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Kansas City Chiefs Edge Rusher Justin Houston. Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck – Under Creative Commons License

The AFC West is the best division in the National Football League from top to bottom but who gets to claim the top spot?

The Oakland Raiders seem to be the most popular choice heading into 2017 with Derek Carr orchestrating their high powered offense and Khalil Mack leading a defense that should be improved.

Others like the way the Los Angeles Chargers are looking after a great haul in the draft and key players returning from injury, however, per usual, the injury bug has crept through camp already.

The Denver Broncos will only go as far as their quarterback will take them, whoever it may be.

Don’t overlook the Kansas City Chiefs who enter 2017 as the defending AFC West champions. They are coming off of a 12-4 year and went an impressive 6-0 within their division. In fact, the Chiefs haven’t lost to an AFC West foe since September 17, 2015, when they lost to the Broncos in week 2.

The Chiefs lost some key players in the offseason like wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, running back Jamaal Charles, and defensive tackle Dontari Poe. They also had a solid draft when they picked the quarterback of the future, Patrick Mahomes, by trading up to the tenth spot and perhaps the next great Chiefs running back in Kareem Hunt. Second round defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon should take over the starting spot by midseason and form a scary tandem with second-year end Chris Jones for many years. Former Eagle Bennie Logan provides experience and production at the nose tackle spot.

The defensive line is only the beginning of a defense that will keep their status as a top unit. Linebackers Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson both being 100%, along with pass rush specialists Dee Ford and Tamba Hali, provide Kansas City one of the best front sevens in the entire league. The secondary is led by play-making Eric Berry at safety and third-year cornerback Marcus Peters. Ron Parker is one of the most underrated players in the NFL and the pairing of he and Berry make up a great safety tandem.

Tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill give quarterback Alex Smith explosive targets in Andy Reid‘s west coast offense. The running duties will be handled primarily by Spencer Ware with Hunt taking carries away more and more each week.

Hill also provides a great threat in the return game along with De’Anthony Thomas. The Chiefs offensive line is a solid unit that does not get enough praise. They finished in the top 12 of the league in sacks allowed and in the top half for rushing yards per attempt, ranking behind only the Raiders within the division in those categories.

The Chiefs possess one of the most talented rosters in the league and haven’t finished worst than second in the division since Reid has taken over. This is the best squad that Reid’s staff has had and entering the fifth year of his tenure the playbook should be second nature to the veterans. Every other team in the AFC West has big question marks entering the 97th season of NFL football.

Can the Chargers stay healthy? Who will be the quarterback of the Broncos? Can Oakland live up to the hype? Everyone knows what the Kansas City Chiefs will do; they will pound the ball to effectively set up the play action game and their defense will stifle any offense they face. Not many questions surround the Chiefs and they will repeat as AFC West Champions.

Sports Al Dente 2019

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