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  • Writer's pictureMason Dalley

2023 NFL Season Preview: AFC WEST

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

Team Totals, Player Props, and other Season Long Picks

Yahoo Sports



As the calendar turns to August, the smell of pigskin fills the air. And with that smell of Pigskin, we have NFL previews to take a look at. There is no better place to start a preview series than the division hosting the reigning Super Bowl Champions. Let's let it rip.



Denver Broncos

O/U: 8.5

Super Bowl: +4000

AFC Champion: +2500

AFC West Winner: +500


2022 Record: 5-12(7-10 ATS)

2022 Scoring Offense: 32nd(DVOA 29th)

2022 Scoring Defense: 15th(DVOA 10th)

2022 Special Teams: 15th(DVOA 29th)


Free Agency


Additions: RT Mike McGlinchey (49ers), TE Chris Manhertz (Jaguars), CB Tremon Smith (Texans), IDL Zach Allen (Cardinals), P Riley Dixon (Rams), RB Tony Jones (Seahawks), LG Ben Powers (Ravens), QB Jarrett Stidham (Raiders), WR Marquez Callaway (Saints), RB Samaje Perine (Bengals)



Departures: RG Graham Glasgow (Lions, RB Chase Edmonds (Buccaneers), LT Calvin Anderson (Patriots), RB Mike Boone (Texans), TE Andrew Beck (Texans), TE Eric Saubert (Dolphins), IDL DeShawn Williams (Panthers), IDL Dre'Mont Jones (Seahawks), WR Freddie Swain (Dolphins), P Corliss Waitman (Patriots), LS Jacob Bobenmoyer (Raiders)


Draft

Round 2: Marvin Mims Jr.(63), Oklahoma WR

Round 3: Drew Sanders(67), Arkansas LB, Riley Moss(83) Iowa CB

Round 6: JL Skinner(183), Boise State S

Round 7: Alex Forsyth(257), Oregon C


Undrafted Free Agents

RB Jaleel McLaughlin, Youngstown State

RB Emanuel Wilson, Fort Valley State

TE Kris Leach, Kent State

TE/FB Nate AdkinsSouth Carolina

WR Taylor Grimes, Incarnate Word

WR Dallas Daniels, Jackson State

OL Henry Byrd, Princeton

OL Alex Palczewski, Illinois

OL Demontrey Jacobs USF

IDL PJ Mustipher, Penn State

LB Seth Benson Iowa

EDGE Thomas Incoom, Central Michigan

EDGE Marcus Haynes, Old Dominion

CB Art Green, Houston

CB Darrious Gaines, Western Colorado



2023 Preview


The Denver Broncos had their worst season in recent memory in 2022. For a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2015, the bar for worst season in recent memory is already low as it is, but it can be argued that no team had a worse season, or more damaging season in the long term, than the Denver Broncos.


Amidst ownership changing hands, the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame was looking to make a splash with their new team. The Broncos had been wallowing in mediocrity in the post "Von Miller isn't human" era, and haven't seen competent Quarterback play since 2014, which was the last good year of Peyton Manning's career. The Broncos have since trotted out 13 different starting quarterbacks since the 2016 NFL season, and haven't had a long term answer at the position since John Elway.


In an attempt to remedy that mediocrity, the Broncos positioned themselves to make the biggest move of the 2022 off-season; trade for Aaron Rodgers. They hired the Packers' Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to try and convince Rodgers to hold out for a trade. Hackett was last completely in charge of an offense when he was the play caller for the Jacksonville Jaguars from, 2016 to 2018. The Jags ranked 25th, 5th, and 31st in scoring offense during his tenure, and 23rd, 6th, and 27th in total yards in his time in Duvall. I am ignoring his Green Bay tenure because he wasn't the main play caller. Packers' head Coach Matt LeFleur was and still is the play caller and the Shanahan tree has proven over and over again that they can call an offense with the best of them.


