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AFC West Update: Chargers Lose Another Key Player On Defense

Posted Sep 28, 2017

Almost a quarter of the way through the season, here's a look around the AFC West.

Through three weeks of action, the Kansas City Chiefs retain sole possession of the AFC West, boasting an undefeated record of 3-0. While they’ve come out the gates strong, there’s a lot of time left, and anything can happen going forward.

The Oakland Raiders won’t face the Chiefs until Week 7 when they host the division rival at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on Thursday Night Football, but this week they’ll face another tough test in the Denver Broncos.

With both teams sitting at 2-1, the outcome of this game won’t make or break the season, but there’s always a little added incentive when playing a divisional battle.

Prior to the start of this week’s clash, let’s take a look around the AFC West.

Denver Broncos

Last season, the Broncos offensive line allowed 40 sacks, which ranked 24th in the NFL, while the Silver and Black ranked first with 18. Addressing issues on the line was a priority for the team this offseason, and they did so by adding former Raiders right tackle Menelik Watson, and using their first-round draft pick on former Utah Ute Garett Bolles.

So far, Bolles ranks 31st among all offensive tackles with a Pro Football Focus grade of 67.8, and a pass block grade of 67.8. Unfortunately for the rookie, he’ll be tasked with stopping one of the best edge defenders in the game in Khalil Mack.

Mack is currently ranked third among all PFF edge defenders with a grade of 90.1, also among the best in pass rush with a rating of 84.5. For Bolles, no matter how he prepares this week, he’ll surely have a difficult task in front of him.

As we all know, No. 52 has had impressive performances in the past against the Broncos, so it’ll be interesting to see how he performs this week at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Kansas City Chiefs

As mentioned previously, the Chiefs have gotten out to a hot start, and a major reason for that has been the production of rookie running back Kareem Hunt. In each of his first three games, the former University of Toledo Rocket has rushed for a 50-plus-yard touchdown.

With the game against the Chargers all but locked up, Hunt took it upon himself to put the game out of reach. Lined up in the backfield, No. 27 took the handoff from Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, and ran through the offensive line unscathed, as he streaked downfield for a 69-yard touchdown.

To put the Chiefs up by two scores, kicker Cairo Santos chipped the ball through for the PAT, but it seems as though that’ll be his last attempt for quite some time. As of Tuesday, the Chiefs placed Santos on the Injured Reserve list, and he won’t be able to return for at least six weeks.

The Chiefs will face the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football, in what should be a good matchup.

Los Angeles Chargers

No one likes to start the season on a bad note, but for the Chargers that’s the current situation they find themselves in. Yet to notch a “W” in the win column, the Bolts face another stout opponent this week in the Philadelphia Eagles.

With a multitude of weapons on offense for the Eagles, the Chargers best chance at stopping them is if linebacker Melvin Ingram and defensive end Joey Bosa can get rolling. Through three weeks, Ingram is currently second in the NFL for most sacks with 5.5.

In order for the pass rush to get going, the pass coverage in the secondary needs to be capable of providing enough time for Ingram to do his job. That might be difficult to do considering one of the strongest players on the defensive unit will undergo season-ending knee surgery.

That’s right, after missing a majority of 2016 with a torn ACL, cornerback Jason Verrett will conclude his season early for the second year in a row. Without Verrett to defend against deep threats like Eagles wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, the Chargers could have their hands full this weekend.