Posted on September 8, 2022
With seven of the eight teams in the western divisions having a legitimate shot at the postseason (sorry Seattle), those two divisions will likely be the most important in the league.
That is going to make it incredibly competitive to be at the top of that group each week, which could very well also mean the top of the league.
Each week I am going to rank each of the eight teams and give an update on their season as they jostle for position within their divisions.
With three games in Week One featuring teams from the west on either side, these rankings could look much different this time next week.
1. Los Angeles RamsThe Rams are the defending Super Bowl champs so it is only fitting that they find themselves atop this list.
Most of last year’s team is coming back including three players that were ranked in the top 10 of the NFL’s top 100 players list (Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, and Jalen Ramsey).
They also added even more talent to the group by adding wide receiver Allen Robinson and linebacker Bobby Wagner to the championship-winning core.
There are some questions heading into the season, though, especially on offense. Mainly, how will quarterback Matthew Stafford’s elbow hold up and if the running backs can be effective enough to shoulder the load.
Also, the Rams have to replace Andrew Whitworth at left tackle after he retired because he ultimately could not actually play forever.
Repeating as champs is a very tough task in this league (it hasn’t been done since the Patriots in the early 2000s) so the odds are stacked against the Rams this year.
They are going to be facing some stiff competition from the rest of the west teams for the top spot in this ranking so they may not find themselves at Number One next week.
2. Los Angeles ChargersFive teams on this list made the playoffs last year and despite the Chargers not being one of them, they still slot in at Number Two. But it is hard to find a reason not to like this team.
Quarterback Justin Herbert is quickly on his way to becoming a superstar in this league and he could have an absolutely phenomenal season in 2022.
Los Angeles also added two key pieces on the defense, outside linebacker Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson, to ensure that the defense does not hold the team back.
How head coach Brandon Staley manages this incredibly talented team will end up deciding where they finish on this list.
He has drawn both criticism and praise for his unique decisions at times but if he squanders this roster then he will certainly be subject to much more criticism in the offseason.
3. Kansas City ChiefsIt is unusual to see the Chiefs at any spot other than the top of a ranking of teams because that is how good they have been over the last four years.
With star quarterback Patrick Mahomes still leading the way, Kansas City has a very bright outlook for this season.
But that doesn’t mean that this team is without its warts.
They will be without elite wide receiver Tyreek Hill after trading him to the Dolphins. There are also a few concerns on the defense, a unit that hasn’t been pulling its weight recently.
Ultimately, the star power of the Chiefs will keep them in contention all year.
Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, defensive tackle Chris Jones, and a very good offensive line will be more than enough to get the job done and make the playoffs.
The real question is can the Chiefs maintain their status as the most dominant team in the league or will they suffer some slight regression in what may end up being a down year?
4. San Francisco 49ersThere is no bigger wild card in the west this year than quarterback Trey Lance.
The 49ers have essentially the same team that made it the last year’s NFC Championship Game outside of the new starter under center.
How he fares in his first full season as a starter will determine if San Francisco can make some noise this year and climb up these rankings or if they need to take a year to put it all together.
They should at least have a dominant defense, which will help make up for any struggles that Lance has.
With defensive end Nick Bosa, a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and linebacker Fred Warner, one of the best defensive playmakers in the league, the Niners have the talent to field an excellent unit on that side of the ball.
This is a team with a very high ceiling thanks to the creativity of head coach Kyle Shanahan but it is not a guarantee that they can reach it just yet.
5. Denver BroncosThe Broncos not even making the top half of this list is a testament to the strength of the teams in the two divisions.
Denver suddenly has a chance to win the AFC West and maybe even make a Super Bowl run, all thanks to the acquisition of star quarterback Russell Wilson over the offseason.
Wilson immediately improves the franchise and makes the Broncos nearly a lock finish better than the 7-10 record from 2021.
The one thing that would enable this team to enter into the upper echelon of elite teams this year is the improvement of young talent.
Running back Javonte Williams, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, and cornerback Pat Surtain II will all need to contribute the best seasons of their careers if Denver wants to have a shot at winning the division and making a playoff run.
6. Las Vegas RaidersThe new faces in Las Vegas are giving Raiders’ fans a lot of reasons to have hope in 2022.
New head coach Josh McDaniels brings with him the experience of coaching under Bill Belichick but also comes with the baggage of his failed stint as head coach of the Broncos.
If he can prove to be a stable leader then he could elevate this team big time.
On the field, the Raiders added wide receiver Davante Adams and outside linebacker Chandler Jones to help add to what they believe is a playoff-caliber roster.
Getting help for quarterback Derek Carr was a much-needed move and he may be destined for greatness this year due to his chemistry with Adams, his former college teammate, and the potential of McDaniels’s offensive scheme.
The trenches may be what holds the Raiders back this year.
Las Vegas has been downright awful at getting to the quarterback on defense and even though they added Jones to go with defensive end Maxx Crosby, it may not be enough to get that unit to where it needs to be.
And on the other side of the ball, the offensive line may end up as one of the worst groups in the entire league.
Despite the talent elsewhere on the offense, the line may be bad enough to prevent the Raiders from capitalizing on its potential.
7. Arizona CardinalsThe Cardinals have had a whirlwind of an offseason.
From the suspension of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the addition of wide receiver Marquise Brown to the contract extension saga with Kyler Murray, Arizona has really been through it all.
Now head coach Kliff Kingsbury will be tasked with putting it all together into a cohesive unit that can at least repeat last year’s achievement of making the playoffs (but maybe not repeating what happened after that).
Murray certainly has the talent to get this team where it needs to go but he has yet to prove he can remain effective for an entire year.
The defense also has some talented players such as safety Budda Baker and outside linebacker Markus Golden but concerns at cornerback and questions about the young linebackers might hold them back.
The Cardinals always seem to break down at some point in the second half of the year and with a team in 2022 that already seems more susceptible to a collapse, it may not work out as well as it did last year.
8. Seattle SeahawksOh, how the mighty have fallen.
Ten years ago was the start of the Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll era that led to the greatest sustained success in Seahawks’ history. Now, the team will have Geno Smith at quarterback.
This year isn’t about Smith, though. The 2022 season for Seattle is about attempting to bridge the gap between the great players on the roster and the talent that will carry them into the future.
With several already established players on the team such as safety Jamal Adams and wide receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, the Seahawks have the experience to keep this year’s team from truly plummeting to the bottom of the league.
The Seahawks are also relying on a whole bunch of young players such as linebacker Jordyn Brooks, running back Kenneth Walker, and rookie tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, who figure to lead the next generation.
How those players pan out this year—especially the rookies—will directly impact the level of excitement that the fanbase has for this team going into 2023.
But let’s be honest, 2022 is going to be bad, so get used to seeing the Seahawks in the Number Eight spot.
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