As revealed on Pardon my Take, Nathaniel Hackett was not asked about football during the interview process, something that's pretty important to ask a prospective football coach if you ask me, and it became crystal clear that Hackett was not the man for the job, as he was fired in the middle of the season. This offseason the Broncos used what little draft capital they had to trade for the contract of Sean Payton, who is a proven NFL head coach and at worst his team's tread around .500.


There is reason for optimism as Payton comes in. At minimum the Broncos will be better on the margins and during situational football. I think they can improve schematically on offense too, but I also have severe doubts regarding the main reason why 2022 was so dour for the Broncos, Russell Wilson.


For a comparison from just two seasons ago, take a look at the chart below.


A regression of Passer rating, Completion Percentage yards and TD/INT ratio by that much cannot by singularly attributed to a bad coaching situation. Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hammler are great receiving options. The TE and RB situation were rocky, with Javonte Williams tearing his knee up and Albert Okwuegbunam being in and out of the lineup, but what is a QB you trade 2 1st round picks, 2 2nd round picks, a 5th round pick, and two pro bowl caliber contributors on either side of the ball if not someone who can elevate the roster no matter who they're surrounded by?? Especially one that's being paid a 5 year, $242,588,236 contract with $161,00,000 of it guaranteed?? It's a roster construction disaster to have that much allocated to a player who will in all likelihood never be worth it.


Wilson had career worsts in CMP%, TDs, TD%(3.3), INT%(2.3), Yards per Attempt(7.3), Sacks Taken(55), Sack%(10.2), and Sack Yards(368). The sack numbers are particularly enlightening because he was the worst in all of the NFL for both Sacks and Sack% in only 15 games played. A lot of Seattle's woes on offense were blamed on everyone but Russell Wilson when he was there. He has a great PR team because his 5'11 frame creates an inefficiency in his game. He has never thrown over the middle. In all likelihood because he can't see over the trenches. His target chart from 2022 is a prime example.


Wilson invites pressure with his playstyle, but in the past was able to use his athleticism and burst to spin out of trouble and find a receiver deep in busted coverage. He is entering his age 35 season and he is not who he was even 3 years ago. That deep ball magic was gone last year, him hitting the target only 35.6% of the time, good for 18th in the NFL. Without the deep ball being a weapon, he needs to be able to play from the pocket and hit receivers in rhythm, something he has never been able to do.


Sean Payton had success with a short quarterback in Drew Brees. This has lead pundits into believing that Wilson can replicate that success. It leaves out the part where the only similarities the two have is height. Brees just did not have the issues taking the check downs and hitting targets between 10-20 yards that Wilson has. It's just not a comparable situation, especially when looking at offensive line.


The Saints drafted and developed multiple All-Pro offensive lineman that Brees was the beneficiary of. The Broncos did bring in Tackle Mike McGlinchy and Guard Ben Powers to bolster the offensive line and help out negative rushing expected points added(EPA) per play, which in turn sets up the deep ball for WIlson to use as a weapon again.


The offensive improvement will help out a defense that was elite through the first half of the season. If the offense could have mustered just 18 PPG, they would have finished 10-7. Defense is harder to predict year over year due to injury and other variance, but I do think that their unit will stay in the top 10 range. The secondary is solid, led by Pat Surtain II and Justin Simmons, and the DLine is being bolstered by the addition of Zach Allen. Linebackers Alex Singleton and Josey Jewell will be filling gaps in the run game and holding up in middle of the field coverage. But that's all dependent on health and appropriate deployment by Vance Joseph, who isn't exactly a shining star of a defensive coordinator.


OVER OR UNDER

All in all I will be taking the Under(-105) for win total, the AFC is no walk in the park and I don't believe in Russell Wilson in any capacity.


PLAYER PROP

An interesting player Prop is Jerry Jeudy OVER 875.5 yards receiving, considering last year was as bad as it it can be and he still managed 972 yards. That feels like a lock to me and at -130 that is decent long term value.


