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Around the AFC West: Chiefs on the brink, changes in Vegas and more

(Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

The Broncos sent many of their scouting staff to the 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl in Tampa, Fla. this week. They are looking for mid- to late-round talent at that game, players who can help them get back into the postseason after a three-year playoff drought.

The rest of the division was there as well – including the general manager and head coach of the Raiders – looking at the same talent. This division is super competitive and finding that next sleeper prospect could be what puts one team in front of the other as the race behind the Chiefs – currently the best team in the division – is on.

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


Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are one game away from the Super Bowl. They have offensive weapons all over the field, but there was a concern that superstar tight end Travis Kelce was going to miss the AFC Championship Game against the Titans. He’s been limited in practice this week dealing with a knee injury.

Those concerns were put to bed on Friday by Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. Kelce has felt better this week and will play on Sunday, Reid said on Friday. We should see the Titans defense focus on slowing down or stopping Kelce first (if they can). The Titans have given up the third-most receiving touchdowns to tight ends (9) this season. The Titans will likely place ball-hawking free safety Kevin Byard on Kelce all game long. Byard has 17 interceptions over the last three seasons and will need to have a big game if the Titans want to continue their improbable playoff run.


Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders have a talented group of young players on both sides of the ball. With a plethora of draft picks across the last couple of seasons, Jon Gruden and his staff have assembled some quality talent – especially on the defensive side of the ball. Even with all this talent, however, the Raiders defense has not yet played up to their potential. Thus, the Raiders have made some changes to the coaching staff. Earlier this week, the Raiders let defensive line coach Brenston Buckner go.

The team then hired long-time veteran coach Rod Marinelli as their new d-line coach. Marinelli previously served as Gruden’s d-line coach in Tampa Bay. Since 2014, Marinelli had been the Cowboys defensive coordinator/defensive line coach. In 2019, Dallas ranked No.9 in total defense (Raiders were No.19), No.11 against the run (Raiders were No.25) and No.10 against the pass (Raiders were No.25). This addition is a clear upgrade for the Raiders defense and could help them be more competitive than some are projecting for the 2020 season.


Los Angeles Chargers

I’ve talked to some people around the Chargers building and despite the team’s recent struggles, head coach Anthony Lynn still has control of the team. Lynn has to be in what can be described as a make-or-break season in 2020. He was hired to be the team’s head coach back in 2017 and the Chargers have finished 9-7, 12-4 and 5-11 during that time.

They’ll likely be with a different quarterback in 2020 for the first time since Philip Rivers took over as the starter back in 2006. There are many different ideas about who could take over at quarterback for the Chargers in the upcoming season; one popular guess seems to be Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Lynn is well-liked by his players, coaches and front office personnel and getting him a quarterback like Brady – even though he’s not the same player he used to be – would be a huge vote of confidence. With Brady leading the way, the Chargers might be able to push for a playoff spot once again like they did in the 2018 season under Lynn.