The race for the AFC West is far from over. There is no team with a losing record in the division, setting for up an exciting final stretch of the regular season.
The Chiefs (7-4) began the season as clear favorites to win the division, but they’ve failed to create the distance they’d hoped for between themselves and their divisional foes. Kansas City’s first five games were defined by shootouts in which its defense struggled to contribute to team success, leading to an opening record of 2-3. After the Chiefs’ 27-3 loss to the Titans in Week 7, their defense seems to have found its footing. The Chris Jones-led unit is allowing 11.75 points per game since then en route to a four-game win streak.
In Los Angeles, Justin Herbert has benefitted from having healthy weapons in running back Austin Ekeler and receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, an improvement from the 6-4 Chargers’ injury-riddled 2020 season. Much like the Chiefs, though, the Chargers’ defense has struggled to turn that success into wins as they’ve only managed to hold two opponents under 20 points this season.
The Raiders (6-5) have been a team of streaks this season. They began the year 3-0 with impressive wins over the Ravens and Steelers. They then lost two, won two, and lost three in a row through their next seven games with concerning losses to the currently reeling Bears and Giants. Las Vegas rebounded with an impressive Thanksgiving Day win in Dallas. The Raiders’ current winning record is all the more impressive when you consider the off-the-field controversies that have rocked the franchise.
Over their first eight games of the season, the Broncos (5-5) were fairly easy to decipher. They beat teams currently under .500 — the Giants, Jaguars, Jets and the Football Team — but they could not get past teams currently over .500 (Ravens, Steelers, Raiders, Browns). They did buck this trend in their past two games by beating the Cowboys (7-4) and losing to the Eagles (4-6). They certainly hope that trend is over, as the Lions represent the only team they face over the rest of the season with a sub-.500 record. Offseason pickup Teddy Bridgewater leads an offense that has seen the return of Pro Bowler Courtland Sutton, though Denver’s latest run of injury misfortune involved second-year receiver Jerry Jeudy missing most of the season’s first half. The running game has been split pretty evenly between seven-year veteran Melvin Gordon and second-round rookie Javonte Williams.
With seven weeks remaining in the regular season, potential for divisional chaos remains. The Chiefs don’t have any remaining opponents currently under .500. The Raiders are set to play just one — the Washington Football Team. The Bolts potentially have a softer route, with two teams remaining under .500 in the Giants and Texans. In addition, there’s plenty of divisional play left to ensue before the playoff field forms.
So who do you see taking control of the AFC West? Do the Chiefs regain their supremacy and claim the division for the sixth straight year? Or do any of the other contenders take advantage of Kansas City’s four early-season losses? Vote in our latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
The Broncos will have their top pass rusher back Sunday. After a two-plus-month absence, Bradley Chubb is set to return, with Mike Klis of 9News tweeting the Pro Bowl outside linebacker will be activated off IR.
Chubb’s progress slowed late this week, due to a setback in practice, per Klis (on Twitter). Vic Fangio declared him “50-50” to suit up against the Chargers. It appears the fourth-year defender has shown enough to return, a development that represents big news for a Broncos team that has seen much change at the linebacker spot since Chubb’s lone 2021 cameo — in Week 2.
Two ankle surgeries marred Chubb’s 2021. The second knocked him out for a lengthy stretch, providing the former top-five pick’s second extended absence of his career. In the time since Chubb last played, the Broncos saw inside starters Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson suffer season-ending injuries. The team also ended the Chubb-Von Miller partnership, one that saw injuries prevent it from making much of an impact over the past three seasons, by trading the future Hall of Famer to the Rams.
After recovering from the ACL tear that ended his 2019 season early, Chubb recorded 7.5 sacks and 19 QB hits last season. The North Carolina State product registered 12 as a rookie. New GM George Paton, after picking up Chubb’s fifth-year option, called him a core player. Given Chubb’s injury issues, this upcoming stretch run stands to be pivotal for his future — and the Broncos’ hopes at making a late playoff push.
