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Around the AFC West: Scrambling to deal with Week 1 injuries

(Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

The Broncos are in last place in their division after one week. That’s not the way you want the season to start, but losing to the Raiders and seeing both the Chargers and Chiefs win in Week 1 puts Denver at the bottom.

Already, the AFC West has a ton of interesting storylines to go over. The Broncos aren’t the only team with issues to deal with after just one game.

Let’s take a spin around the division to see what the competition is up to.


Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are going to be without their star receiver Tyreek Hill for an extended period of time due to a shoulder injury. The early prognosis is that Hill will miss four to six weeks, and he will not be placed on the Reserve/Injured list.

That means we should see more from Sammy Watkins in the next month or two. Watkins was a star against the Jaguars in Week 1, compiling nine catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns. He is finally healthy, as Watkins has been banged up for most of his pro career, and it shows on the field as he’s making big play after big play.

This also means we could see the emergence of rookie Mecole Hardman. The Chiefs selected Hardman out of Georgia in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Hardman was the backup plan for the Chiefs since they thought Hill might be suspended for some or all of the 2019 season. Hardman’s game is similar to Hill’s as it’s all about speed, speed and more speed. We’re going to get to see “Plan B” for the Chiefs and I have a feeling they won’t miss a beat offensively.


Los Angeles Chargers

Players always seem to get banged up early for the Chargers, and this year is no different. Tight end Hunter Henry suffered a tibia plateau fracture to his left knee during the Week 1 game against the Colts. Henry is expected to miss four to six weeks according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, which puts the Chargers in a bind since he is one of their best offensive weapons and a mismatch anytime he’s on the field.

Without Henry, Los Angeles has to turn to former Broncos tight end Virgil Green as their starter. They have already begun looking elsewhere for help too. Free agents Luke Willson (Raiders), Ben Koyack (Jaguars) and Will Tye (Eagles) recently worked out for the Chargers but none have yet signed as of this writing.

The speculation is that the Chargers could once again bring back Antonio Gates. Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn recently confirmed that was an option for the team.

“We have to look and see where we are at free agent wise and money-wise, and just see how some of these things work out,” Lynn said. “We explained that to him, so we’re in wait-and-see mode right now.”

No matter what happens, the Chargers already have a bit of a setback without Henry available for game day.


Oakland Raiders

We saw the Raiders beat the Broncos on Monday night in Week 1, but they did not leave the game unscathed. In fact, one of their best young playmakers will now miss the 2019 season.

Raiders safety Johnathan Abram (shoulder) is headed to the injured reserve, according to head coach Jon Gruden. Abram has a torn labrum and rotator cuff and will undergo surgery to fix the damage. Not only is he out for the 2019 season, but there is immediate concern that he might not quite be ready for the start of the 2020 season.

Abram is the prototypical safety and capable of making plays all over the field. He was one of the Raiders three first-round draft picks in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Coming out of Mississippi State, Abram was known as one of the most intimidating players in all of college football. Not only can he hit and defend the run, but Abram has the athleticism required to work well in coverage.

The Raiders defense is inexperienced in certain areas of the field but they do have quality young talent. However, losing a playmaker like Abram will have negative ramifications on that unit in 2019.