AFC West Title Race Is Wide Open

AFC West Title

Going into Week 4, the race for the AFC West title is very much in play as the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, and Las Vegas Raiders have performed better than expected. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell broke down each team’s chance of winning the division based on ESPN’s Football Power Index. It seems the Kansas City Chiefs may not be the dominant force they once were.

AFC West Title Race Is Still Open Going Into Week 4

Broncos Have Done Enough To Be Viable Contenders

Many analysts have wondered if the Broncos win streak is merely due to an easy schedule. Each of their first three opponents are 0-3 so far. However, you can’t argue with numbers. “Broncos have dominated their competition through three weeks, outscoring teams 76-26,” says Barnwell. “Those 26 points even understate how effective Vic Fangio’s unit has been.”

Barnwell says that despite the ease of schedule for the first three weeks, Denver has done exactly what good teams do to make them potential division winners. “Even as the Broncos face stiffer competition, they should still be a competitive team. If they go 7-7 the rest of the way, that would get them to 10-7 [making] their first playoff berth since the franchise won the Super Bowl in 2015… they’ve already done enough to make themselves viable contenders for the division title.”

Outstanding defensive play and efficient performances by Teddy Bridgewater have led to victories thus far. The first three opponents tried to attack Denver’s run game, which only made their passing game stronger. The true tests will be against teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns. That being said, following the Martingale system for those difficult matchups will likely get any bettor a substantial reward.

The Chiefs Chances of Winning AFC West Are Diminishing

With two losses in the first three weeks, the FPI suggests that Kansas City has only a 63.1 percent chance of making the playoffs altogether. The Chiefs offense hasn’t been as explosive as in previous years and Patrick Mahomes currently ranks fourth in total QBR. He has faced a lot of coverages designed to prevent the big plays.

The Chiefs have been uncharacteristic in turning the ball over – they did a lot of that over the past two weeks. Added to this is the fact they haven’t been efficient in their run game. Making matters even worse is a lackluster defense. They have allowed 95 points through three games, second-most of any team.

Chargers Are Stopping Opponents’ Passing Game

The Chargers defense has been powerful. It has been working to their advantage letting opponents run, while snuffing out the big plays in their passing game. Justin Herbert’s velocity and ball placement have been remarkable through three games. His completion percentage is sitting at 69.8, a solid improvement from his rookie year completion percentage of 66.6 percent.

Meanwhile, Mike Williams has become a valuable member of the offense and he has been used in a completely different way from his first four seasons. To start this season, he has topped 80 receiving yards in three consecutive weeks.

Raiders Offense Has Picked Up

The Raiders offense has been very impressive, but ultimately they are an average team that has caught a few breaks. They recovered all five of their fumbles on offense and they’ve been very successful on third downs.

It should be acknowledged that Derek Carr has played excellent football through three weeks. No other quarterback throws downfield as frequently as Carr. His 36 deep passes are seven more than anyone else. He has completed 50 percent, above the league average of 44 percent.

The race for the AFC West title isn’t as clear-cut as originally assumed. We’ll see if the Chiefs can claw back their dominant status.

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