The Broncos have been busy handing out money to their wideouts recetnly, extending both Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick over the past few weeks. Thanks to Mike Klis of 9News in Denver, we’ve now got some details on those new contracts.
Patrick’s contract was reported as a three-year pact worth a max value of $34MM, including $18.5MM in guaranteed money (via Twitter). In 2021, Patrick will earn a $3MM signing bonus and a $1.5MM base salary (prorated from $3.3MM), all of which is guaranteed. The wideout will earn a $6.96MM roster bonus and $1.53MM base salary in 2022, with the entire $8.5MM guaranteed. Patrick’s 2023 and 2024 earnings are relatively similar; he’ll have $500K in game-day bonuses in both 2023 and 2024, along with $8MM (2023) and $9.4MM (2024) base salaries. His 2023 salary includes a $5.5MM injury guarantee.
Sutton’s new deal was reported as $60.8MM total, with $34.9MM guaranteed. Sutton’s new deal includes a $6MM signing bonus (via Twitter). He’ll earn another $10.5MM via a 2022 roster bonus (along with a $1.5MM base salary in 2022). In 2023, he’ll earn a $14MM salary with $500K worth of roster bonuses, and he’ll get similar bonuses in 2024 (along with a $13MM salary (of which only $2MM is guaranteed for injury only)). 2025 is the final year of the wideout’s contract, with Sutton earning a $13.5MM salary (and a $500K bonus).
November 26th, 2021 at 4:53pm CST by Zachary Links
Former Broncos cornerback Mac McCain was a popular player on the waiver wire. Before he was awarded to the Eagles, the Chargers also submitted a claim for him, according to Mike Klis of 9News (on Twitter).
The Chargers could have used an extra CB with Asante Samuel Jr. in concussion protocol. But, beyond that, they probably would have benefitted from McCain’s intel as they prepare to face the Broncos on Sunday. After all, there isn’t a ton of game tape out there on the 23-year-old — he’s played in just one game this year with 13 special teams snaps.
Interestingly, McCain has spent the year bouncing back and forth between the Broncos and Eagles. In May, he signed with Denver as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina A&T. Then, in September, Philly plucked him off of the Broncos’ taxi squad. Then, when the Eagles waived him a few weeks ago, the Broncos claimed him. This week, when Denver cut him, Howie Roseman brought him back.
Eventually, McCain may get an opportunity to stay in one place. After all, he is a two-time All-MEAC player with multiple pick-sixes on his collegiate resume. For now, McCain will take the place of Davion Taylor on the roster, now that the linebacker is on IR.
The Eagles, winners of two straight, will try for three in a row when they face the Giants on Sunday.
November 22nd, 2021 at 1:49pm CST by Zachary Links
Broncos pass rusher Bradley Chubb has been designated for return from injured reserve, according to head coach Vic Fangio (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Chubb, who has missed all but one game this year, will be eligible to return inside of the next 21 days.
The fourth-year linebacker has battled multiple ankle issues in recent years. His latest setback emerged in Week 2, prompting arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur. At long last, his left ankle is back to normal — or at least closer to it.
Injuries have hampered Chubb throughout his career; his medical chart includes trouble with his other ankle and a 2019 ACL tear that limited him to just four games. Still, the Broncos picked up Chubb’s fifth-year option in May, and new GM GeorgePaton cited the former top-five pick as a cornerstone talent.
Chubb has proven to be an impact player when healthy. In 2018, his 12 sacks threatened Jevon Kearse‘s all-time rookie sack record. And, just last year, he earned a Pro Bowl nod while notching 7.5 sacks.
Much has changed since Chubb’s last time out on the field. Now at the .500 mark in the sardine-packed AFC West, the Broncos are just clinging to Wild Card chances. Meanwhile, his longtime partner Von Miller is out in Los Angeles.
If all goes well for Chubb, he could re-debut as soon as Sunday when the Broncos host the Chargers.