column to keep up?
Let’s take a spin around the AFC West to see what the competition is up to.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are on a roll. I should say, they are back on a roll. The Chiefs dropped a game to the Colts in Week 3, but they were back to their winning ways with a 41-31 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 4.
People were concerned about how the Chiefs offense would look without wide receiver Tyreek Hill this year. I think after a month we all can see their offense is going to be just fine. While there’s no single receiver standing out, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is spreading the ball around to several different receivers. In addition to that, the Chiefs are finally emphasizing the rushing attack and starting running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is playing better than ever.
Edwards-Helaire carried the ball 19 times for 92 yards and a touchdown against the Buccaneers on Sunday, Oct. 2. He also had a two-yard touchdown reception. That gives him five touchdowns on the season. The Chiefs have a more balanced attack this year thanks to the ground game, and that makes them more dangerous than ever before. Coming up on Monday night, the Chiefs are in the spotlight as they are set to take on the Raiders at home.
Las Vegas Raiders
After their first win of the 2022 season, the Las Vegas Raiders will try to build momentum to get back in the race for the division. It’s going to be difficult for them to go back-to-back as they travel to face the Chiefs on Monday night in Week 5. Perhaps the Raiders will use a strategy of playing ‘keep away’ from the Chiefs as many teams attempt with varying results.
There’s a chance the Raiders will continue to feature running back Josh Jacobs. He’s coming off a career-high performance of 144 yards against the Broncos in Week 4. It would make sense, assuming rational coaching, that Jacobs would continue to get a large role. Using Jacobs effectively, the Raiders could control the time of possession and perhaps keep Mahomes cold on the sidelines.
With linebacker Denzel Perryman in the concussion protocol, the Raiders had to go out and find help at the positon. Free-agent linebacker Blake Martinez (Giants) was signed to the Raiders’ practice squad on Tuesday, Oct. 4. Martinez was a tackling machine for four seasons (2017-2020) for the Giants, but a torn ACL last season cost him his spot on the roster this year when the Giants decided to let him go. Martinez can still be a good player, and he grades well in coverage in addition to having a nose for the ball.
Los Angeles Chargers
When quarterback Justin Herbert is healthy, the Los Angeles Chargers look great on offense. He’s been banged up with a ribs injury this year, and that was part of the reason they dropped a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3. With Herbert looking healthy, the Chargers were able to easily take care of the Houston Texans by a score of 34-24 in Week 4.
A big reason why they got the win was the performance of running back Austin Ekeler. The Colorado native rushed for 60 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries against the Texans in Week 4. He also caught six passes for 49 yards and one touchdown during the game. When the Chargers get Ekeler going, they can roll over most teams with their offense. They’re also getting some players back healthy – or at least they should be – in the near future.
Chargers’ wide receiver Keenan Allen (hamstring) remains day-to-day heading into Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns. ‘We’re just going to make sure we are careful,’ Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said Monday, Oct. 3. Having Allen healthy will make the high-powered Chargers offense even more dangerous.