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2023 Best-Case/Worst-Case: AFC West

Justin Simmons and the Broncos D are ready to put together another stellar campaign.

Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Denver Broncos


  • HC Sean Payton

  • RT Mike McGlinchey

  • LG Ben Powers

  • DE Zach Allen

  • DE Frank Clark


  • HC Nathaniel Hackett

  • DE Dre’Mont Jones

  • OT Calvin Anderson


  • Exercised fifth-year option on WR Jerry Jeudy

Impact Draft Picks

  • WR Marvin Mims Jr. – Rd. 2 (#63)

  • ILB Drew Sanders – Rd. 3 (#67)

Best-Case: 11 - 6, 1st in the AFC West

Maybe we were a year early on crowning the Denver Broncos. After a season in which nearly everything went wrong for the Broncos, could they really win the AFC West in 2023? It might seem crazy, but I believe they can.

Can is the operative word here (because this is still a division with the Kansas City Chiefs and a still-breathing Patrick Mahomes), but in the Best-Case scenario, the Broncos have the goods to make a surprise run. Sean Payton replacing Nathaniel Hackett as head coach is an upgrade like going from driving a PT Cruiser to driving an Aston Martin DB9 – it's just superior in every way conceivable.

Of course, there's also the issue of quarterback Russell Wilson, who endured easily the worst season of his career in 2022 (and even put his Hall of Fame candidacy in jeopardy). If Russ can't improve, then the Broncos season is toast. But there's reason to believe that Payton can get the best out of Russ – or at the very least, bring him back to an acceptable level. Throw in an offensive line that saw significant additions in the offseason, a deep skill-position group, and a very dangerous defense, and the pieces are there for a huge rebound season.

Worst-Case: 6 - 11, 4th in the AFC West

Even with the addition of Payton, this is still a flawed team. Russ was miserable last year, and now he's transitioning to his third offensive coordinator in three years. That's usually not a recipe for immediate success. Swapping Hackett for Payton was a no-brainer, but that won't guarantee a rise up the AFC West standings.

The offensive line was also in shambles last year, and while the additions of Mike McGlinchey and Ben Powers will help, it usually takes time for an offensive line to jell. And while the Broncos might have depth among their skill position players, that doesn't necessarily mean they're that good. #1 receiver Jerry Jeudy has been on the "breakout-watch" his entire career, while #2 Courtland Sutton has exactly one 1,000-yard season in five years. Starting running back Javonte Williams is coming off an ACL injury, while the entire tight end room is basically unknown.

The departure of Dre'Mont Jones will also test the defensive line, though the addition of Zach Allen should mitigate that somewhat. The bigger issue will likely be at #2 corner, where second-year Damarri Mathis will be targeted early and often opposite the lockdown Pat Surtain II. If he can't step up and punish offenses for going his way, a threatening Broncos defense will be neutered. Combine that will an anemic offense, and the Broncos will be back at the bottom of the AFC West.

Will Travis Kelce's knee injury cause issues down the road?

Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Kansas City Chiefs


  • RT Jawaan Taylor

  • DE Charles Omenihu

  • LT Donovan Smith


  • LT Orlando Brown Jr.

  • WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

  • RT Andrew Wylie

  • S Juan Thornhill

  • OC Eric Bieniemy


  • DT Chris Jones is currently holding-out in the hopes of securing a new, long-term contract

Impact Draft Picks

  • DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah – Rd. 1 (#31)

  • WR Rashee Rice – Rd. 2 (#55)

Best-Case: 14 - 3, 1st in the AFC West

As long as Patrick Mahomes is playing quarterback and Andy Reid is coaching, the Kansas City Chiefs have to be considered the favorite to not only win the division, but also to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl yet again. It's really that simple.

Mahomes is the best QB in the league, Travis Kelce is the best tight end in the league, and Chris Jones might be the best defensive tackle in the league (save for Aaron Donald). Their offensive line is excellent. The defense is littered with rising young talent. The receivers are iffy, but we've seen enough of Mahomes by now to know that – at least in Kansas City – it's the QB that makes the receiver, and not the other way around.

Are there some holes on the Chiefs roster? Sure, but that doens't really matter. Mahomes will do Mahomes things, Reid will do Reid things, Kelce and Jones will continue to dominate at their positions, and the Chiefs will end up in the AFC Championship like they always do.

Worst-Case: 8 - 9, 3rd in the AFC West

There are some cracks starting to show in the Chiefs "dynasty" – if you can really call it that (two Super Bowls does not make a dynasty, people). The Chiefs will take on the Detroit Lions in Week 1, and they won't have the services of Jones, who is holding out, and potentially Kelce, who hyperextended his knee in practice. That's two of the Chiefs three most important players missing, and that's impossible to replace.

Now, it's a good bet that Kelce returns for Week 2, but will he be at full strength? He turns 34 in October and has taken a lot of punishment over the years. If he's beginning to decline, the Chiefs offense, which is already lacking proven playmakers, will suffer. Meanwhile the loss of Chris Jones, for however long, could cripple an already-suspect Chiefs defense. They lost stalwart defensive end Frank Clark and impact safety Juan Thornhill in the offseason and, and this could be a killing blow to a defense that absolutely needs Jones' presence in the middle.

