After a second successive Divisional title, there’s no doubt which team rules in the AFC West. With five wins out of six against their rivals in the West, the Chiefs once again dominated in this section. As one of only three teams in the NFL to have played over 100 games against their divisional rivals and to hold a winning record against all of them, Kansas have worked hard to secure their status as top dogs.
But when the new season gets underway in the fall, the challenge from their divisional rivals will be stronger than ever. So which teams are going to be the toughest opponents?
According to sports betting sites like Stakers.com, the Chargers are the number one contender in the West. They got a nightmare 0-4 start last time round and then went 9-3 for the rest of the season, narrowly missing out on the play-offs. Philip Rivers will have the same wide receiver corps to throw to and if they carry on where they left off last season, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with. But the Chiefs beat them twice last time, crushing them 54-23 over the two games, and they will relish the chance to put the Bolts in their place again this fall.
The Chargers are the opening chapter in a tough start to the Chiefs’ schedule. Next up is a trip to the Steelers, followed by a tricky home game against Jimmy Garoppolo and the improving 49ers and the first clash of the season against the Broncos. Match-ups against the Jaguars and the Patriots make up a rough opening half-dozen games.
But there’s a lot to be said for getting the toughest games out the way early on. With such a tricky schedule, there’s no danger of any early season sluggishness and we can expect the Chiefs to come out of the blocks roaring. Get through that opening stretch with a positive win-loss record and Kansas could be set for another play-off charge.
The Chargers might be grabbing the attention of the pundits, but the Broncos can also be expected to put up more of a fight this time round. They’ve made some shrewd moves in the Draft and the combination of Bradley Chubb and Von Miller should be formidable. The addition of Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton will also make Denver more dangerous on offence. But the Chiefs have a few weapons of their own.
Sure, Alex Smith has gone, but anyone writing off Kansas on the back of his departure would be making a big mistake. Patrick Mahomes has all the skills to step up and lead this team and the lightning receivers Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley and Sammy Watkins will give him the tools he needs to pile up the points. With Kareem Hunt and the returning Spencer Ware forming a powerful back duo, the Kansas offence will be looking good in September.
We can also expect more from the defense this time round. Last season they had a terrible run of injuries, but with Eric Berry back and a host of new defensive draft recruits, the Chiefs will be a lot tighter against the rush in 2018-19.
We can’t talk about tough opponents without mentioning the Raiders. Whatever they call themselves, the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders always come strong and the 30-31 game in Oakland last season was an epic. That was the only Divisional defeat the Chiefs suffered all campaign, and they will be keen to reassert their dominance over one of our oldest rivals.
After that tough opening stretch, things get a little easier. The Cardinals will be strong opponents, but nothing the Chiefs can’t handle, and after their bye in week twelve, they have three games out of five against AFC West opponents so if they dominate the division like they did last season, we can expect Kansas to finish the regular season strongly.
As ever, their AFC West rivals will make things tough for the Chiefs, but as they showed last season, they can cope with pretty much anything that the opposition throws at them. And if anyone doubts the Chiefs’ play-off credentials, they should remember the opening two games of last season when Kansas beat eventual Super Bowl contenders the Patriots and the Eagles. Losing to the Titans in the Wild Card game was a huge disappointment last time round, but the Chiefs can put that right in 2018-19 and take another Divisional title on the way to going deep into the play-offs.
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