Which NFL teams are not living up to the hype?

Winning the NFL preseason is easy. Delivering in the regular season once the real action begins is another thing entirely and for teams in the AFC West, this has been an alarming beginning to the new season. The AFC West division, which has been said to be the toughest in the NFL and has at least three of its teams ranked high in the NFL odds of reaching the Super Bowl, has kicked off with a poor record.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos were said to be just a quarterback and capable head coach away from contending in the postseason. Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson were apparently the answers, and the Broncos entered 2022 regarded as a playoff club with the potential to contend for a championship.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Four games in, they are 2-2 and ranked 29th offensively. Amid the underwhelming performances, Wilson’s reputation has slipped while his former backup Geno Smith has been playing well in Seattle. Hackett has been widely derided for some astonishingly poor decisions and overall game management.

An 11-10 victory over the 49ers at least showed that their defense remains strong, and Wilson showed what he was capable of when leading the drive that put his team ahead. However, a lot of that good work was undone in Week Four with a 23-32 defeat against the Raiders, a team that had gone into the game with a 0-3 record. There’s still time, of course, but the Broncos are way off the pace right now.

Los Angeles Chargers

Every season, some clubs are more affected by attrition than others and in 2022, it looks like it’s the turn of the Chargers to be in this category. They have made a 2-2 start, but the main news so far has been a rash of injuries to important players. The most noteworthy case was Justin Herbert, whose MVP expectations were severely dented after he injured rib cartilage in a Week Two loss to the Chiefs.

Herbert is not the only injured Charger, however. Keenan Allen, a Pro Bowl receiver, has been out with a hamstring injury since Week One. J.C. Jackson, a cornerback in the Pro Bowl, missed Weeks One and Three due to an ongoing ankle issue following offseason surgery. Corey Linsley was also sidelined, ahead of the Week Three loss to the Jaguars due to an injured knee.

That game, in addition to being an embarrassing defeat, produced more injuries. Joey Bosa sustained a groin injury that will require surgery, while Rashawn Slater, another Pro-Bowler, won’t be seen again this season after rupturing a biceps tendon. Victory over the Texans in Week Four at least took the Chargers to a .500 record, but probably isn’t worth much, as they desperately need some good injury news.

Las Vegas Raiders

The win over the Broncos in Week Four was crucial, but given Denver’s own struggles, that success may not be as solid as it appears on the results list.

It also still leaves the Raiders with a lot of work to do. Only six teams have made the postseason following a 0-3 start since 1979 and while the expanded playoffs may increase their chances, this was not where fans or analysts expected Las Vegas to be four weeks into the season.

Las Vegas effectively reset the receiver market by bringing in Davante Adams and giving him a contract extension worth $28m per year. His joining up with his former college teammate Derek Carr, along with the addition of tight end Darren Waller seemed to indicate that the Raiders offense would be significantly stronger this season, boosted further by the arrival of Josh McDaniels in the head coach role.

There was also reason for optimism on defense, as pass rusher Chandler Jones was added to strengthen a defensive group that had allowed over 25 points per game last season. With extra depth on both sides of the ball, it seemed likely that the Raiders would improve significantly.

Instead, their performances have fallen far short of the expected level. Statistically, their offense has shown some promise, but not enough to give them the victory against an injury-hit Chargers, the Cardinals or the mediocre Titans. They are ranked 25th on defense and if it was not for the struggles of Nathaniel Hackett at the Broncos, McDaniels own problems would surely have received more scrutiny. With the Chiefs up next, the Raiders may well be heading into their bye week with a 1-4 record.