Embed from Getty Images
The AFC West was already set with a couple of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. But now, they have a new challenger. Russell Wilson has entered the fray. The veteran passer has left one west division for another. In the end, the Denver Broncos acquired Wilson via trade from the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday.
Inside the division, the Kansas City Chiefs have currently been running roughshod over the other AFC West rivals for quite some time. Kansas City has won six consecutive division titles since the start of 2016, with a combined 72-25 regular season record during that span. To boot, the Chiefs are 36-6 in head-to-head division matchups since the start of 2015.
At the same time, the Los Angeles Chargers appear to be knocking on the door of something great. The Las Vegas Raiders found a way to make the playoffs in 2021, despite all of the off-field matters that they had to deal with. People have been saying that Denver is a quarterback away from being a serious contender. Well now, they have that man in Wilson.
How does the Wilson trade impact the hierarchy of the AFC West quarterbacks entering 2022? What kind of pressure will the incumbent AFC West passers feel? Plus, how historic is this situation, given that they are all combined within one division?
AFC West QB Hierarchy
Let’s go ahead and rank the four starting quarterbacks from top to bottom within the AFC West. While the career accomplishments are factored in, we also have to look into what we saw from each of these guys last season. All four each saw some relative high marks and low points in 2021.
1) Patrick Mahomes
It was definitely not the best season for Mahomes last season. He was turning the ball over at an alarming and uncharacteristic rate early in 2021. His 13 interceptions were the most for Mahomes in a single season, edging out the 12 he had in 2018. On the other hand, there was also a dominant stretch that he enjoyed during the second half of the season and into the playoffs.
We saw Mahomes begin to take more of what the defense was giving to him. He began to win underneath. Meanwhile, his skill players were allowed to make more of their own magic after the catch. Most teams started to run a two-high shell against him throughout the season. But once he figured it out, Mahomes was able to put fear into defenses at a rapid clip once again.
The playoff finish was not anywhere near what he had hoped for. However, Mahomes showed necessary growth in terms of pocket awareness, patience underneath, touch on his passes and quicker, more decisive decision making on his throws. He is someone who already holds a high standard for himself. And entering 2022, Mahomes could be even more dangerous with an even larger chip on his shoulder.
2) Justin Herbert
Is Herbert over Wilson a big surprise? Maybe to some. But for me, there have not been enough crippling mistakes from Herbert over the past two years. He has been more precise, more aggressive and has delivered more often situationally than Wilson has over the last two years. Just think if the Chargers did not have that freak pre-game injury to Tyrod Taylor in 2020. Where would this division be at then?
Where has Herbert been his most dangerous as a starter? Let’s start with his ability to win deep down the field. It is not just that this passer is having success to that area of the field. But, he is doing it at a consistent rate and the throws are more simple for him, compared to other passers.
Other quarterbacks may have to load up and heave the ball, just hoping for a completion to register. Herbert is able to sling it deep without having to alter or adjust his arm strength. The accuracy is arguably unmatched in those moments. He puts it to where only his guy can get it. Furthermore, he has no fear when going deep against two high safeties. The tighter coverage and less space on the field does not scare him one bit.
Elsewhere, Herbert has a rapid release and solid confidence within the pocket. He seemingly always feels the pressure and hot reads congruently. Being able to adjust his release from quick to quicker is not something every quarterback can do. Meanwhile, Herbert has quite the speed and mobility, given his taller stature.
3) Russell Wilson
The last of what we saw of Russell Wilson in Seattle was not so inspiring. Of course, his freak finger injury had a great effect on that. He just did not make the same routine plays that we had become accustomed to, nevertheless. Wilson was late with his throws, off-target with his ball placement and less comfortable when trying to test the deeper portions of the field.
Wilson has a mind that will help him bounce back, however. Going into his tenure with the Broncos, this quarterback still reads the defense like a book. It is easy to take his ability to read defensive fronts, read coverage or late game confidence for granted. Yet, that is crucial for Denver in a league that is getting much younger overall at the position.
