The AFC West is going to be a gauntlet this season, which we knew coming in after the three teams chasing the Chiefs spent the offseason loading up on more talent.
The previously basement dwelling Broncos added Russell Wilson, finally bringing on a high-caliber QB for the first time since Peyton Manning. The Chargers upgraded their defense with a trade for Khalil Mack and signing J.C. Jackson, while the Raiders added Davante Adams and others to try and keep up in the offensive arms race in the division. All the while, the Chiefs still employ Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, along with plenty more talent despite the departure of Tyreek Hill.
In Week 1, the Chiefs made quite the statement to the rest of the division and league with a 44-21 thumping of the Cardinals in Arizona, with Mahomes throwing for five touchdowns to remind everyone that Josh Allen and the Bills will have plenty of competition in the AFC this year. Those five TD passes weren’t even his best, as that came on a deep cross throw to Kelce, in which he dropped it in between three defenders on an absolute dime.
It’s the kind of throw that often leads to an announcer saying “only Mahomes,” but there happens to be another absolute freak throwing passes in his same division that made almost an identical throw in his Week 1 matchup. Justin Herbert didn’t put up as gaudy a statline as Mahomes, but the Chargers got a win over the Raiders in their opener thanks to their star QB’s ability to make similarly preposterous passes. On a nearly identical looking play, just to the right side of the field instead of the left (against a similar zone look), Herbert dropped a ball in over the heads of two chasing defenders to Keenan Allen for a big gain for L.A. — as Jared Dubin of CBS Sports pointed out in a thread looking at some of the best passes of the week from the All-22.
It really is wild that we have multiple quarterbacks capable (and maybe more importantly, willing) to make these kinds of throws and these full field angles offer some great insight into what makes playing defense now so difficult. These receivers aren’t particularly open, but even when you play good defense, if you have linebackers or DBs turning to chase, the elite QBs will happily flick a pass by their earhole knowing they aren’t looking for it, even if in tight coverage.
Mahomes and Herbert are two of the best at it right now (along with Allen and Aaron Rodgers, as the short list of guys who regularly make WTF throws), and godspeed to AFC West defenses trying to figure out how to slow them down.