EDITORS NOTE: TAKE THE UNDER THEY JUST LOST WR'S TIM PATRICK AND KJ HAMLER



Las Vegas Raiders

O/U: 7.5

Super Bowl: +4000

AFC Champion: +2800

AFC West Winner: +1400

Jeff Bottari/GettyImages


2022 Record: 6-11(8-9 ATS)

2022 Scoring Offense: 12th(DVOA 17th)

2022 Scoring Defense: 26th(DVOA 31st)

2022 Special Teams: 2nd(DVOA 12th)


Free Agency


Additions: QB Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers), TE Austin Hooper (Titans), WR Jakobi Meyers (Patriots), CB Brandon Facyson (Colts), WR Cam Sims (Commanders), LB Robert Spillane (Steelers), WR Phillip Dorsett (Texans), EDGE Jordan Willis (49ers), RT Justin Murray (Bills), CB Duke Shelley (Vikings), CB David Long (Rams), S Jaquan Johnson (Bills), S Marcus Epps (Eagles), LS Jacob Bobenmoyer (Broncos), O.J. Howard (Texans)



Departures: TE Darren Waller (trade with Giants), QB Derek Carr (Saints), EDGE Clelin Ferrell, LB Denzel Perryman (Texans), WR Mack Hollins (Falcons), IDL Andrew Billings (Bears), LS Trent Sieg (Cowboys), CB Sidney Jones (Bengals), QB Jarrett Stidham (Broncos)


Draft

Round 1: Tyree Wilson(7), Texas Tech EDGE

Round 2: Michael Mayer(35), Notre Dame TE

Round 3: Byron Young(70), Alabama IDL, Tre Tucker(100) Cincinnati WR

Round 4: Jakorian Bennett(104), Maryland CB, Aiden O'Connell(135) Purdue QB

Round 5: Christopher Smith II(170) Georgia S

Round 6: Amari Burney(203) Florida LB

Round 7: Nesta Jade Silvera(231) Arizona State IDL


Undrafted Free Agents

IDL David Agoha, NFL International Players Program

G McClendon Curtis, Chattanooga

S Jaydon Grant, Oregon State

CB Azizi Hearn, UCLA

EDGE Brock Martin, Oklahoma State

CB Jordan Perryman, Washington

EDGE Adam Plant, UNLV

TE John Shenker, Auburn

EDGE George Tarlas, Boise State

LB Drake Thomas, North Carolina State

T Dalton Wagner, Arkansas



2023 Preview


The Las Vegas Raiders are a confusing team. They have a confusing head coach in Josh McDaniels, who has never had a winning season. They have a confusing quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo. Jimmy G has issues staying on the field but when he plays, the team he's on usually wins regardless of how he's performing.


What isn't confusing is how awesome the Vegas offensive line was. They averaged 4.93 line yards per rush and they ran it up the gut 63% of the time. They used Josh Jacobs to batter away at the 2nd level after Dylan Parham, Andre James, and Alex Bars mauled the interior line. With most NFL teams switching to Nickel as a base this proved very effective against the overall smaller players on defense in a 4-2-5 package. They were 6th in Sack rate at 5.9%. Kolten Miller has become one of the best Left Tackles in the NFL and it's showing how little teams were able to get to the Quarterback. You hope for this to continue if you're invested in the team.


Davante Adams is coming off another stellar season. Racking up 100 catches for 1,516 yards and 14 touchdowns. The addition of Jakobi Meyers adds another wideout defenses have to account for and the combination of Adams, Renfrow, and Meyers will force nickel coverage for the run game to take advantage of, along with providing 1 on 1 coverage for said receivers to abuse. The addition of Michael Mayer will alleviate the loss of Darren Waller and McDaniels will be able to scheme up a productive rookie season for him.


The defense will be hard pressed to be worse than they were in 2022. Marcus Epps and David Long provide experience for a secondary that needs it desperately. Count on improvement from Divine Deablo in year 2 to steady the 2nd level, and the front 4 has a chance to be special. If Chandler Jones is just average, and Tyree Wilson and Byron Jones solidify themselves as NFL starters in their rookie seasons, that will be more than enough to let Maxx Crosby have a career season. He's improved year over year and 2022's 15 sack 81 pressure performance is the surface of his ceiling.


