AFC West Predictions NFL 2022-23: Odds, Picks, and Projections

Our Pro Pick on the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers AFC West Matchup

Thanks to flex scheduling, we are seeing the biggest game in the AFC West in prime time after these teams already played a Thursday night game in Week 2. The Chiefs won that one 27-24, and it has proven to be one of the most important games this season. That was when Justin Herbert injured his ribs, which seemed to throw the team off its game the following week. It also was a game where Gerald Everett was tired after catching two passes in a row, and Herbert’s third pass to him was easily picked off for a 99-yard pick-six that gave the Chiefs the lead for good in that game.

Now we have the 7-2 Chiefs taking on the 5-4 Chargers with a chance to take a nearly insurmountable lead in an AFC West race that has been extremely disappointing. The Chargers continue to have too many injuries, which has affected their ability to take the next step this year. But they still fought the 49ers hard on Sunday night, and they will likely give the Chiefs another challenge in this one. It would really help if Keenan Allen and Mike Williams can return at wide receiver. Hopefully Everett is also back after he left Sunday’s game with a groin injury in San Francisco.

But the Chiefs continue to be the class of the division and really the league with Patrick Mahomes the odds-on favorite to win his second MVP. He leads the NFL in touchdown passes and passing yards. He is enjoying finding new weapons like Kadarius Toney, who caught his first NFL touchdown in his second game with the Chiefs on Sunday.

Herbert has never lost to the Chiefs by more than six points, and we think that streak can continue here, even if it involves another backdoor cover like Week 2. The Chiefs are the better team and should win, but we’ll take the Chargers with the points.

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Our Best Bet on Who Will Win AFC West in 2023

It is Week 12, and we are ready to admit before Thanksgiving that our preseason pick of the Chargers to win the AFC West was a mistake, and the Chiefs still own this division. Kansas City should win the division for a seventh year in a row, only the third team to do so in NFL history. They can join the 1973-79 Rams (seven) and 2009-2019 Patriots (11) as the only teams to win at least seven straight division titles.

The offense is still so potent without Tyreek Hill, because Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce really are that good with Andy Reid’s offense. The Chargers have been too injured (again) and blew a fourth-quarter lead in both games against the Chiefs, or else this race could look entirely different right now.

As for the Raiders and Broncos, ouch. We really goofed when we said this would be an all-time great division race. If there was an argument for firing two first-year coaches during the season, Josh McDaniels (Raiders) and Nathaniel Hackett (Broncos) would have those arguments.

AFC West Predictions: Kansas City Chiefs to win division (-7000 at FanDuel)

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AFC West picks predictions

The Current State of the AFC West

How are the AFC West teams shaping up as we head into Week 12?

Kansas City Chiefs: New Look on Offense

How incredible are Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce? They hooked up for three touchdowns in Los Angeles to all but salt away the division title before Thanksgiving, and Mahomes probably is going to win MVP again. It’s the kind of comeback win that is becoming a signature one for Mahomes. He takes the lead in the fourth quarter, the defense gives it up late, and he still comes right back for another game-winning touchdown drive. He has done that four times now in his career. Tom Brady (one), Peyton Manning (one), and Aaron Rodgers (two) have combined to do that four times in their entire careers. We are witnessing something truly special here.

Los Angeles Chargers: Defense Must Improve

Who knows where this season will go from here at 5-5, but the Chargers were just 5-3 before blowing fourth-quarter leads against the 49ers and Chiefs, two teams who could meet in the Super Bowl again for all we know. This speaks well for the Chargers being a competitive team, but it speaks poorly of their ability to stay healthy, close out games against elite teams, and to take that next step forward in the NFL. They may miss the playoffs now, but this team is going to continue fighting under Justin Herbert as they would be a much more exciting watch in the playoffs than the Patriots or Jets.

Denver Broncos: Kick Nathaniel Hackett Off the Ride

How bad are the Broncos? They have failed to score 17 points in eight out of 10 games this year. They are the first team to do that since the 2011 season when the Jaguars (eight) and Rams (nine) did it with two of the worst quarterback situations in the league. Denver released running back Melvin Gordon because he fumbles too much, but if they cut every offensive player who was not playing well this year, they wouldn’t be able to field an offense. Once again, the offense wasted a solid defensive performance to get swept by the Raiders.

Las Vegas Raiders: Close Game Regression

For all the talk about firing Josh McDaniels for not beating Jeff Saturday, he may have just gotten Nathaniel Hackett the axe later this season by sweeping Denver. There is still a chance for the Raiders to get to a respectable number of wins after a 3-7 start that has included three blown leads of 17-plus points. Hell, the Broncos can’t even score 17 points in most games this year. The Raiders are no longer the worst team in the division, but they are still a big disappointment. At least Derek Carr is good for throwing for a lot of yards in Denver as he had his fourth straight 300-yard game in Mile High, capping things off with a game-winning touchdown pass to Davante Adams in overtime. This was supposed to be the Raiders we saw more often this year.