Ep 100: Divisional Round Preview: Who Is Headed To Championship Sunday?
by Full Press Coverage on January 21, 2023 at 12:19 pm
Sure, we did not see the best of Wilson near the end of the Seahawks run. It does not mean that we will never see that again, though. There were many moments during his time in Seattle where he carried the team on his back. That was throughout many of the recent seasons at least. Going into an offense with the youthful talent that the Broncos have, it could allow Wilson to get right back near the top of the overall QB rankings. Not to mention where that could place him or move him within the AFC West.
4) Derek Carr
There are a ton of items that Derek Carr improved on throughout 2021. The ability to be more aggressive and pull the trigger for longer passers helped him become one of the NFL’s best deep ball passers throughout the season. Elsewhere, his ability to respond in high pressure moments were more frequent. The Raiders won all four games in which they entered overtime last season. More importantly, Carr and the team rattled off four straight wins to end the regular season and made the playoffs for just the second time since 2002. That was coming off of a 48-9 drubbing loss against Kansas City, which put them at 6-7 at the time.
There was a maturity and leadership factor that cannot be understated either. Carr had to help rally the team around horrific stretches or moments that was out of his control. His weaponry was often depleted throughout much of the season. Finally, Carr was a voice of reason for the Silver and Black.
That is of course something that the Raiders hope to build off of with Carr. He not only looks to return to the playoffs. But, making Vegas a difficult place to play is something the team longs for. New head coach Josh McDaniels also appears to have the utmost confidence in Carr. That is major for a passer who has not always been able to answer the bell. Can he continue to improve in 2022?
Piggybacking off of that last point with Carr, what kind of pressure will Wilson put on the other AFC West quarterbacks? There are different levels to each one. Let’s quickly go through each of the three passers.
Mahomes is likely not feeling the most pressure, in terms of pure winning. He is actually feeling the pressure of being chased by yet another name. Having his tail chased is nothing new, so to speak. However, Wilson is a bit of a different animal, compared to the Josh Allen‘s, Joe Burrow‘s, Lamar Jackson‘s and Herbert’s of the world. Wilson has been around the block longer than Mahomes has. And despite playing in four straight AFC Championship Games, the Chiefs quarterback has never had more viable challengers than he has had currently.
The pressure for Herbert revolves around taking that next step. Can he carry the astounding regular season success that he has had into playoff results? We have heard for countless years that the Chargers are the next team to dethrone Kansas City atop the AFC West standings. In the meantime, Los Angeles is near the top of the league in salary cap space for 2022. They have a chance to surround Herbert with more superior names. But now, it is time for Herbert to prove he can continually hang against the league’s best passers, including Wilson.
The pressure for Carr is two-fold, to say the least. Will he be able to pass any of these passers within the AFC West quarterback hierarchy in 2022? Additionally, does his 2021 season prove to be a fluke? Carr will have to work to continue a hunter-like mentality and strive to continuously leave it all on the line. Will he be able to come through in the final year of his current contract with the Raiders?
This could be the first time in NFL history where we legitimately have three top 10 quarterbacks within one division. I do not think it is too crazy to say that all four of these quarterbacks should be ranked in the top half of the entire league currently. The trio of Mahomes, Herbert and Wilson have a rare gift of being able to pull their teams out of substantial deficits. The same can be said about each of their abilities to carry the team singlehandedly, in a sense.
Winning is obviously the number one thing that teams and fans hope to see from their quarterbacks. Among active quarterbacks, Wilson (113), Mahomes (58) and Carr (57) are all ranked in the top 11 when it comes to wins. Herbert is currently 15-17 as a starter. Yet, there are many other reasons or factors that you can point to, when it comes to how Los Angeles has lost those games.
We also have to consider the entire AFC landscape. Sure, the AFC West combined for a 38-30 record last season. Only six teams finished below .500 in the entire conference, however. Three of those six teams were within three games of .500 too. The quarterback landscape is extremely fruitful. You only have a few teams at the most that could add a new starter entering 2022. Most of all, the AFC West is the strongest group of quarterbacks, from a division standpoint. None of the other seven divisions can even come close to saying that right now.
Be on the lookout for more FPC NFL offseason articles in the coming days. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.
