Kiz: I know nothing about putting hay in the barn, but now that the NFL draft is complete, we have a pretty clear idea about the Broncos’ stable of talent in 2022. While many fans in Broncos Country would be delighted to see a six-year playoff drought end, new quarterback Russell Wilson and this old scribe are all about winning big. In what appears to be a very balanced and strong AFC West, what record will be required to win the division?
O’Halloran: Hay puts my allergies into overdrive, which made it interesting to cover horse racing back in the day. Three teams from the same division have qualified for the playoffs in both years of the seven-club format — Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland from the AFC North in 2020 and San Francisco, Arizona and the Los Angeles Rams this past season — and that will be my prediction for the AFC West this year. I’ll go 12 wins to capture the division banner.
Kiz: Although my favorite subject in school was lunch, I did a little homework. During the past 10 years, the AFC West champ won fewer than 12 games only one time, when K.C. claimed the division with a 10-6 record in 2017. But with sports books just a click away on that internet thingy, you can find an over/under proposition on the number of victories for the Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers at 10 1/2. Will more than one team in the AFC West win at least 11 of 17 regular-season games?
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O’Halloran: Vegas is wise and its theory at putting the Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers on equal footing is they will beat the stuffing out of each other and dominate their non-division schedule. But yes, I do think one team will get hot down the stretch and go 12-5 to win the West. In those aforementioned two years when three division teams made the playoffs, Pittsburgh and Baltimore went 4-2 and Cleveland 3-3 in the division, and the Rams went 3-3, Cardinals 4-2 and 49ers 2-4 last year. The key: Beating up on non-division opponents.
Kiz: After the trade of receiver Tyreek Hill, it feels as if the Chiefs are retooling. While the kudos for Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert are certainly understandable, is it OK if I hold off on anointing him a truly elite NFL quarterback? So I do think the wild West can be won with an 11-6 record. My formula for the Broncos to get there: Go 4-2 against division foes, beat the Jaguars in London and finish 6-4 against everybody else on the schedule. Let’s ride.
O’Halloran: We’ll get the official word on Broncos-Jaguars in London this week, but it sure is looking like that will happen. The Chiefs have done a nice job retooling on the fly after trading Hill away. I like the JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdez-Scanting and Skyy Moore additions. The Broncos’ best path to winning the West — 4-2 in the division, 3-1 against the AFC South, 3-1 against the NFC West and 2-1 in the cross-over games. Boom, 12-5.