Patrick Mahomes might be like Tom Brady. We can bet on a downfall every season and lose a lot of money along the way because it never happens.
But winning the 2022 AFC West will be a challenge for the Kansas City Chiefs. That was true even before Wednesday, when news broke that the Chiefs were exploring a trade of Tyreek Hill, one of the NFL's best receivers. A trade to the Miami Dolphins was finalized shortly after.
Maybe the Chiefs turn a draft pick in a deep receiver draft into a Justin Jefferson or Ja'Marr Chase type of instant impact player. They'll need to.
Chiefs still favored to win AFC West
As news broke that Kansas City was trading Hill, the Chiefs were still favorites to win the AFC West.
It says something about the division that the Raiders can make the playoffs, add Davante Adams and still are 6-to-1 to win it.
The division still starts with the Chiefs until we see otherwise. Kansas City has won it six years in a row and still has Mahomes. But it's getting thinner around him. Free-agent safety Tyrann Mathieu hasn't resigned. Travis Kelce is still very good but he'll turn 33 this season. The defense has a lot of issues on paper. The offense was already very top heavy last season and unless the Chiefs can land a replacement for Hill immediately, the skill-position talent is not great.
Mahomes and coach Andy Reid are likely going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday. They can overcome a lot of deficiencies. But the rest of the division has been loading up to knock off the Chiefs. There's value in betting someone other than the Chiefs, if you can find the team you like.
Other AFC West teams improved
The story of the Broncos the past few years was they had the roster to compete but didn't have a quarterback. They got a quarterback. The trade for Russell Wilson was aggressive and might have been the single biggest move any NFL team made this offseason. It got the Broncos off the quarterback carousel. No more debating if Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater can be OK. Wilson changes their entire outlook.
The Chargers already had a quarterback. Justin Herbert is a star already. And the Chargers are trying to win now. They re-signed Mike Williams, traded for Khalil Mack and signed cornerback J.C. Jackson. All three might be overpaid, but the Chargers had excess cap space because Herbert is on his rookie deal and they smartly got aggressive in that window.
The Raiders made two big moves, signing pass rusher Chandler Jones and trading for Adams. Nobody seems to be giving the Raiders any credit but they won 10 games last season and were 9 yards from scoring a game-tying touchdown late in a wild-card game against the eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals. If new coach Josh McDaniels is (finally) as good as he has been touted as a future NFL head coach, the Raiders could surprise.
If you believe the Broncos were just a quarterback away, they're a good bet. If you like what the Chargers did around Herbert, there's value on them. The Raiders are better than any other fourth division favorite you'll find. And if you want to argue that the Chiefs should always be a bet if they're getting a plus number on the odds, it's reasonable.
The 2022 AFC West will be one of the most interesting divisions ever. The betting window is open.