For the AFC West, there were plenty of expectations for the 2017 NFL Season as a division. Those expectations fell short less than two weeks ago when the Kansas City Chiefs lost their Wild Card game against the Tennessee Titans. Even with that loss, things fell apart for the Chiefs much earlier in the season. But things also fell apart for all the other AFC West teams at some point during the season.
The season began with a high expectation for the Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. The Denver Broncos managed to squeeze in the conversation, while the newly located ‘Los Angeles’ Chargers dwindled into nothingness. As the weeks crept on, Kansas City would become a clear front-runner, and Denver and Oakland would stall. On the other hand, Los Angeles managed to sneak up on the field and seriously turn some heads.
But by season’s end, the Chiefs managed to hang on and claim the division with an emphatic win over the Chargers to decide the division. After that point, virtually every game had minor implications on the goals set for each team in the West.
Plenty has surfaced after K.C.’s disappointing exit and the entirety of the AFC West has more than enough on their plates going forward. There are holes to be filled and questions to be answered, and Denver and Oakland have addressed some of those issues already.
Oakland made the biggest move that impacted the division. They fired Jack Del Rio and hire Jon Gruden. Gruden is familiar with the organization and has been a prized head coach that has been sought after since leaving football.
“It’s really rare to get an opportunity to come back where it all started.”
Take a behind the scenes look at Jon Gruden being introduced as our Head Coach.
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) January 12, 2018
Gruden’s biggest challenge will be to repair a defense that struggled mightily in 2017, as well as guide a young offense that has the potential to be one of the best in the league. But Gruden has proven himself valuable numerous times over his career. Waking up the Raiders will be his number one priority, and the rest of the league should be on watch.
For the Broncos, coach Vance Joseph was able to keep his job but quickly changed the personnel on his staff. Denver is officially in the quarterback market and has options with the 4th overall pick, or through free agency. But the Broncos have many other issues to address, such as a broken offensive line as well as adding depth at receiver and running back. They also need to look to stabilize the front seven of an aging defense.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) January 12, 2018
The Chiefs issues vary from simple fixes to complex decisions. Coach Andy Reid has failed yet again to get the team deep into the playoffs. Alex Smith has been great on this team, but it seems that he is not the answer at quarterback and the Patrick Mahomes show could start soon. Finally, the defensive play seemed spotty all season and, surprisingly, the cornerback position has gone somewhat south.
Finally, the Chargers showed many signs of being the team that could become the favorites going into the 2018 season. Los Angeles showed glimpses of being a young team that was on the verge of finding its playoff groove, but couldn’t come through late in the season. Now that the team has a sort of blueprint and their strengths have been discovered, Los Angeles may have less to work on than many people think.
99 days until the #NFLDraft.
But who’s counting? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/D0DlRWO6ju
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) January 17, 2018
During this offseason, the moves that these four teams make will be crucial to their success. It will be extremely interesting to see what is done to improve their chance to make an impact in the league next season following this universally difficult one.
During the next few weeks, offensive, defensive, special teams, and all other needs of each AFC West team will be broken down. Check in next week for QBs, receivers, and running backs.