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AFC West preview, predictions, picks for 2022 NFL season


Steve Serby previews the AFC West as The Post gives division-by-division breakdowns ahead of the 2022 NFL season.

1. Los Angeles Chargers 

Coach: Brandon Staley 

2021 record: 9-8 

O/U wins: 10.5 

Key additions: EGDE Khalil Mack, CB J.C. Jackson, EDGE Kyle Van Noy, CB Bryce Callahan, TE Gerald Everett, DT Morgan Fox, DT Austin Johnson, LB Troy Reeder, DT Sebastian Joseph-Day, LS Josh Harris, RB Isaiah Spiller, G Zion Johnson, S J.T. Woods 

Key departures: DT Linval Joseph, LB Kyzir White, CB Chris Harris Jr. TE Jared Cook, RB Justin Jackson, G Scott Quessenberry, DT Justin Jones, TE Stephen Anderson, CB Davontae Harris, WR Andre Roberts, EDGE Uchenna Nwosu, OLB Kyler Fackrell, G Oday Aboushi, T Bryan Bulaga 

First-and-goal: QB Justin Herbert (69 TDs, 25 INTs) looks like a generational talent. WR Keenan Allen is looking for his fourth consecutive 100-catch season, and WR Mike Williams (76 catches, 9 TDs) earned a three-year, $60 million contract as an emerging 6-foot-4 playmaker. RB Austin Ekeler (70 receptions, 12 TDs) is a dual-threat weapon. LT Rashawn Slater and C Corey Linsley were 2021 Pro Bowlers, and RG Zion Johnson was the 2022 first-round pick. WR Joshua Palmer has opened eyes. EDGE Khalil Mack and CB J.C. Jackson will help DE Joey Bosa and S Derwin James get the ball back to the big-arm quarterback. Carter upgrades the return game. LS Josh Harris was a Pro Bowler last season. 

Justin Herbert
Justin Herbert is expected to reach peak performance this season.
AP

Fourth-and-long: The right tackle position is guilty until proven innocent. The run defense is suspect. The kick and punt-return units are a work in progress for new special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken. LB Kenneth Murray, a 2020 first-round pick, is talented but has been slowed by an ankle that cost him five games last season. Staley (third in fourth-down attempts) can be too daring for his own good. The division is murder. 

Serby Says: 11-6. A generational young quarterback and playmakers on every level of the defense. 

Betting on the NFL?

2. Las Vegas Raiders 

Coach: Josh McDaniels 

2021 record: 10-7 

O/U wins: 8.5 

Key additions: WR Davante Adams, EDGE Chandler Jones, LB Jayon Brown, CB Rock Ya-Sin, RB Brandon Bolden, DT Bilal Nichols, QB Jarrett Stidham, LB Micah Kiser, FB Jakob Johnson, RB Ameer Abdullah, S Matthias Farley, S Duron Harmon, DT Tyler Lancaster, OLB Kyler Fackrell, LB Jordan Jenkins, RB Austin Walter 

Key departures: EDGE Yannick Ngakoue, LB Cory Littleton, QB Marcus Mariota, EDGE Carl Nassib, LB Nick Kwiatoski, WR Bryan Edwards, LB Nicholas Morrow, RT Denzelle Good, LB K.J. Wright, DT Quinton Jefferson, DT Solomon Thomas, WR Zay Jones, CB Casey Hayward, G Richie Incognito, FB Alec Ingold, CB Keisean Nixon, CB Brandon Facyson, S Tyree Gillespie, C Nick Martin 

Derek Carr
Derek Carr will reunite with Davante Adams years after their days at Fresno State.
AP

First-and-goal: Carr-to-Adams all these years later after Fresno State. All WR Hunter Renfrow did was catch 103 passes and nine TDs last season. TE Darren Waller is another potential 100-plus catch weapon when healthy. LT Kolton Miller is a gifted bodyguard. RB Josh Jacobs is playing for a new contract. Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby are elite pass rushers. The kicking game is in good feet with PK Daniel Carlson and P AJ Cole. FS Tre’von Moehrig-Woodard is a playmaker. New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is a brainiac. McDaniels will be missed by Mac Jones, and owner Mark Davis is gambling that he’s learned from his disastrous 11-17 rookie tenure in Denver. 

Fourth-and-long: The O-line is suspect and 2021 first-round OT Alex Leatherwood was waived. There isn’t enough secondary depth to contend with Herbert, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson. Will DE Clelin Ferrell, the fourth-overall pick of former GM Mike Mayock’s 2019 draft, ever make an impact? And will Graham try him inside? The division is murder. 

