Chargers' AFC West title hopes hanging on for dear life amid DeAndre Hopkins chase

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) celebrates after a catch against the Seattle
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) celebrates after a catch against the Seattle / Michael Chow/The Republic / USA TODAY

The LA Chargers are still searching for their first AFC West title since Justin Herbert announced himself as the franchise quarterback.

While the Chargers have the talent to supplant the Chiefs as division champs, they're way to inconsistent game-to-game to instill a real scare in Patrick Mahomes and company. Look no further than their blowout loss against the Jaguars in Week 3 and their 27-20 loss to six-win Raiders later in the season.

Of course, LA experienced some brutal luck last season.

Keenan Allen and Mike Williams couldn't stay on the field together, while injuries limited Joey Bosa to five games and J.C. Jackson underwent season-ending ankle surgery and Herbert played through a rib-cartilage fracture.

It stands to reason the Bolts' injury luck will improve, but that won't mean anything if the Chiefs continue adding championship pieces.

After the Cardinals released DeAndre Hopkins on Friday, Kansas City has emerged as one of the favorites to sign the three-time All-Pro.

DeAndre Hopkins signing with the Chiefs would be a nightmare for the Chargers.

Per insider Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, Kansas City and Buffalo were the only teams to have "substantive" trade talks for Hopkins.

Chargers fans might perceive that as bad news, but Breer added the Chiefs and Bills are currently "unlikely suitors for Hopkins due to his current price. Ipso facto, LA's AFC West title hopes are hanging on by a thread.

Mahomes proved last season he doesn't need a high-level receiver to dominate the league. Even without Tyreek Hill, Mahomes threw for nearly 5,300 yards with 41 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. While Travis Kelce remains the game's best tight end, the Chiefs WR room was headlined by Juju Smith-Schuster, Marquez-Valdes Scantling, Mecole Hardman and Kadarius Toney.

Not exactly a murderer's row of wideouts. Further, Jerick McKinnon finished third on the team in catches, only one receiver logged more than 50 catches and one had more than 700 receiving yards.

Smith-Schuster essentially was the Chiefs WR1. With all due respect, Smith-Schuster doesn't provoke the same kind of fear in a defense that Hopkins does. It's really not close, even though Hopkins is nearing the end of his prime.

It's unclear if Hopkins will join the highest bidder or take a discount to join a title contender. A five-time Pro Bowler, Hopkins has played in six playoff games in his career -- his last coming in 2020 -- so it wouldn't surprise if the Chiefs or Bills topped his list of destinations.

As of this writing, the Chargers pose a legit threat to the Chiefs in the AFC West. If the defending champs go out and add Hopkins to their Super Bowl-winning roster, though, LA will be hard-pressed to capture its first division title since 2009.