Let’s get this out of the way. I cover the Kansas City Chiefs and root for the team, but I’m an NFL analyst first and foremost. It’s why I have a job.
As we get closer to training camp, we can go more in-depth on each team in the AFC West and talk about their strengths and weaknesses. For now, take this for what it’s worth. The Chiefs are the best team in the AFC West, perhaps by a significant margin.
The Denver Broncos are coming off a Super Bowl and deserve ample respect, but they went through the wringer this offseason. Denver watched Mailk Jackson, Evan Mathis, Danny Trevathan, Brock Osweiler and David Bruton leave in free agency. The signings are underwhleming, with Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung being the headliners.
Denver also brought in Mark Sanchez and drafted Paxton Lynch to compete at quarterback. Sanchez will win the job in 2016, with Lynch the long-term hope. Some will argue that Sanchez is better than lat year’s combination of Osweiler and Peyton Manning, but that’s an incomplete discussion.
Last year, Sanchez played in four games and threw a quartet of both touchdowns and interceptions in 91 attempts. The year before, Sanchez played in nine games with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also fumbled thrice. Meanwhile, Osweiler and Manning threw for 19 touchdowns and 23 interceptions combined.
What does this tell us? That not much is going to change. Sanchez is good for 1-2 turnovers per game and considering he has run for 451 yards in six seasons, he isn’t much for mobility. Denver fans have talked about Sanchez being surrounded by the most talent of his career, but that’s false. In New York, Sanchez had a great offensive line (Alan Faneca, D’Brickshaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold), the top-rated running game and a top-3 defense.
Denver has the defense but nothing else. The Broncos ranked 17th in rushing yards and 13th in yards per carry. The offensive line is middling at best and the tight end position is bare with Virgil Green penciled in to start. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are excellent receivers, perhaps the only thing going for Sanchez (in New York, he had Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes at their peaks).
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos lost two of their best players. To dismiss that is insanity. Jackson was their best lineman and Trevathan the quarterback of the defense. Suddenly, they are discarded without thought. The defense will still be very good, but it will make a difference.
Lastly, Denver had literally no injuries last season sans Ryan Clady (who has been traded to the Jets) and Ty Sambrailo. The Broncos are likely to sustain a few more bumps and bruises. It’s the NFL.
While Kansas City has it warts, they are not as pronounced. The Chiefs need a second receiver, but can mitigate that with Travis Kelce. They also need Phillip Gaines to stay healthy and even so, are perhaps still short a corner. The Justin Houston situation is also concerning, although the team has announced he’ll play this season and perhaps early on. All of these things absolutely matter.
The rest of the team is rock solid. Alex Smith is coming off the best year of his career and has proven to be a good player if nothing else. Jamaal Charles is coming back from injury and rejoining the deepest backfield in football. James O’Shaughnessy is also back along with Gaines.
The offensive line also stands to be much better with the addition of Mitch Schwartz. This has been a shaky unit over the years, but Schwartz and the improved Eric Fisher now anchor a talented group. Center Mitch Morse is also going into his second year after a terrific rookie campaign.
Defensively, the Chiefs are stacked. Few teams can boost the talent of Marcus Peters, Eric Berry, Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Jaye Howard and Dontari Poe. On many teams, any of those players would be the first or second-best on the defense. For Kansas City, one of them checks in seventh.
In totality, the Chiefs are a better team than the Broncos. They weren’t in 2015, but they clearly are heading into 2016. Denver deserves it due, but Kansas City is the superior team at this juncture.