For the past 20 years, the AFC West has been dominated by the Denver Broncos. They have won 5 out of the last 6 division titles and three Super Bowls. The AFC West is considered one of the best divisions in football year in and year out but the last time a team other than the Broncos won a championship was the 1983 Oakland Raiders. The Good news for the Raiders, Chargers and Chiefs… all of that is about to change.
There is a new Sheriff in the AFC West.
AFC West preview and prediction:
Oakland Raiders (Last season 12-4) …2017 prediction 12-4.
According to Spotrac, 26-year-old quarterback, Derek Carr signed a 5 year, $125,000,000 contract with the Oakland Raiders, including a $12,500,000 signing bonus, $70,200,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $25,000,000. Before Carr broke his leg, he led the Raiders to a 12-3 record, completed 63.8% of his passes, had 28 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. If Healthy, Carr should have a “monster” season. WR, Amari Cooper had 83 catches last season and at 23-years-old,he is a rising star. In 2015, Michael Crabtree left the San Francisco 49ers and signed with the Raiders. In two years with the “Silver and Black” Crabtree has 174 catches and 17 touchdowns. He has been the team’s most consistent option. Former Seattle Seahawks running back, Marshawn Lynch has come out of retirement. His career numbers are beyond impressive, 9,122 career yards and 74 rushing touchdowns. In his last year in Seattle he was 8th in the league in yards rushed after 1st contact. If the Raiders can set up the run by passing first, Lynch could get 1,000 yards and that would be a tremendous help to Carr. The man they call “skittles and beast mode” should have a minimum of 12 rushing touchdowns on the year.
The Raiders have the best defensive player in the league in linebacker Khalil Mack. In three seasons, Mack has 30 sacks and 225 combines tackles in 48 games. I don’t know if the Raiders have a great run defense but with their offense they should be playing from the lead, that will force teams to throw and Mack should have a minimum of 16 sacks on the year.
Kansas City Chiefs (Last season 12-4)… 2017 prediction 10-6.
There absolutely no difference from Andy Reid and former Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer. Reid has a career regular season record of 173-114 and a post-season record of 11-12. Schottenheimer was 200-126-1 and 5-13 in the playoffs. Both coaches will get you a minimum of 9 wins during the regular season but will get thoroughly out coached in the playoffs. Reid’s philosophy is straight out of the 1980s. He wants to run the ball and have Alex Smith manage the game at the quarterback position. WR Jeremy Maclin had 76 catches in 2016 and signed with the Baltimore Ravens. That will put added pressure on Travis Kelce and Tryeek Hill. RB Spencer Ware could get 1,000 yards but he is not a top 5 running back. With an average QB like Smith, you need a dominant running game, The Chiefs don’t have that.
On defense, the Chiefs have a few elite players. Safety Eric Berry and defensive back Marcus Peters can dominate a quarter, half or a game. 4-time Pro-Bowl LB Justin Houston has only played in 16 games over the last two years. If he can stay healthy he can wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. In 2014 Houston had 22 sacks.
Denver Broncos (last season, 9-7)… 2017 prediction, 9-7.
Rookie coach Vance Joseph takes over a team that has been to the Super Bowl 2 times in the last 4 years. Their offense struggled mightily last season. They finished the year 27th in rushing yards and 26th in Red Zone touchdowns. Despite a weak offense they still finished the season scoring 333 points, giving up 297 for a plus 36-point differential. The Broncos are 9-0 over the past two seasons when they score a defensive touchdown.
Quarterback Trevor Siemian threw for 3,401 yards, completed 59.5% of his passes and had 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders combined for 169 receptions over 2,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Both should put up similar numbers this year. The running game will be done by committee. C.J. Anderson is the projected starter but newly acquired Jaamal Charles from Kansas City and 2nd year back Devontae Booker should all get touches and playing time.
On defense, Von Miller continues to anchor this team. In 6 years, Miller has 76 sacks and 272 total tackles. In the secondary Chris Harris, Darian Stewart and Aqib Talib lead the secondary. Their defense is consistent every game.
If Joseph can get this offense to cut down on their “three and outs” this team could make the playoffs.. There is nothing more frustrating to a talented defense than constantly being out on the field. I think Joseph will do a good job with this team and they are a borderline playoff contender.
Los Angeles Chargers (Last season 5-11)… 2017 prediction, 8-8.
New coach Anthony Lynn arrives to an organization that has a new home and to a team that has missed the playoffs 6 out of 7 years. Lynn has a plethora of weapons on offense. With the 7th overall pick the Chargers selected Clemson WR, Mike Williams. At 6’4, 220lbs Williams can be a tremendous asset for Quarterback Phillip Rivers. In 13 games, last year, RB Melvin Gordon rushed for over 900 yards and had 12 touchdowns. If he can stay healthy, along with WR Keenan Allen the Chargers could put up some serious numbers. Allen who was once considered an elite WR has only played in 9 games over the past two seasons. On defense, rooking Joey Bosa, had 10.5 sacks in 12 games and was named defensive rookie of the year. DB Casey Hawyard led the NFL with 7 interceptions last year and should have another Pro-Bowl season.
The problem with the Chargers has been consistency. They will go on a three-game run where Rivers looks like the best quarterback in the NFL and they can beat any team, followed by a three-game run where they look like the Cleveland Browns. This team should score enough points to win 8 or 9 games.
The Raiders have the best quarterback In Carr and the best defensive player in the NFL in Mack. I expect Oakland to dominate this division for the next 3 years minimum. To paraphrase legendary owner Al Davis,” The Raiders are just gonna win baby!”
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