Around the AFC West: The Chiefs get ready to load up at the deadline
The Denver Broncos have a 2-4 record after six games, and they could soon be at the bottom of the AFC West. If it wasn’t for the Las Vegas Raiders (1-4) having a bye in Week 6, the Broncos may be cellar dwellers at this time.
This division, once thought of as the toughest in football, may only have two teams make the playoffs. In fact, the way things are shaping up in the conference, I wouldn’t be surprised to see just one team (and it’s obvious who that would be) make it to the playoffs from the division.
Let’s take a spin around the AFC West to see what the competition is up to.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are the most dangerous team in the division, as most expected this season, but they are doing it in a different way from what we’re used to. They have a 4-2 record, and the Chiefs have a league-high 179 points after six games. So, they are still scoring in bunches, but those bunches are coming differently than in the past.
Chiefs’ superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes is spreading the ball around more this season. Yes, tight end Travis Kelce is still a frequent target but at the wide receiver position the Chiefs are using multiple weapons to attack through the air. In the Week 6 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster went over 100 yards for the first time this season. The previous week, Smith-Schuster had just 33 yards receiving. Each week, the Chiefs seem to be using a different receiver to get after a defense rather than just attack with Tyreek Hill (now with the Dolphins) like they used to.
On Tuesday, the Chiefs restructured Kelce’s contract by converting base salary into a signing bonus that creates $3.455 million in cap space. Before the move, the Chiefs had just a little over $200,000 in salary cap space. With the November 1 trade deadline looming, the Chiefs needed to do what they could to create more cap space.
This is a sign of a team looking for a trade or two to put them over the top. The Los Angeles Rams did this last year when they acquired Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. on their way to a Super Bowl championship. The Chiefs want to make sure to have the cap space to do something similar if the right deal arises. That’s bad news for the rest of the division.
Las Vegas Raiders
We’re all waiting to see if Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams is disciplined by the league. Adams could face a suspension from the NFL, a fine or both after he shoved a photographer to the ground on the way to the visitors’ tunnel at the end of Week 5’s game versus the Chiefs. However, his status is not expected to be resolved in the immediate future, meaning that he will be able to continue playing until his legal situation has reached its conclusion, according to multiple reports on the incident.
The Raiders are coming off a bye week, so we’ll see what kind of changes they’ve made to get on the winning track. Their four losses so far in 2022 have come by score differentials of five points, six points, two points, and one point. Clearly, the Raiders are close to being an undefeated team even they only have one win on the season. If they figure things out post their bye week, the Raiders could be a dangerous team down the stretch.
It looks like they may still be without one of their superstars on offense in Week 7 against the Houston Texans.
Raiders tight end Darren Waller (hamstring) did not participate in practice on Wednesday after having a whole week to rest on their bye. That’s not a great sign for his availability on Sunday. The Raiders can turn to a talented backup tight end in Foster Moreau. While he may not be a household name, in my opinion Moreau is a better tight end than anyone the Broncos can put on the field at the position.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are tied with the Chiefs at 4-2 after six weeks. While that’s a great way to begin the 2022 season, I’m still not sure if the Chargers are a good team. Their wins have come against the Raiders, Texans, Cleveland Browns, and Broncos – not exactly a group that will be making postseason appearances in 2022. You have to play the teams on your schedule, and the Chargers have taken care of business for the most part with only two losses (Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars).
They may finally be getting back one of their best players on offense in Week 7. Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (hamstring) is on pace to practice fully this week, according to head coach Brandon Staley. He was close to returning last week against the Broncos, but the Chargers probably felt like he needed another week of rest – and they might have felt they could beat Denver without him which they did. While one key player on offense could be returning for their game against the Seahawks on Sunday, the Chargers are losing a valuable reserve to an injury sustained against the Broncos.
Chargers running back Joshua Kelley (knee) was diagnosed with a medial collateral ligament sprain that is expected to sideline him for multiple weeks, according to Staley. Kelley had been playing a role as the team’s primary reserve back behind starter Austin Ekeler. Without Kelley for the next few weeks, the Chargers can turn to former first-round pick Sony Michel. The Chargers could even use 2022 fourth-round pick Isaiah Spiller more now that Kelley has to miss time.