Story by Jaret Kappelman
The AFC West is shaping out to be the most competitive division in the AFC this upcoming season. Let’s break down each team and project where each will finish.
For the past few seasons the Broncos have been known for two things, an average offense capable to explode in any game and a rock solid defense. Over the past two seasons the defense has only allowed 299.6 yards per game, which is the best by any team over that span. Of course, the defense is led by Super Bowl 50 MVP, Von Miller, who is making a case to be one of the greatest Linebackers of all time. Last season Miller led his team and was second in the NFL with 13.5 sacks. Miller also led his team with three forced fumbles. Miller has always been the play-maker on Defense and he can line up on either side of the field. This year the Broncos will need to rely on the Miller and the rest of the defense to make the big plays late in games.
This season the Broncos will turn to Trevor Siemian, once again, to steer this offense in the right direction. Last season, Siemian struggled to have an outstanding game that everyone was talking about the next week. Siemian only threw for 300 yards in three games last season and the Broncos still lost two of those games. Siemian has a lot to prove this season as the anxious, first round pick, Paxton Lynch waits on the bench. Siemian’s favorite targets, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, had a 1,000-yard season each and five touchdown’s a piece. This season it is expected for the duo to replicate and even improve on these numbers.Embed from Getty Images
The X-Factor for this Broncos offense is no other than C.J. Anderson. After a breakout season in 2014, where he averaged 4.7 yards a carry and eight touchdowns, he has failed to get back on that level we all know he is capable of. With his 2016 season being cut short to just seven games, due to a torn meniscus, Anderson has the fuel to make an impact on the team this season. Anderson is my early front runner to win “Comeback Player of the Year.”
The Broncos did not have the best offseason, with Gary Kubiak stepping down as head coach, the Broncos sought out Vance Joseph, former defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins. However, I’m not sure if the firepower is there to take down Derek Carr and the Raiders, or Andy Reid’s Chiefs.
Denver Broncos: 9-7 Misses Playoffs
Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs look to start the 2017 season right where they left off in 2016. After winning five of its last six in the regular season to secure the second overall seed in the AFC. Unfortunately, the Chiefs had no offense the night of the Divisional Round Playoff. Losing a game when the other team doesn’t even manage to get into the end zone is tough, especially in the playoffs. Travis Kelce made his point after that game and like the rest of the team they have moved on, with its eyes on the Lombardi Trophy this year.
With recent news, Spencer Ware has torn his PCL and damaged his LCL it is expected he will be out for the season. This creates a hole in the Chiefs’ Offense that rookie, Kareem Hunt, out of Toledo looks to fill. Hunt had an impressive career at Toledo, with a total of 5,500 yards from scrimmage and 45 total touchdowns in his four years. Look for Hunt to have a huge impact on the Chiefs this year. Last season, Tyreek Hill broke out for the Chiefs as he joined an elite list of players to have a rushing, receiving and kick return touchdown’s all in the same game. The Speed Demon, creates chaos for the opposing defense. Hill is definitely going to get more touches from the backfield and become a larger threat in the Kansas City offense this year. Hill reminds me of Randall Cobb, and with the release of Jeremy Maclin, Hill looks to put up more crazy stats this upcoming season.Embed from Getty Images
Defending has never been a weakness for the Chiefs, headed by none other than Eric Berry, the veteran and vocal leader of this defense. Last year the Chiefs’ defense led the NFL in takeaways, with 33. This season we should expect the same if not a better performance from the defense. Also, the Chiefs Red Zone defense only allowed a touchdown on 45.6 percent of its opponents Red Zone appearances, fourth best in the NFL. After adding Bennie Logan to the defensive line and a healthy Justin Houston on the field this defense looks to compete with Denver as best in the NFL.Embed from Getty Images
Overall, the Chiefs should be happy with its core players and drafting quarterback Patrick Mahomes II adds depth. The Chiefs are looking forward to another successful season, which could end with them holding the Lombardi Trophy.
Kansas City Chiefs: 11-5 Fifth Seed Wild Card
Los Angeles Chargers:
Let’s recap the Charger’s offseason, fire head coach Mike McCoy and hire Anthony Lynn 11 days later. Announce the team is moving to Los Angeles and get zero support from the fans. Unveil a new logo they had to abandon because that was ripped to pieces. Long story short, a brand-new city, a chance for a fresh start, but still the same old Chargers.
The Chargers are led by quarterback, Philip Rivers. Rivers is an absolute animal. He has played in 185-straight games and his numbers go up every year despite his age. Rivers definitely needs help this season from Melvin Gordon who is coming off a productive 2016 season, but needs to put it into that next gear.Embed from Getty Images
The Chargers invested its first-round pick in 2015 for Gordon to become the face of the franchise and in two seasons he is averaging 3.7 yards a carry, has 12 total touchdowns and six lost fumbles. In the 2015 draft, David Johnson, Tevin Coleman and Jay Ajayi were all drafted in the third round or later and are putting up better numbers than Gordon. This past draft the Chargers drafted Mike Williams, wide receiver from Clemson. This is a great pick up as he will work extremely well with Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin. However, his one issue at Clemson was staying healthy and already in the NFL he is expected to be out until at least October with a back injury.
At the head of the defense is linebacker, Melvin Ingram and Defensive End, Joey Bosa. Ingram, who signed a contract extension in the offseason looks to continue where he left off in 2016 where he had eight sacks and 4 forced fumbles. Rookie of the Year Winner, Joey Bosa, who only played in 12 games, racked up 10.5 sacks and countless numbers of hits on opposing quarterbacks.
The Chargers are on the rise and I can guarantee it will be the best team in Los Angeles this season. However, the Chargers need another year to mold together as a team and make a legitimate run at the Super Bowl.
Los Angeles Chargers: 7-9 Misses Playoffs
With the announcement that the Raiders will be moving to Las Vegas within the next few years, it’s now or never for the Oakland fans. With head coach, Jack Del Rio and quarterback, Derek Carr, the Raiders are favorites to win the division and looking to bring one home to “Raider Nation.”Embed from Getty Images
The Raiders made worldwide headlines when rumors started brewing about the return of “Beast Mode.” After sitting out the 2016 season Marshawn Lynch decided it was time to lace back up. On April 26, the Seahawks and Raiders agreed on terms to send Lynch over to his hometown. Lynch will look to add to the already loaded Raider offense. Derek Carr’s 2016 season ended in week 16 with a broken leg. This not only cost the Raiders its first-round bye in the playoffs, but it also cost them its season. Carr was putting up impressive numbers with a little under 4,000 passing yards and 28-6 touchdown to interception ratio. The wide receiver pair in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree is one of if not the best pair in the NFL. Both players had over 1,000 yards and combined for 13 touchdowns.Embed from Getty Images
On the defensive side, the Raiders turn to Defensive End, Khalil Mack. Mack has 26 sacks over the last two seasons and had a sack in eight straight games in 2016. Although, Mack is arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL, he needs help from the secondary. After allowing an average of 257.5 passing yards a game, which ranked in the bottom third of the NFL, the Raiders drafted a cornerback from Ohio State, Gareon Conley. His final year at Ohio State he recorded four interceptions and eight pass deflections. Linebacker Bruce Irvin is setup to have another great season. In his first year with the Raiders he recorded seven sacks and forced six fumbles. Look for Irvin and Conley to have a large role in the success of the defense this season.
The Raiders and Carr have much to prove this season. If Carr stays healthy this team has all the tools to make a deep run in the playoffs and should expect to be playing for the AFC Championship in January.
Oakland Raiders: 12-4 Second Seed Division Winner