Best and worst case scenarios for every team in AFC West
The AFC West is one of the best divisions in the NFL. What is the best and worst-case scenario for every team in the division?
The AFC West is one of the strongest—if not the strongest—divisions in the entire NFL. Every team in the division has a top 10-12 quarterback, every team has an over/under win total of 8.5 or better, and every team added a lot of talent this offseason.
With the seventh playoff spot in each conference added a couple of years ago, every team in the AFC West has a shot to make the playoffs, but basic math and NFL logic say that it is extremely unlikely that all four of Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles all win 12 (or even 11) regular season games or more.
What is the ceiling for every team in the AFC West this season and what is the floor? What are the most games that each team could realistically win this regular season and what are the fewest? Let’s review each team and how their seasons could realistically go in 2022.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Best Case Scenario
Even before the Davante Adams trade, the Raiders were flush with offensive talent with Derek Carr, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, Kenyan Drake, and Josh Jacobs. Adding one of the best receivers of the past half-decade makes the Vegas receiving core amongst the best in the entire NFL. They were the 5th seed in the AFC last season despite turmoil involving Jon Gruden, Henry Ruggs, and Damon Arnette and now they have stability at head coach with Josh McDaniels and it’s unlikely they lose two young players again due to legal reasons.
In 2021, the Raiders had one of the best pass rushes in the NFL and they swapped out Yannick Ngakoue for Chandler Jones, who was a lot better than the former last season. Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones could very well be on the best pass-rushing duos in the league this year, possibly improving a unit that was already borderline elite last season.
Overall, after Josh McDaniels’ first head coaching stint with Denver over a decade ago, it’s unlikely he’s as big of a disaster as he was back then. If everything falls in the right place for Vegas, they could win the division for the first time in two decades this year. Their schedule is very tough but they could make it through alive if their stars thrive.
Best Case Scenario: 12-5, AFC West Champions, AFC Championship Game appearance
Worst Case Scenario
The Raiders are not your typical team projected to land in last place, as their 8.5 over/under projected win total is crazy high. For context, according to Draft Kings, the next closet projected last-place teams are the Steelers and Giants, who are each pinned at over/under 7 wins.
Despite the additions of Davante Adams and Chandler Jones, it is possible that the newly acquired stars either don’t fit in as well as planned and Josh McDaniels is no better of a coach and/or leader than he was a decade ago.
It’s also very possible that the back seven of their defense holds the overall unit back and the great pass rush is unable to cover up holes in the secondary and they get lit up by the elite passers in the division. Their offensive line is also an underwhelming group. Kolton Miller is borderline elite but Alex Leatherwood was horrendous as a rookie and Brandon Parker is also not a good overall blocker. In addition, Andre James and John Simpson were both solid last year but are far from established pass protectors. Derek Carr is not a great player under pressure so a poor offensive line may cancel out their elite pass catchers.
In the end, I am personally not high on the Raiders and think they are the clear-cut last-place team in the AFC West, which is a shame since they could threaten to win a couple of other divisions in the NFL. One of the four teams in the west will likely be the odd one out and it could be the Raiders for several reasons. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that a poor start and McDaniels not adjusting well could snowball into a nightmare season for a team that’s looking to take the next step and win a playoff game.
Worst Case Scenario: 6-11, Fourth place in the AFC West, Miss Playoffs
7-10, Fourth place in the AFC West, Miss Playoffs