The really interesting aspect of this team that I think will ultimately determine the type of season they have, is if Aiden O'Connell starts more games than Jimmy G. The 4th rounder out of Purdue had an exceptional 2021 season, 3,712 yard, 71.6% completion percentage, 8.4 Yards per Attempt, and 28 TD's to 11 INT's. He came back for a 2022 season and it hurt his draft stock, but the young QB could win the starting job if McDaniels isn't too enamored with Jimmy G. O'Connell will take what's there and find a big play when he needs to. The great offensive line and stellar assortment of receiving options is perfect for a rookie QB to play behind and with.


OVER OR UNDER

If O'Connell is the starter, give me the over at +120. If it's Jimmy G, take that under at -140.


Player Prop

Maxx Crosby over 11.75 Sacks at +115 is stealing money. Take it.



Los Angeles Chargers

O/U: 9.5

Super Bowl: +2500

AFC Champion: +1300

AFC West Winner: +300

Doug Murray / Associated Press


2022 Record: 10-7(11-6-1 ATS)

2022 Scoring Offense: 13th(DVOA 19th)

2022 Scoring Defense: 22nd(DVOA 16th)

2022 Special Teams: 8th(DVOA 6th)


Free Agency


Additions: LB Eric Kendricks (Vikings)


Re-signings: IDL Morgan Fox, P J.K. Scott, RT Trey Pipkins, TE Donald Parham, CB Kemon Hall, K Cameron Dicker, LT Foster Sarell, QB Easton Stick


Departures: IDL Joe Gaziano (Falcons), RT Storm Norton (Saints), LB Drue Tranquill


Draft

Round 1: Quentin Johnson(21), TCU WR

Round 2: Tui Tuipulotu(54), USC EDGE

Round 3: Daiyan Henley(85), Washington LB

Round 4: Derius Davis(125), TCU WR

Round 5: Jordan McFadden(156), Clemson OT

Round 6: Scott Matlock(200), Boise State IDL

Round 7: Max Duggan(239), TCU QB


Undrafted Free Agents

EDGE Brevin Allen, Campbell

S Tyler Baker-Williams, NC State

C Johari Branch, Maryland

CB Cam Brown, Ohio State

WR Terrell Bynum, USC

IDL Jerrod Clark, Coastal Carolina

RB Elijah Dotson, Northern Colorado

LB Nathan East, Samford

TE Michael Ezeike, UCLA

EDGE Andrew Farmer, Lane College

S AJ FInley, Ole Miss

RB Tyler Hoosman, North Dakota

LB Mikel Jones, Syracuse

IDL Terrance Lang, Colorado

T Nicolas Melsop, Delta State

CB Tiawan Mullen, Indiana

CB AJ Uzodinma, Ball Sate

WR Pokey Wilson, FSU


2023 Preview


The Los Angeles Chargers are always the quirked up analytics driven blog boy pick to do something big in an NFL season. They play entertaining football with a gunslinger at QB with a variety of weapons at his disposal. Did I just describe Phillip Rivers or Justin Herbert led offenses??? The Chargers have had different coaches and different QB's but their DNA fasting back to their inception and to their AFC contender days in 80's is to have a top 10 QB in the league with a high flying offense, only to have their hopes dashed by a hard nosed team.


Will 2023 be any different? Is this the year the Chargers finally prove to be a threat in the AFC and even threaten the big bad wolf in Kansas City? It all depends on two aspects of the team. One is completely controllable and the other is entirely luck based. How will they use their superweapon QB in Justin Herbert and how healthy can they be?


