L.A. Move Could Change AFC West For Worse


It’s Week 13 of the NFL season, and with it comes the first of our annual two-game series against our division rivals, the Oakland Raiders. While division games are always exciting, this one promises to be even better, namely because the Kansas City Chiefs and Raiders are both fighting for the playoffs right now.

This game hasn’t held as much meaning for both teams in over a decade, with both franchises experiencing years of futility and frustration. The only thing better than a win against the Raiders is a win against the Raiders that severely damages their ability to make the postseason; that’s something the Chiefs can deliver this weekend.

Sadly, these divisional games, and the AFC West in general, are in danger. As we all know, the NFL has been flirting with getting not one, but two teams back into the city of Los Angeles as soon as possible. While a potential move into L.A. would be difficult to accomplish, three teams have expressed genuine interest in putting the work in to make such a thing possible. Those teams, of course, are the St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers, and Raiders.

The thing about a move to L.A. by any of these teams is that there is a possibility that divisional realignment comes with it. While the need for realignment drops significantly if one of the two teams relocating are the St. Louis Rams, a move by both AFC West teams into L.A. would be met with some opposition from the League.

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, who is quickly solidifying himself as a mover and shaker among owners in the NFL, is one of six owner on the NFL’s L.A. Opportunities Committee. Even he has some reservations about both the Raiders and the Chargers moving into the same stadium. Clark contends that without a divisional realignment, allowing both the Raiders and the Chargers to share one stadium presents a competitive advantage, effectively giving each team nine home games as opposed to eight. It gets even trickier when one considers the possibility of the two teams meeting in the playoffs – an ‘away’ playoff game in your home stadium, anyone?

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Unfortunately, Hunt is right. A move by both the Raiders and the Chargers will necessitate divisional realignments. The easy answer if both of those teams move is that one of the AFC West teams will simply swap with the St. Louis Rams of the NFC West. The likely candidate there is Oakland, namely because the NFL will see ample opportunity to exploit the already existing Bay Area rivalry between Oakland and the San Francisco 49ers.

Regardless, losing either of these AFC West teams to realignment would be a travesty. The AFC West’s four teams, the Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, and Raiders, have been together in the same division since the inaugural season of the AFL in 1960. Sure, a few other teams have come and gone from the division, namely the Seattle Seahawks, but these core four teams have been playing against each other for over half a century. The AFC West is one of the NFL’s most storied divisions, and is worth preserving.

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Yesterday, it was reported that the NFL is expected to vote on the L.A. moves at the start of 2016. Even then, 24 owners have to approve the proposal of a relocating team, and given the circumstances, something likely won’t be done until two teams have their proposals approved. Even so, a move to L.A. is getting closer and closer for two teams in the NFL. It remains to be seen what that will mean for the AFC West, but the odds aren’t great.

Enjoy Raiders week, Addicts. Depending on how the cards fall, we could be saying goodbye to a beloved rivalry sooner rather than later.