It was difficult to ignore the moves AFC West teams made this offseason.
The Raiders traded for perhaps the NFL’s best receiver, the Broncos quenched their thirst for a franchise quarterback and the Chargers landed some big fish on defense to support their young star QB.
The Chiefs traded a superstar playmaker, but used the money to add quality pieces to an already loaded roster.
The league and, perhaps just as important, their network partners took note.
The various TV contracts mean each NFL team can appear on only five prime-time games per season so that CBS and Fox have their share of marquee games.
The Chiefs, Broncos and Chargers received their full allotment of five. The Raiders, picked on the odds boards to finish last in the division, have four prime-time spots.
It’s recognition of how good — and competitive — the division should be. But it also will be a grind.
The AFC West is the only division in which all four teams would be favored over a league-average team on a neutral field. In simpler terms, each team is projected to be in the top half of the league.
Not only will the divisional matchups be a grind, but there aren’t many soft spots on the schedule as a whole.
Crossover games will be against the NFC West, arguably the second-best division.
That’s another reason the strength of schedule is so high for AFC West teams.
That metric is typically judged by how teams played last season, but a better way to measure might be to base it on the season win total posted in sportsbooks for the upcoming season. That accounts for changes made during the offseason.
Based on that standard, the Raiders have the NFL’s third-most difficult schedule. The Broncos are 16th and the Chargers 13th, because they play a fourth- and third-place schedule, respectively.
The Chiefs have far and away the league’s most difficult schedule. In fact, it might be one of the most challenging in some time.
Kansas City will be the first team in NFL history to open the season playing eight consecutive games against teams that finished the previous season with a winning record.
It’s not like any of them took much of a step back, either.
Of those eight opponents, the Raiders’ win total of 8.5 for this season is the lowest.
The Chiefs have won six straight division titles, but the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders think they have closed the gap with their offseason moves. If so, it should be a wild season in the AFC West.
Here’s a closer look at where each team stands:
Last season: 12-5
2022 win total: 10.5
Notable additions: WR Juju Smith-Schuster, RB Ronald Jones II, S Deon Bush, S Lonnie Johnson Jr., S Justin Reid, LB Jermaine Carter Jr., WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, CB Trent McDuffie, DE George Karlaftis, WR Skyy Moore.
Notable losses: WR Tyreek Hill, S Tyrann Mathieu, CB Charvarius Ward, CB Mike Hughes, S Daniel Sorensen, WR Byron Pringle, WR Demarcus Robinson.
Bottom line: Trading Hill is going to change the look of the offense, but the combination of coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes makes them the favorites until someone proves otherwise even with the brutal schedule.
Last season: 10-7
2022 win total: 8.5
Notable additions: WR Davante Adams, Edge Chandler Jones, DT Vernon Butler, WR Keelan Cole, LB Jayon Brown, CB Rock Ya-Sin, RB Brandon Bolden, Edge Kyler Fackrell, S Duron Harmon, WR Mack Hollins, WR Demarcus Robinson, RB Ameer Abdullah, DT Kyle Peko, FB Jakob Johnson, LB Micah Kiser, QB Jarrett Stidham, OL Dylan Parham, RB Zamir White.
Notable losses: Edge Yannick Ngakoue, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, LB Nicholas Morrow, QB Marcus Mariota, DT Quinton Jefferson, DL Solomon Thomas, WR Zay Jones, CB Casey Hayward, WR Bryan Edwards, CB Brandon Facyson, FB Alec Ingold.
Bottom line: After hiring a new coach and general manager, the Raiders left no doubt about their intention to go all-in on this season by making splashy trades for Adams and Jones.
Last season: 9-8
2022 win total: 10
Notable additions: Edge Khalil Mack, TE Gerald Everett, CB Bryce Callahan, LB Kyle Van Noy, CB J.C. Jackson, DT Austin Johnson, WR DeAndre Carter, DT Sebastian Joseph-Day, LB Troy Reeder, OG Zion Johnson, S J.T. Woods, RB Isaiah Spiller.
Notable losses: Edge Kyler Fackrell, Edge Uchenna Nwosu, DT Justin Jones, TE Stephen Anderson, LB Kyzir White.
Bottom line: The Chargers are likely to lose a few more players who are free agents and haven’t signed anywhere, like Chris Harris, Linval Joseph, Jared Cook and Bryan Bulaga, but they added more than enough talent to take a swing at capitalizing on quarterback Justin Herbert’s rookie deal.
Last season: 7-10
2022 win total: 10
Notable additions: QB Russell Wilson, OT Billy Turner, DT D.J. Jones, CB K’Waun Williams, OT Tom Compton, Edge Randy Gregory, TE Eric Tomlinson, LB Alex Singleton, LB Nik Bonitto, TE Greg Dulcich.
Notable losses: QB Teddy Bridgewater, QB Drew Lock, DT Shelby Harris, CB Bryce Callahan, TE Noah Fant, LB Micah Kiser, LB Kenny Young.
Bottom line: So many pundits have said the Broncos’ roster has been a quarterback away the past few years. Now they have one after trading for Wilson, so the theory will be put to the test.