We're now onto part four of the 2019 NFL biggest questions series. In case you haven't read the previous three, we go division by division, and come up with one of the biggest questions that team has for the upcoming. I have gone over the AFC North, South and East. In this installment, we will go over the AFC West. The West has two of the best teams in the league, the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers. Both of those squads made the playoffs last season, and are likely headed back there this season. The Denver Broncos have a new coach and quarterback, yanking Vic Fangio away from the Chicago Bears, and trading for former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco. Then, there's the Oakland Raiders. Ope. That's all I have to say about them. Let's get into it.
Denver Broncos: How Long Will Joe Flacco be the Starter?
Denver's offense has been below average since Peyton Manning retired. Looking for a new spark, the Broncos decided to trade for former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco began the season as the starter last season. After a so-so start, he was replaced by Lamar Jackson, who never gave back the starting role. Flacco understandably was pissed off and wanted out, which led to his trade to the Broncos.
However, Flacco is in a similar situation with Denver. The Broncos selected quarterback Drew Lock out of Missouri in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Lock had an impressive college career, and showed flashes of greatness on multiple different occasions. Fans will want to see if they have the next star quarterback on their hands, which could again put Joe Flacco on the pine. If the Broncos struggle out of the gate, will they quickly move to Drew Lock? Or will they ride it out with Joe Flacco and give him an opportunity to dig them out of the hole?
Kansas City Chiefs: How Will The Defense Look With New Additions?
The Kansas City Chiefs defense was terrible last season. They had a pretty good pass rush, led by Chris Jones and Dee Ford, but other than that, they were an eye sore. Changes needed to be made this offseason, and that's exactly what happened. First, they kicked former defensive coordinator Bob Sutton to the curb and replaced him with former New York Giants DC Steve Spagnoulo, who was the defensive architect of two Giants Super Bowl winners. They will be switching to a 4-3 defense, instead of the 3-4 that they struggled with for multiple seasons.
The Chiefs didn't stop there. They needed to bring in new players, especially at the secondary level. And boy did they get a good one. Kansas City signed former Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans safety Tyrann Mathieu to a three year $42 million contract. Mathieu is a jack of all trades in the back end. He's able to do multiple things very well. He's certainly an upgrade over Eric Berry, who was one of the best safeties in the game, but injuries derailed his career, and ultimately ended his tenure with the Chiefs.
With the change to the 3-4 system, the Chiefs were looking to move on from Dee Ford and Justin Houston. Houston ultimately signed a short term contract with the Indianapolis Colts. Ford on the other hand, was traded away to the San Fransisco 49ers for a 2020 second round pick. Now in need for a dominant 4-3 pass rusher, Kansas City called the Seattle Seahawks, and were able to strike a deal for Frank Clark. Clark set a career high last season with 13 sacks. He will look to live up to his massive 5 year $105.5 million extension.
The defense should immediately see results with Mathieu and Clark joining the fold. The question is how good can they be? We saw what this team did with a mediocre defense. They were a couple of plays away from representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. If the two new acquisitions are able to live up to their potential, Kansas City is likely going to be representing the AFC in this year's Super Bowl.
Los Angeles Chargers: Can They Finally Get Over the Hump?
After a long playoff drought, the Los Angeles Chargers finally returned last season. The Chargers were one of the best teams in the NFL last season, finishing with a 12-4 record, which tied them for the best record in the AFC with the Kansas City Chiefs. In the playoffs, they were able to win a hard fought wild card game on the road at Baltimore, but put up a stinker against the eventual Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.
The Chargers present one of the most talented and deep rosters in football. They have one of the leagues most feared secondaries, led by superstar safety Derwin James. Los Angeles also has one of the deadliest pass rush duos in the game, with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. This team is really really good. It's just about putting it all together, something they've never been able to do during the Philip Rivers era. With Rivers not getting any younger, this is the time they need to take advantage. Could this be the year that everything goes right? Could this be the year that Rivers hall of fame career gets cemented with a Super Bowl crown?
Oakland Raiders: Will Jon Gruden Be Able to Handle Antonio Brown's Ego?
The Preseason has just gotten underway, and Antonio Brown is already causing problems. He's already missed a few practices due to injuring his feet. One would think that he got this injury from training. Nope. He got it from a cryotherapy machine. Really AB? If you would've put on the protective footwear, it all could've been prevented. By the way, I will not be putting a picture of his feet in this article, it's absolutely disgusting and I'm saving you guys, so thank me.
Oh that's not all. The NFL this year made some changes to the helmets, making players wear that specific helmet. Not on AB's watch. He complained to the media that the he can't see very well with the new helmet. He's even gone as far as THREATENING RETIREMENT if the NFL won't allow him to wear his old one. A little extreme in my opinion, because one, it's incredibly childish, and two, he just got his contract restructured, and the Raiders are paying him a ton of money.
This is going to be one of Jon Gruden's toughest tasks. He needs to keep AB in check. Mike Tomlin was unable to do it in Pittsburgh, and the whole thing became a messy situation. If Gruden can keep him in control, the Raiders have the potential to be one of the better offenses in the game. If he loses Brown, the Raiders are going to turn into an absolute mess, something that they have been for a majority of the past 15 years or so. Good luck Coach Gruden, you definitely have your work cut out for you.