Just a few short months ago, there was absolutely no shortage of hype surrounding the AFC West. During the offseason, every single non-Kansas City Chiefs team appeared to get better on paper. The Los Angeles Chargers, a feisty young team with an aggressive head coach and one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league, added numerous defensive pieces and seemed ready to make a push for the division crown. The Las Vegas Raiders, last season’s second-place team, added arguably the top wide receiver in the NFL to a team that had just won 10 games. The Denver Broncos, the “just a quarterback away” squad, invested $245 million into the position. All of this, combined with Kansas City trading away its most dangerous pass-catcher back in March, led many to believe that the AFC West was shaping up to be not just the best division in football, but potentially one of the best in NFL history. Just 10 games and 11 weeks into the 2022 NFL season, none of that matters. The same team is slated to finish atop the standings for the seventh year in a row, and it may not be particularly close. By defeating the Chargers on the road on Sunday, the Chiefs extended their two-game lead to three and also secured a tiebreaker over their rivals. With what’s effectively a four-game advantage with that tiebreaker factored in, the odds are clearly stacked in Kansas City’s favor. Per Football Outsiders, Andy Reid’s bunch has a 99.5% chance of winning the AFC West. That’s right — the odds of the Chiefs losing their lead in the proclaimed preseason gauntlet are half a percent. Somehow, the final gap between them and the next-best team in the division record-wise may end up being even wider than it was a year ago.
Kansas City’s dominance here is nothing new, as the Reid and Patrick Mahomes era has featured a ton of success within the division. With this week’s Sunday Night Football win, Mahomes is now 14-0 on the road against AFC West opponents in his career. With 25 consecutive overall wins in the months of November and December, this is the part of the year in which Reid and company rise to the top. Dating back to 2016, it’s been the same outcome time and time again. After the Raiders defeated the Broncos in overtime earlier on Sunday, both teams sit at 3-7 on the year. That’s a very far cry from the Chiefs’ 8-2 record, and it’s a significant step below the Chargers’ 5-5 standing through Week 11. The division has quickly turned into a two-horse race, and the leader just lapped the next-closest contestant. Las Vegas and Denver are scrambling just to have a shot at saving their wild-card hopes, let alone thinking about gunning for the division crown. With Mahomes playing MVP-level football, players like Travis Kelce working alongside him on offense and Steve Spagnuolo’s defense doing just enough to chip in, the Chiefs seem to have all but booked their trip to the playoffs yet again. Instead of scrapping to win the West, they can shift their focus to the AFC’s No. 1 seed and only first-round bye. Teams usually don’t have that luxury after 10 games and while it’s still mathematically possible that the Chargers complete a comeback, it would be a near-miracle. Despite all the noise, the same thorn in the division’s side is alone at the top once again.