Chiefs control AFC West with potential breakout QB Mahomes

By now, you’ve likely seen or heard about Patrick Mahomes’ preseason touchdown strike that traveled 69 yards in the air before landing in Tyreek Hill’s hands.

That arm strength is why the Kansas City Chiefs traded Alex Smith and handed the keys to the offense to the second-year quarterback.

Smith was coming off arguably the best season of his career when the Chiefs sent him to the Washington Redskins in January. The Chiefs didn’t even wait for March, when most teams make offseason trades. The team had seen enough from Mahomes in practices to go all in.

Hill recently said the Chiefs will have their best offense this season, and it’s hard to disagree given all the weapons surrounding Mahomes.

Mahomes and his rocket arm will have the luxury of throwing to Hill, free-agent addition Sammy Watkins, Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce and versatile running back Kareem Hunt, who led the league in rushing yards as a rookie in 2017.

But there will be growing pains for Mahomes as defenses adjust to him. He’s known for taking risks, a recipe for interceptions.

Mahomes is in good hands with coach Andy Reid, who has a track record of grooming quarterbacks.

The Chiefs look poised to repeat as AFC West champions, but the suspect defense could prevent that. Expect Kansas City to struggle in the secondary. It also has unproven players on the front seven, outside of Justin Houston.

The Chiefs get former All-Pro safety Eric Berry back, but it’s unknown if he’s the same player after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the season opener last year.

Los Angeles Chargers

Even with the Chiefs’ loaded offense, the Chargers could be the most talented team in the division.

But it’s hard to trust them. In recent years, the Chargers have disappointed because they can’t escape the injury bug or close out games.

The Chargers have already lost top players Hunter Henry and Jason Verrett for the season because of injuries.

Los Angeles’ kicking situation, a big reason the team started 0-4 last year, isn’t much better with the addition of Caleb Sturgis.

But there’s no denying how deep this roster is, especially on defense. The Chargers arguably have the best pass-rushing duo in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

Quarterback Philip Rivers is back for a 15th season and has a skilled receiving corps that features Keenan Allen.

Raiders

The Raiders are the mystery team in the division with the return of coach Jon Gruden.

Is Gruden serious about employing a throwback run-first offense? Or will he spread out the offense like he’s shown in practices and preseason games and let quarterback Derek Carr attack?

Carr is hoping to get an upgraded offense after a letdown in 2017 with the addition of receiver Jordy Nelson.

The offensive line could be a problem if first-round pick Kolton Miller struggles at left tackle and Donald Penn doesn’t find a rhythm at right tackle.

The Raiders’ defensive line looks to be much improved with rookies Arden Key, Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall, who will quickly need to elevate their pass-rushing skills with the departure of Khalil Mack.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos are hopeful they’ve found their quarterback after signing Case Keenum, who had a breakout year with the Minnesota Vikings.

Keenum has already shown chemistry with his wide receivers and could have a top rookie in the backfield with Royce Freeman.

Denver gave star edge rusher Von Miller help by selecting Bradley Chubb fifth overall in April’s draft.

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GManzano24 on Twitter.

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