Home » Blog » AFC West looks to be wide open

AFC West looks to be wide open

The AFC West has been anything but an open division over the past four years. In each of those campaigns, the Denver Broncos have won the crown with ease, riding the magic of Tim Tebow in 2011 and then the golden arm of Peyton Manning in each of the following three seasons. In each of those years, Denver was able to at least reach the second round, including a trip to the Super Bowl in 2013.

The only time the division sent multiple teams to the playoffs was the aforementioned campaign of 2013, when the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers also reached the postseason. Coming into 2015, the AFC West appears more open than ever, with the Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers all having legitimate chances to take the crown. The Oakland Raiders won’t be challenging on that level, but expect a much improved club.

Denver still remains the favorite until knocked off its perch. The Broncos finished 12-4 last season but lost in their first playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional round, a shocking defeat. The loss prompted general manager John Elway to fire head coach John Fox, replacing him with Gary Kubiak. Kubiak had plenty of talented Houston Texans and only reached the playoffs twice, so his resume is not the caliber of Fox, who once led Jake Delhomme to the Super Bowl.

Kubiak’s system also asks Manning to play much more from under center while rolling out and performing bootlegs. At 39 years old, this is a tall order. While the signing of guard Evan Mathis this week was brilliant, the Broncos have ample questions on both the offensive and defensive lines. Can Ty Sambrailo and Ryan Harris hold up on the edges? Are Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe – when he returns from a four-game suspension – good enough to stop the run without a quality nose tackle?

In addition, the Chiefs are healthy and loaded. After going 9-7 last season against a tough schedule and without Derrick Johnson, Jeff Allen, Mike DeVito and Eric Berry for all or most of it, Kansas City is primed for a big year. Head coach Andy Reid is in his third year with the Chiefs, and has a cavalcade of weapons in free-agent signing Jeremy Maclin, tight end Travis Kelce, slot receiver/returner De’Anthony Thomas and All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles.

On defense, the Chiefs finished second in points allowed in 2014 and are returning Johnson, DeVito and Berry with the addition of Tyvon Branch. This group has the potential to finish with the best defense in the league.

San Diego is in the hunt after extending quarterback Philip Rivers and drafting running back Melvin Gordon. The Chargers also stole away left guard Orlando Franklin in free agency and have a terrific secondary with Brandon Flowers, Eric Weddle and Jason Verrett. Provided the Chargers can survive without tight end Antonio Gates for the first four games, this is a team that could win 10 games and be in the mix.

The AFC West will be a horse race, and don’t be surprised if the team named after the species is left in the dust.

  • 100%