I'll touch on the health first, since that is more touch and go. Injury luck plays a major factor in every NFL season, and the Chargers historically suffer very poor injury luck. Last year alone Keenan Allen, Joey Bosa, JC Jackson, Jalen Guyton, Donald Parham, Rashawn Slater, and Mike Williams all missed the majority of the season. It's difficult to be good when you lose that many good NFL players, let alone the All-Pro caliber players Joey Bosa, JC Jackson, Rashawn Slater, and Mike Williams. If they can get production out of those guys this season, that's already another win or two. That is obviously easier said than done but you hope for health just in general in the NFL.


The other aspect of the Chargers that will determine their season is how they use Justin Herbert. Justin Herbert has an absurd arm. He is capable of throws that put him in company with Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. So obviously you take that arm talent and have him throw outs and hitches more than any other pass concept. Oh and you draw up a million checkdowns for a Quarterback that can flick his wrist and drop a 60 yard dime.



With an average of 2.72 seconds to throw he ended up with an average depth of target of 7.0. 30th in the NFL. It's unfathomable. Herbert was dinged up, but not dinged up enough to play offense so conservatively that you avoid the strengths of your most important player.


With the departure of Joe Lombardi and the arrival of Kellen Moore, the Chargers offense should be much better. Not just because Justin Herbert will be able to target the middle of the field with Moore in charge, but because I think Moore understands that it's important for offensive lineman to take steps forward on offense. The Chargers threw the ball 63.8% of the time with a dinged up quarterback. Instead of using Austin Ekeler, Sony Michel, or running backs off the street, Lombardi insisted on hitches and outs for a short yardage game, which isn't tenable for a team that has a top 16 at best defense. The game becomes longer, offensive lineman get worse at pass protection as the game goes on, the defense is on the field more often. Analytically passing is more efficient than running. It's undeniable. As San Francisco, Green Bay, Miami, Dallas, Philly, and other teams that rely heavily on analytics have shown in recent years, a creative, efficient running game sets up explosive plays in the pass game. It doesn't have to be off of play-action either. Forcing a team into a 3 linebacker lineup is more advantageous for the pass game than anything else in football.


Kellen Moore who has been the OC of the Cowboys for all of Dak's career, is now in Los Angeles and should transform the way the offense looks. Look for a Pass to run ratio in the 55-45 range. You'll see more downfield concepts and crossers that Dak Prescott took advantage off all the time. Quentin Johnson and Mike Williams will be schemed open instead of being forced into 50/50 ball situations for explosive plays. The offense should go from boring and mediocre to explosive and efficient based on playbook alone. Justin Herbert has a real chance to take a massive leap forward in production in 2023, and that's without going into banking on year over year improvement someone of his caliber shows.


The defense just needs to be average. Brandon Staley deploys a heavy cover 2 system that forces the ball underneath and invites the run. In the Rams this was easier to run because he had peak Aaron Donald and peak Jalen Ramsey lining up for him. Joey Bosa and Derwin James just need to be a reasonable facsimile of Doanld and Ramsey for the system to thrive, and with a secondary featuring James, Michael Davis, and Asante Samuel Jr., it should be very difficult to pass on the Chargers. They need to be better against the run. 5.4 Y/A ins unacceptable for a team with championship aspirations. Kenneth Murray Jr and Eric Kendricks have to fill gap assignments and Sebastian Joseph-Day needs to do damage against offensive lines. If they can just be average, it will be enough.


OVER OR UNDER

All in all, reason and logic is telling me that the Chargers will have a 11 win season at minimum. It's the Chargers. Nothing is guaranteed. 10-7 should be the floor of this team. The over is at -115. That's an easy take in my opinion.


Player Prop

Justin Herbert is at +650 to lead the NFL in passing yards. With a massive improvements in offensive coordinator. I love those odds.





