AFC West Preview

Long time no see everyone! Yes, it’s been a long, uneventful summer. The Royals are on the #RoadTo120 and the NBA champion has already been awarded to Golden State, so let’s get talking about the most exciting things. I’m talking about football. Yes, there’s still sometime before the real games start, but we’re close enough now to at least be able to start projecting and making picks based on little to no information. So, let’s dive on in and take a look at the AFC West shall we? Fair warning: I’m pumping the breaks on the Mahomes hype train ever so slightly. The man isn’t a god after all.

Oakland Raiders

Where they’ll finish: Last (5-11)

Why they’ll finish there:

They have Derek Carr. That’s about it. Jon Gruden has made his return to the armpit of the NFL that is the Raiders, and has already been loudly proclaiming to “bring football back to 1998” (a year where the previous Gruden led Oakland team went a perfectly boring 8-8) and to use a full-time traditional fullback and even a full-time blocking tight end. While this may get the get-off-my-lawn, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust portion of fans excited, there’s going to be a period of adjustments needing to be made. He’s also noted that he doesn’t care or want to use analytics and other stats or data (which by the way he likes to pronounce DAY-duh, which is just wrong). This will lead the offense backwards and neutralize Carr’s talents for the time being. They added a recently brittle Jordy Nelson, who Chiefs Kingdom will welcome the former K-State wideout with a lifetime of booing, but the offense looks to return to the running game. Oh, I almost dropped the ball and forgot to mention Amari Cooper. The defense is just not there for them. Khalil Mack is about it as far as great talents for the unit. The secondary is hinging on Karl Joseph and journeymen additions of Marcus Gilchrist and Tahir Whitehead. If your card gets quicksold in Madden Ultimate Team mode, and those are your starters, you’re going to have a bad time on the offensively loaded AFC Gunslinging West.

Oh, and I hate the Raiders. Boo.

Denver Broncos

Where they’ll finish: 3rd (7-9)

Why they’ll finish there:

The Broncos have fallen for the Matt Cassel trap. Sure Case Keenum had a good year coming in as the replacement for Sam I-Am-Hurt-Again Bradford, but was that really his success or the Vikings defense being absolutely fantastic and having a wide range of weapons on offense? We will soon find out. While he does have a top-half (probably) defense him, it’s getting older quickly. They did fill a huge need adding Bradley Chubb to go opposite Von Miller, so the pass rush will be there. However, it’s not difficult in today’s NFL to neutralize a pass rush dependent defense with quick passes and a running game. Aqib Talib was traded for a 5th round pick and an Almond Joy, T.J. Ward was released, and DeMarcus Ware has retired. So the defensive secondary will be leaning on Trumaine Brock. Now I hear you Pony Patrol (and you Carter): “HeY nIcK, wE sTiLl HaVe ChRiS hArRiS, jR….We HaD tHe ThIrD bEsT tOtAl DeFeNsE lAsT yEaR, dUmMy!”

That’s all fine and dandy. Denver still gave up just under 24ppg (23.9 for you sticklers) and gave up 29 touchdown passes. That’s not going to help against a pass happy division this season. Case Keenum better be worth it, because the running game is a complete mystery right now so Vance Joseph better dial up some sick concepts to get the ball to *squints at depth chart WR3* Isiah McKenzie and……*scrolls down depth chart to 4* Carlos Henderson. I’m thinking defenses will be smart enough to cover Thomas and Sanders. Yeah, have fun with that Broncos fans.

San Diego

Los Angeles Chargers

Where they’ll finish: 2nd (9-7)

Why they’ll finish there:

They can change their city, but they’re always going to give the same results. Phyllis Rivers will overachieve with a re-tooled offense but the defense will just give up too many key points and first downs. Granted, if you’re a fantasy owner, the Chargers have an absolutely loaded offense. Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, and Rivers’ new Ben Simmons definition “Rookie” Mike Williams, the offense will put up points. Despite being young, the defense will be capable. Melvin Ingram is coming off a 10 sack year (Again, 10.5 is the actual total before the Sabremetrics mob hunts me down with pencils), Derwin James is heralded as a top rookie in the Strong or Free Safety position (Coach Anthony Lynn has been having him practice both so far), and I haven’t even mentioned Joey Bosa yet. Gus Bradley (yes the former Jacksonville coach, which is another shining example of how coordinators can be good at something and terrible as a head coach; See Romeo Crennel for more details) has had a full year to reimplement the 4-3 and the defense will improve, but they are still lacking more veteran leadership. While they’ll be talented and give Kansas City all they can handle in the division, they’ve shown routinely that beating the Chiefs is a hurdle they can’t yet clear.

Kansas City Chiefs

Where they’ll finish: 1st (10-6)

Why they’ll finish there:

Alright Chiefs Kingdom, it’s not a given that we’re winning the division this year, but if Andy Reid screws up this offense’s potential, we should consider a coaching change. The possibilities with this amount of weapons is just about limitless. That being said, let’s pump the brakes on the Patrick Mahomes is the next Brett Favre train a bit. Does Mahomes look like he’s got the talent and skill set to be successful? Yes. This doesn’t mean we should expect DeShaun Watson pace numbers immediately. What Watson did before getting hurt was absolutely absurd, and shouldn’t be put as a bar for Mahomes to reach. Instead, let’s just focus on what we should prepare for, something that we haven’t had to deal with for a very long time: aggressive interceptions. Alex Smith hardly ever threw a pick, but when he did, you couldn’t ever chalk it up to him trying to be aggressive and force the ball down the field or trying to thread the needle. This isn’t a bad thing, but it will happen. All the great QBs of our time have a learning curve the first year or two, that’s just how the NFL works. However, Mahomes has the benefit of being absolutely spoiled with options to operate with. Tyreek Hill will continue to take the top off of defenses, Travis Kelce is a mismatch for any defender, Sammy Watkins has joined as a high volume target, oh and he has the reigning NFL rushing title holder in Kareem Hunt. If the offensive line holds up, even does average with Mahomes’ mobility, the offense should have no problem scoring points. The defense just needs to not be Dick Vermil era bad. It won’t be a great defense, but it needs to be par for the season. If the defense forces 3 punts a game, the Chiefs should win. Justin Houston and Chris Jones will lead the defensive line, Anthony Hutchins will guide a new interior linebacking corps, and Eric Berry will have to command the secondary with the loss of Marcus Peters, as he was traded for a box of Good & Plenty. If Andy Reid can somehow gain a shred of clock management, the Chiefs should be poised to three-peat as division champions, and maybe, just MAYBE, I literally cannot stress this enough, but POSSIBLY win a home playoff game.

I really look forward to writing a lot more often coming up to and during the football season. Hey, maybe we can even elbow drop some tables in the Arrowhead parking lot at some point. Regardless, I cannot wait until football season. It will be an exciting one.


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