Key: DVOA = Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, EPA= Expected Points Added
- Kansas City Chiefs
We all saw Patrick Mahomes run for his fucking life in the Super Bowl behind his offensive line. Granted both starting tackles were out, but the Chiefs still saw the need to overhaul this unit and it was a smart choice. PFF grades have the Chiefs tied for 7th in pass blocking and 11th in run blocking. Imagine this offense that already has Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and quality pieces like Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle for Mahomes to use but with elite protection in front of him like Aaron Rodgers. Getting them off the field could be even more difficult. If they can also achieve elite run blocking with their moves holy shit it will be scary.
The interior offensive line, in particular, was an issue and they addressed it by signing one of the league’s best left guards in Joe Thuney and drafting a great center prospect in Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey. At right guard they currently have rookie Trey Smith working there but Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff will be returning and likely takes his job back. The big move of the offseason was cutting ties with both starting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz and then sending their first round pick to Baltimore in exchange for Orlando Brown who will man left tackle. On the right side, Mike Remmers and Lucas Niang are battling for the job.
This offense a year ago was 3rd in EPA/play at 0.174 and 4th in points per drive at 2.74. The Chief’s moves on the offensive line could make an already scary offense be absolutely insane. The defense is pretty much the same aside from Frank Clark being arrested on felony gun charges. Expect a dominant squad that makes their way back to the Super Bowl unless plagued by injury.
Projected win total: 15 plus games
2. Los Angeles Chargers
A new regime is in town and just like that a renewed hope has arrived that maybe this staff can make this team a consistent playoff team and Super Bowl contender. The Chargers hired the now-former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to be Head Coach which will be great for their defense. Staley hired Joe Lombardi as his offensive coordinator and he comes from the Saints where he was the quarterbacks coach from 2016 to 2020. Lombardi has two seasons of offensive coordinator duty to his name in the past as he served in that role for the Lions for two seasons from 2014 through 2015. In 2014 Lombardi’s offense ranked 18th in points per drive and in 2015 ranked 13th in that category.
Working with Sean Payton for the last five seasons means that maybe Lombardi has picked up on some good things. This team needs that as they have a young rising star quarterback in Justin Herbert to develop. Despite being shackled by Anthony Lynn and Ken Whisenhunt, Herbert graded as having PFF’s 14th best passing grade and FO’s DVOA had him 11th. Offensively this team loses Hunter Henry but still has Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler to work with. Jared Cook is also a decent replacement for Henry.
This team’s biggest moves were on the offensive line where they signed elite center Corey Linsley away from the Packers and drafted a great left tackle prospect from Northwestern, Rashawn Slater. An improved line could do this offense wonders especially if Lombardi has his shit together.
On defense they have Joey Bosa, Chris Harris Jr. and Derwin James headlining the talent but there are a few young players to watch as well. Second year safety Nassir Adderley and rookie Asante Samuel Jr. will be fun to watch develop as will linebacker Kenneth Murray. This season the Chargers should be a fringe playoff team this year.
Projected win total: 8 to 10 wins
3. Denver Broncos
Another season means another year of the Broncos not having a quarterback solution since Peyton Manning retired. John Elway as a General Manager has been absolute trash at evaluating young quarterback prospects. Elway’s only criteria seems to be to be tall. Drew Lock, their current and most likely next quarterback bust, is 6’4” and has a strong arm but nothing else. He’s spent time working with Peyton Manning this offseason so we’ll see if that helps mixed with his young weaponry getting an offseason to work and grow with him.
Teddy Bridgewater being new in town puts pressure on Lock to perform but realistically if they want to win as many games as they can Bridgewater should probably start over Lock from day one. Drew Lock plays more risky and last season threw 15 interceptions and had a 4.5% Turnover Worthy play rate. Bridgewater for the Panthers had a 3.4% Turnover Worthy play rate. PFF graded the Broncos defense 7th last season and that unit is intact. If they can turn the ball over less and run effectively with Melvin Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams this team can finish near .500 at best.
Projected win total: 5 to 8 wins
4. Las Vegas Raiders
While the Chiefs and Chargers built up their offensive lines the Raiders tore theirs down this offseason. Out are Trent Brown, Gabe Jackson, and Rodney Hudson, and in is rookie Alex Leatherwood. Expect the line to take a step back and it’s a unit that received the 17th grade in pass blocking last season so it could get ugly. John Brown was a nice receiver add, but Mike Mayock had yet another bad draft and this team doesn’t seem to be going anywhere particularly good.
This team doesn’t have a defense like Denver’s to rely on and with a worse line, their offense that was PFF’s 13th graded unit likely falls closer to the twenties. Henry Ruggs III, Darren Waller, and Josh Jacobs should be fun to watch but this team isn’t winning many games. They could do better than Denver but the Broncos have a little bit more to work with.
Projected win total: 4 to 6 wins