If we were a little early in proclaiming the Broncos kings of the AFC West last year, perhaps we were a little early on the demise of the Chiefs too. The loss of Tyreek Hill didn't ruin the Chiefs, but the loss of Kelce and Jones very well could. Mahomes and Reid are too good at what they do for the Chiefs to fall too far down the standings, missing the playoffs and Mahomes' first losing season could be in play.

Maxx Crosby is the face of a ferocious Raiders pass rush.

Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Las Vegas Raiders


  • QB Jimmy Garoppolo

  • WR Jakobi Meyers

  • S Marcus Epps

  • CB Marcus Peters


  • QB Derek Carr

  • TE Darren Waller

  • TE Foster Moreau

  • QB Jarrett Stidham


  • RB Josh Jacobs placed under Franchise Tag

Impact Draft Picks

  • DE Tyree Wilson – Rd. 1 (#7)

  • TE Michael Mayer – Rd. 2 (#35)

Best-Case: 9 - 8, 3rd in the AFC West

After a disappointing follow-up to the Las Vegas Raiders surprising playoff run in 2021, the Raiders decided to cut bait with longtime quarterback Derek Carr. His replacement? The one, the only, Jimmy Garoppolo!

And while on the surface going from Carr to Garoppolo might not seem like that big of an upgrade, Garoppolo has plenty of familiarity with head coach Josh McDaniels, and that could lead to far more success in the passing game than what the Raiders were getting from Carr. Keep this in mind: the Raiders have some elite talents.

Davante Adams remains one of the premier wide receivers in the game, and Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby make for the league's most threatening defensive end tandem. The addition of Tyree Wilson is also particularly interesting, because in doing so the Raiders added one of the most athletic players in the NFL to an already-dangerous defensive line. Throw in a sneaky-good offensive line and one of the league's better rushers in Josh Jacobs, and the Raiders could have enough to make a run at one of the AFC's final Wild Card spots.

Worst-Case: 3 - 14, 4th in the AFC West

Let's face it: this is probably going to be a rough year for the Raiders. Between their uninspiring head coach/quarterback pairing, their utter lack of viable weapons outside of Adams and Jacobs, and the disastrous state of their secondary and linebackers, this could be a looooong season for the Black & Silver.

There's also no telling what state Jacobs will be in, given he missed most of training camp due to a contentious contract negotiation. If he can't be the dynamic playmaker he was last year, even more will be asked of the 31-year-old Garoppolo – and Jimmy G has not proven to have success in a heavy passing attack.

It's the defense, though, that will likely be the primary culprit for the Raiders woes. Outside of Jones and Crosby, there's very little to get excited about. Wilson could become a star, but right now he's incredibly raw, and expecting him to be a big-time player in year one is silly. If their defensive line isn't literally catapulting offensive linemen into the endzones on every place, the Raiders defense will be easily exploitable – and with an offense that probably won't be that explosive, that adds up to a miserable season and a shot at the #1 pick.

Can Austin Ekeler put together another monster season in Los Angeles?

Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels from District of Columbia, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Los Angeles Chargers


  • OC Kellen Moore

  • ILB Eric Kendricks


  • S Nasir Adderley

  • OLB Kyle Van Noy

  • OLB Drue Tranquill

  • OG Matt Feiler


  • QB Justin Herbert signs a five-year extension

Impact Draft Picks

  • WR Quentin Johnston – Rd. 1 (#21)

  • OLB Tuli Tuipulotu – Rd. 1 (#54)

Best-Case: 13 - 4, 1st in the AFC West

Every year we do this. We hype up the Los Angeles Chargers, and then they blow it. It's a tradition at this point. But what if it actually comes to fruition? In 2023, it's possible.

With quarterback Justin Herbert inking a massive contract-extension, the Chargers were always going to be limited in who they could add in the offseason, but they still did a good job of building around their sensational QB. First-round pick Quentin Johnston adds a tremendous speed element to the Chargers offense alongside steady possession target Keenan Allen and sideline specialist Mike Williams. With a solid offensive line and a running game powered by 2022 touchdown leader Austin Ekeler, the Chargers offense has a chance to be special.

Most important, though, was the addition of Kellen Moore as the Chargers new offensive coordinator. In 2022, Herbert was limited by Joe Lombardi's conservative play-calling. Moore, who was brought in after being let go by the Dallas Cowboys, spearheaded some of most potent offenses in the league, and his addition will do wonders in opening up the Chargers' passing attack. If the Chargers offense can find its groove, and if the defense can (finally) stay healthy, the Chargers could end up as division champions and find themselves in play for the AFC's top seed.

Worst-Case: 6 - 11, 4th in the AFC West

Chargers gonna Charger. If there's one thing we can count on in the NFL, it's that the Chargers will find a way to screw up. Whether its predictable injuries or blown leads in the playoffs, the Chargers are just one of those cursed franchises.

Justin Herbert is one of the better QBs in the league, but he has a lot to prove after becoming one of the league's highest-paid players. The weapons are strong, but there's also uncertainty. Allen is getting older. Williams is inconsistent. Johnston is an unknown. Ekeler is pissed after getting hosed in the offseason while trying to secure a long-term deal. The talent is there but getting it all to work in concert will be a challenge, especially during Moore's first year at the helm.

The biggest question mark, though, has to be head coach Brandon Staley. After his first year was marred by insane fourth-down decision-making, Staley was almost too conservative at times during 2023. He overcorrected – and then his Chargers blew the biggest playoff lead in NFL history. Not great. If Staley can't hack it, the Chargers will be brought down by proxy. If that's the case, a last-place finish could be possible.

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