Foot US – NFL – Who can overthrow the Chiefs, masters of the AFC West for five years?
The Kansas City Chiefs will play Sunday against the Chargers (7 p.m., live on L’Équipe) their first regular season meeting between teams from the AFC West, a division they have been masters for five years. Is a change of leader possible?
Since 2016, the AFC West has been held with an iron fist by Kansas City. The Chiefs have finished first in the division after the last five regular seasons of unchallenged domination. As is often the case in the NFL, it’s all about cycles. In 2016, Andy Reid’s players themselves ended the hegemony of the Denver Broncos (2011-2015), led by the legendary Payton Manning.
The successive records of the Chiefs (12-4, 10-6, 12-4, 12-4, 14-2) are final, and their superiority is all the more notable as it is almost unique in the current NFL. Of the 31 other franchises, only the New Orleans Saints – NFC South’s first for four seasons – come close. But any cycle is doomed to come to an end, and the start of the 2021 season hints at the possibility of a handover in the West Division of the American Football Conference.
The AFC West ranking
Among the Chiefs, a struggling defense
Even if two regular season games are obviously not enough to draw up a first assessment, Kansas City showed some signs of weakness, after the home victory against the Browns (33-29), and the loss of one point against the Ravens (36-35), last Monday. The attack, led by an impressive Mahomes (6 TD to the pass, 1 to the race), struggles to compensate for the air pockets of the rearguard. Concretely, the finalists of the last Super Bowl have the worst defense in the league in their last 20 yards (red zone). A statistic illustrated by the seven touchdowns in the race cashed in the last two weeks.
» In the red zone, everything is amplified, the good as the bad, Andy Reid explained after the loss in Baltimore. We spent a lot of time in the offseason on defensive work. The efforts made during training camp have yet to pay off. The Kansas City head coach also spoke about the difficulties encountered in the tackle. » This comes in part from the state of mind: to stop being too careful, to mobilize towards the ball, to reduce the spaces of the runners … This is where we will have to improve. «
Derek Carr and the Raiders, threat # 1
But if the topic of the head of the division comes to the table, it is also because the Chiefs’ competitors are showing impressive form at the start of the season. Starting with the Raiders, entry winners of their first matches against the Ravens (33-27) and the Steelers (26-17), two serious contenders for the play-offs. The Las Vegas franchise, which has mainly reinforced its defense in the offseason (Yannick Ngakoue, Casey Hayward), has a very solid attack, led for the eighth consecutive year by Derek Carr.
The American quarterback has already completed 817 yards on the pass in two games, and launched four touchdowns. » I brag about Derek’s qualities since I coached the team, recalled Jon Gruden, the coach of the Raiders, in a press conference. There, I let his performances speak for him, he is one of the main reasons for our success at the start of the season. «
If the Broncos and Chargers seem to them clearly a tone below, they could however pose problems in the quest for the first place of the AFC West. Justin Herbert, star quarterback of the Los Angeles franchise, will cross paths with Patrick Mahomes on Sunday. For his second NFL season, will the sixth pick of the 2020 draft manage to take advantage of the loopholes in the Kansas City defense?
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