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AFC West: Broncos have easiest schedule

They’ll tangle twice with one another in 2021. Just like they do every season. But the teams in the AFC West have slightly different schedules based mostly on how they finished the 2020 season.

All four AFC West teams will play the quartet of teams from the AFC North and NFC East, while the Chiefs will play the other two reigning AFC division champions, the Raiders the two second-place teams, the Chargers the third-place teams and the Broncos the last-place teams.

Let’s break down how the other three AFC West teams will navigate their out-of-division schedules.

Chiefs

The reigning AFC champions open with a rematch of their divisional playoff game against the Cleveland Browns before traveling in Week 2 to face the Baltimore Ravens.

Other marquee games include a Sunday night home tilt against the AFC East champion Buffalo Bills and a road game against the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans. The Chiefs also welcome the Green Bay Packers to Arrowhead Stadium on Nov. 7 in a matchup that could feature arguably the two best quarterbacks in the NFL, depending on what happens with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The rest of the schedule lines up with the Raiders’.

With quarterback Patrick Mahomes broaching his prime and a complement of All-Pro talent, the Chiefs are once again a top contender to win the AFC and the Super Bowl. They’ll boast the better quarterback and roster in almost every game they play.

Strength of schedule based on 2020 win percentages:11 of 32.

Chargers

Los Angeles quarterback Justin Herbert opens his second NFL season with a trip to the nation’s capital for a showdown with Washington. The Chargers’ third-place finish a year ago also sets up AFC games against an improved New England Patriots squad and the Houston Texans, who figure to be one of the worst teams in the league again in 2021.

The newly implemented 17th game brings the Minnesota Vikings to SoFi Stadium for an interesting showdown featuring two explosive offenses.

The schedule promises to have its challenges, but a new coaching staff, improved offensive line and secondary could trigger some improvement for Los Angeles in 2021.

Strength of schedule based on 2020 win percentages: 17 of 32.

Broncos

Denver’s last-place schedule sets up games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets, who both will likely start rookie quarterbacks in their Week 2 and Week 3 showdowns against the Broncos. A home game against the Detroit Lions serves as the 17th regular season game.

Road trips to Pittsburgh and Cleveland could make for challenging afternoons for whoever ends up starting at quarterback. The Broncos traded last month for Teddy Bridgewater and welcome Drew Lock back for his third NFL season, though his play in 2020 was marred with turnovers, inaccuracy and indecision.

Denver figures to have the easiest schedule of all the AFC West teams.

Strength of schedule based on 2020 win percentages: 27 of 32.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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