Ep 141: Andy Reid, Eagles, And Conference Championship Weekend w/ Joe Bannerby Full Press Coverage on January 27, 2023 at 5:36 pm
Clark and Ira are joined by former Eagles President Joe Banner to talk […]
Ep 140: The 49ers/Cowboys Rivalry With Former San Francisco Tight End Brent Jonesby Full Press Coverage on January 19, 2023 at 9:02 pm
Clark and Ira are joined by former 49ers tight end and three time Super […]
Ep 136: Remembering The Longest Game Ever Played With Larry Littleby Full Press Coverage on December 24, 2022 at 1:09 am
On the 51-year anniversary of the longest game ever played (Chiefs vs. […]
Ep 135: Hall of Fame Semifinalist Jahri Evans Joins The Showby Full Press Coverage on December 16, 2022 at 3:51 pm
Former Saints guard and 2023 HOF Semifinalist Jahri Evans joins Clark and […]
Ep 134: Remember AFL/NFL Star John Hadl with Nick Canepaby Full Press Coverage on December 8, 2022 at 2:39 pm
Former Hall of Fame voter, Nick Canepa, joins Clark and Ira to discuss the […]
Ep 133: Hall Of Fame Semifinalist Henry Ellard Joins The Showby Full Press Coverage on November 30, 2022 at 4:28 pm
Former Rams and Redskins wide receiver, Henry Ellard, joins Clark and Ira […]
Ep 132: Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 Semifinalists w/ Rick Gosselinby Full Press Coverage on November 22, 2022 at 6:15 pm
Clark and Ira are joined by Pro Football Hall of Fame voter Rick Gosselin […]
Ep 131: 'Football Heaven' With PFHOF Senior Advisor Joe Horriganby Full Press Coverage on November 17, 2022 at 5:55 pm
Pro Football Hall of Fame Senior Advisor, Joe Horrigan, joins Clark and […]
Ep 130: Remembering John McVay With Hall of Famer Eddie DeBartolo Jr.by Full Press Coverage on November 13, 2022 at 1:42 am
Clark and Ira are joined by Hall of Fame owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. to […]
(Season 3.1) Commanders Roundtable w/ Deuce, DH, and DTby Full Press Coverage on January 27, 2023 at 3:56 am
George Carmi hosts Deuce, DH, and DT as they discuss the latest topics of […]
1/27 - Conference Championship Preview: Who is Going To The Super Bowl?by Full Press Coverage on January 27, 2023 at 9:50 am
Ian and John preview Conference Championship Weekend and give their picks […]
1/23 - Divisional Round Recap; Chiefs, Bengals, Eagles, and 49ers Advanceby Full Press Coverage on January 23, 2023 at 2:00 pm
Ian and John recap Divisional Round Weekend in the NFL. Learn more about […]
1/20 - Buccaneers Fire Byron Leftwich, NFL Divisional Round Previewby Full Press Coverage on January 20, 2023 at 10:19 am
Ian and John discuss the firing of Byron Leftwich and whether or not it […]
1/19 - Brady/Gronk Reunion, Aaron Rodgers, NFL News and Notesby Full Press Coverage on January 19, 2023 at 10:14 am
Ian and John discuss the potential of Brady and Ground teaming up in 2023, […]
Boot 2 The Face Episode 210 "No Monè, No Monè, No Monè"by Boot 2 The Face on January 19, 2023 at 12:55 am
Rucker and EJ are back discussing Rucker going to Impacts Hard to Kill […]
1/6 - Damar Hamlin Update, Bills/Bengals, AFC Playoffs, Week 18 Picksby Full Press Coverage on January 6, 2023 at 3:11 pm
Winter Classic: Bruins Rally To Beat Penguins At Fenwayby Full Press Coverage on January 4, 2023 at 2:09 am
1/3 - Bills/Bengals Postponed; Bruins Topple Penguins In Winter Classicby Full Press Coverage on January 4, 2023 at 2:05 am
1/2 - Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Week 17, Bills/Bengalsby Full Press Coverage on January 3, 2023 at 3:22 am
12/30 - New Year's Eve, Luka Doncic, NBA Talk, Week 17 Preview and Picksby Full Press Coverage on January 1, 2023 at 2:29 am
Aaron Rodgers, Packers Win Third Straight; Playoffs In Sightby Full Press Coverage on December 27, 2022 at 7:36 pm