Kansas City Chiefs

O/U: 11.5

Super Bowl: +600

AFC Champion: +350

AFC West Winner: -175

Jamie Squire/Getty Images


2022 Record: 14-3(8-11-1)

2022 Scoring Offense: 1st(DVOA 1st)

2022 Scoring Defense: 16th(DVOA 17th)

2022 Special Teams: 31st(DVOA 19th)


Free Agency





Draft


Round 1: Felix Anudike-Uzomah(31), Kansas State EDGE

Round 2: Rashee Rice(55), Southern Methodist WR

Round 3: Wanya Morris(92), Oklahoma OT

Round 4: Chamarri Cooper(119), Virginia Tech S

Round 5: BJ Thompson(166), Stephen F. Austin EDGE

Round 6: Keondre Coburn(194), Texas IDL

Round 7: Nic Jones(250), Nic Jones CB


Undrafted Free Agents

EDGE Truman Jones, Harvard

OG Jerome Carvin, Tennessee

S Anthony Cook, Texas

CB Khaleef Hailassie, Western Kentucky

C Anderson Hardy, Appalachian State

LB Cam Jones, Indiana

LB Isaiah Moore, North Carolina State

S Isaiah Norman, Marshall

RB Deneric Prince, Tulsa

WR Nikko Remigio, Fresno State

CB Reese Taylor, Purdue

CB Anthony Witherstone, Merrimac

OL Chukwuebuka Jason Godrick, NFL International Players Program

CB Ekow Boye-Doe, Kansas State



2023 Preview


What more can possibly be said about the Kansas City Chiefs? They run the AFC West. In the modern era they are achieving something that only the New England Patriots have achieved before them. The Chiefs are aiming to host their 6th straight AFC title game, and there is very little reason to believe they won't. Patrick Mahomes is coming off an MVP season, the interior offensive line is as good as it gets with the combination of Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, and Tre Smith, while the tackles can only get better from their 2023 performance. The receiving corps did lose Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman. The two, while not flashy, were key contributors to the number 1 offense in the NFL. Skyy Moore is going to have show more in year 2. Otherwise KC is very much betting on the unproven, with Rashee Rice and Justyn Ross performing well in camp but having no track record in the NFL. Marques Valdez-Scantling and Kadarius Toney can be good but they have not shown to be anything more than a straight line deep threat and gadget weapon respectively. Isaiah Pacheco, Jerrick McKinnon, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire are nice, versatile running room that can provide the option of complementary football and ability to attack defenses that play majority Cover 2 and sit in a 5 defensive back base. Travis Kelce is the 2nd greatest TE of all time and I won't bet against him until I see the wheels fall off.


The defense is much more concerning. Chris Jones has been the best defensive player not named Aaron Donald for about 5 years now. Primarily a 3 Tech Defensive Tackle, his impact for Kansas City is transformative. He's so good that people think Frank Clark is good at football when all Frank Clark did was clean up the havoc created by Chris Jones. Everything they do revolves around him and last year was easily his best season, racking up 77 pressure and 15 sacks, along with 31 stuffs in the run game. This is all from the inside mind you. He makes the life of the 10 other players on defense so much easier by forcing a double team on every single pass and run play. This is so important to how Kansas City blitzes because the center is normally providing blitz pick up and looking out for stunts. The interior pass rusher being the best pass rusher changes the math for an offense because no the center has to be available to double team at all times, leaving every other opposing offensive lineman on an island. The defensive gravity Jones forces allows Steve Spagnuolo to scheme up a Kansas City defense that has been overperforming as long as he's been there.


Chris Jones is currently holding out. A player of his caliber should be able to still have an impact on the game, despite the hold-out. However, a hold out means that a player is missing practice reps. They are missing building up muscle memory, and they are missing conditioning. It's hard to say to what extent his holdout will effect his performance and the defense on the whole's performance, but it definitely won't be positive, especially in the first month of the regular season. For this reason alone I can see the defense falling from average to below average and KC will have to be Greatest Show on Turf type of special to be a lock to return to the Super Bowl.


Over or Under

Over. 11.5 is a joke. -140 is free money


Team Prop

A little unconventional, but I really think the Chiefs' overs are going to hit almost every game. Their defense, especially if the Chris Jones holdout lasts into the regular season, is going to be bad. Every game is going to be in the 28-28 sort of range.




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