Serby Says: 10-7. The best Derek Carr yet turns Sin City into Just Win, City. 

Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes will likely suffer without Tyreek Hill.
AP

3. Kansas City Chiefs 

Coach: Andy Reid 

2021 record: 12-5 

O/U wins: 10.5 

Key additions: WR Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, RB Ronald Jones II, EDGE Carlos Dunlap, CB Trent McDuffie, DE George Karlaftis, WR Justin Watson, WR Skyy Moore, DT Taylor Stallworth, LB Elijah Lee, G Geron Christian, S Justin Reid, DT Danny Shelton, S Deon Bush, RB-KR Isiah Pacheco, S Bryan Cook, LB Leo Chenal 

Key departures: WR Tyreek Hill, S Tyrann Mathieu, CB Mike Hughes, S Daniel Sorensen, DT Jarran Reed, EDGE Melvin Ingram, LB Anthony Hitchens, S Armani Watts, C Austin Blythe, WR Demarcus Robinson, G Kyle Long, LB Ben Niemann, RB Darrel Williams, WR Byron Pringle 

First-and-goal: Patrick Mahomes has 151 touchdowns against 37 interceptions for his career and TE Travis Kelce has 35 TD catches across the last four years with a pair of 100-plus catch seasons — and Tyreek Hill is in Miami. The O-line is one of the best with LT Orlando Brown Jr., LG Joe Thuney and C Creed Humphrey. Isiah Pacheco hasn’t resembled a seventh-round pick out of Rutgers and could eat into Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s touches. Pro Bowl DT Chris Jones is back inside pressuring quarterbacks. DE Frank Clark has made the last three Pro Bowls with Jones. MLB Nick Bolton and OLB Willie Gay Jr. make an impressive tandem. PK Harrison Butker is second in NFL history in career field-goal percentage (minimum 100 attempts) with 90.1 percent, trailing only Justin Tucker. Andy Reid will be a Hall of Famer, and he swears by offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy. 

Fourth-and-long: The electric Hill has taken his talents to South Beach, Smith-Schuster and MVS will have their moments, just not as many game-changers as Hill. The secondary has young talent, but Mathieu’s savvy and leadership will be missed, and rookie CB Trent McDuffie must replace Charvarius Ward. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo needs to find more than last season’s 31 sacks. Special teams coverage units lost several key contributors. The division is murder. 

Serby Says: 9-8. Mahomes will miss Hill and Spagnuolo will miss Honey Badger. 

4. Denver Broncos 

Coach: Nathaniel Hackett 

2021 record: 7-10 

O/U wins: 9.5 

Key additions: QB Russell Wilson, EDGE Randy Gregory, K’Waun Williams, RT Billy Turner, LB Alex Singleton, TE Eric Tomlinson, OT Tom Compton, DT D.J. Jones, OLB Nik Bonitto, TE Greg Dulcich 

Key departures: QB Drew Lock, QB Teddy Bridgewater, CB Kyle Fuller, DT Shelby Harris, TE Noah Fant, CB Bryce Callahan, LB Micah Kiser, CB Mike Ford, RB Kenyan Drake 

Russell Wilson
After a decade with the Seahawks, Russell Wilson will now hope to bring a Super Bowl win back to Denver.
AP

First-and-goal: Coach Hackett says he was more excited to meet Ciara than Wilson. Understood, but he’ll gladly Let Russ Cook instead — you won’t be hearing “Go Hawks” from him anymore. WRs Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton will flourish. Jeudy won’t go without a TD catch this season. RBs Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon form one of the league’s best tandems. The secondary feature a pair of stars in Pro Bowl FS Justin Simmons and CB Patrick Surtain. SS Kareem Jackson provides leadership. If Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory stay healthy, the pass rush will be healthy. DT Dre’Mont Jones (12 sacks last two seasons) has star potential. 

Fourth-and-long: Inside linebacker next to Josey Jewell is a question. Can TE Albert Okwuegbunam replace Noah Fant? LT Garett Bolles needs to rebound, and is there a quality bookend right tackle in the house? WR Tim Patrick (ACL) is lost for the season, and P Sam Martin was waived. The division is murder. 

Serby Says: 9-8. Wilson will give his new team a chance to win the division, just as the other quarterbacks in the division will give their team a chance to win the division.



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