AFC West Facts and History

The 2022-23 NFL season could go down as the greatest division race ever in the AFC West given the strength of all four teams. Let’s take a look at the history and key facts for this division.

Which Teams Play in the AFC West?

While many NFL divisions have gone through significant changes over the years, the core of the AFC West has remained the most consistent. The four teams currently in the division are the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, and Los Angeles Chargers.

History of the AFC West

Believe it or not, the four AFC West teams have shared a division with each other every year since 1960, making for some of the longest rivalries in the history of professional football.

All four teams originated in the inaugural 1960 season of the American Football League, or AFL. The Chiefs were known as the Dallas Texans before moving to Kansas City in the 1963 season. But the AFL was a rival league to the NFL that existed for 10 seasons from 1960 to 1969 before the two leagues merged in 1970. The 1969 Chiefs were the last team to win the Super Bowl, against the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV, before the leagues merged.

After the 1970 merger, the NFL switched from a league with four divisions to a league with two conferences and three divisions in each for a total of six divisions. The 1970 AFC West had the same four teams the AFC West has today with the Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos, and Chargers.

Fun fact: The 1970 AFC West is the only division in NFL history where three teams finished with multiple ties: Raiders (8-4-2), Chiefs (7-5-2), and Chargers (5-6-3). Even the Broncos were 5-8-1 that year after tying a game with the Chargers. In 1973, all four AFC West teams had at least one tie again, the last time in NFL history that has happened for a division. At the time, the NFL did not play overtime sessions in regular-season games. Overtime was added to the regular season in 1974 to avoid having so many ties, which we should probably thank the old AFC West for.

Another thing most people do not know about the AFC West is that the 1976 Buccaneers played in it during their expansion season when they finished 0-14. The Seahawks, also an expansion team in 1976, then swapped places as designed with Tampa Bay to join the AFC West in 1977. They played in the division through the 2001 season before joining the NFC West in the 2002 realignment.

But of the eight divisions currently in the NFL, the AFC West is the only one where all four teams have shared a division with each other every year since 1960.

Who Has Won the AFC West the Most?

While recent history has been cut and dry, throughout time, the AFC West has been very competitive with the teams almost holding an even share of the division titles:

  • Chiefs: 14 division titles (lost playoff game tiebreaker vs. 1968 Raiders)
  • Chargers: 15 division titles
  • Broncos: 15 division titles
  • Raiders: 15 division titles*

*The Raiders had the best record in the AFC West in 1982 too, but the NFL ignored division finishes that year in what was a nine-game season shortened by strike. The Raiders unofficially have finished first 16 times in the West.

The Seahawks also won the division twice when they used to be in it in 1988 and 1999. But the Chiefs can tie their rivals at 15 division titles this season.

Recent history since 2002 realignment paints a different picture in the AFC West standings:

  • While the Raiders won the division in 2002, they have not won it since.
  • The Chargers won the division four years in a row in 2006-09, but they have not won it since.
  • The Broncos won the AFC West five years in a row in 2011-15, mostly during the Peyton Manning era.
  • The Chiefs have dominated the AFC West ever since with six straight division titles since 2016, the longest streak by anyone in this division.

Who Has the Most Super Bowl Success in the AFC West?

Every AFC West team has been to the Super Bowl, but their level of success is vastly different.

  • Chargers: 0-1 in Super Bowl (last appearance: 1994)
  • Chiefs: 2-2 in Super Bowl (last appearance: 2020)
  • Raiders: 3-2 in Super Bowl (last appearance: 2002)
  • Broncos: 3-5 in Super Bowl (last appearance: 2015)

Prior to the Super Bowl era, the Chiefs (then known as Dallas Texans) won the AFL Championship in 1962. The Chargers were AFL champions in 1963, the only championship in franchise history.

AFC West: Quarterback Heaven

If you read our AFC North predictions, you know that division has a rich history of playing hard-nosed football. But it could be argued that of the eight divisions in the NFL, the AFC West has been blessed with the best quarterback play throughout history. Some of the notable passers include:

  • Peyton Manning (Broncos)
  • Joe Montana (Chiefs)
  • John Elway (Broncos)
  • Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs)
  • Dan Fouts (Chargers)
  • Philip Rivers (Chargers)
  • Drew Brees (Chargers)
  • Ken Stabler (Raiders)
  • Len Dawson (Chiefs)
  • John Hadl (Chargers)
  • Rich Gannon (Raiders)
  • Daryle Lamonica (Raiders)

This makes it fitting that Russell Wilson is joining the Broncos, loading up the AFC West with Mahomes, Wilson, Justin Herbert, and Derek Carr – one of the best divisions of quarterbacks in NFL history.

This should make for an exciting season and difficult AFC West predictions as these teams battle all season long.