Okay guys, It’s Pack here! It’s still weeks away before preseason begins so all we’re bound to hear about on major sports networks is holdouts, who is primed for a breakout season, and *puke* LeBron James. In other news, I saw a recent article by my buddy Relli and I was pretty disappointed. I felt it did not take an objective approach of how the AFC West is really going to end up. He wasn’t entirely wrong on some topics, but it just screams “I’m from Kansas City and everywhere else sucks!” So, without any further interruption I’m not going to dissect his article but provide my own speculation.
- Chargers (12-4)
- Raiders (10-6)
- Chiefs (7-9)
- Broncos (4-12)
Denver Broncos (4-12)
Reasons for the record:
Okay let’s get real about the Broncos for a minute. The quarterback situation has been an absolute dumpster fire since Peyton Manning retired. Between Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemien, Paxton Lynch, and Case Keenum it’s honestly a tossup of who is the best in this hellhole of a group. They really tried saying Case was their guy the whole time when the offseason began. If anyone really believes this boldface lie, please stop reading this article IMMEDIATELY. Elway swung and missed hard on Kirk Cousins. Second, the running back situation is depending on Royce Freeman to be an absolute stud considering they cut C.J. Anderson, not looking good so far considering Booker is the other option. Look at the line, I’m pretty sure it’s the revolving kitchen door from a Denny’s. Aging receivers aren’t looking terrible but they are not going to be great with Keenum at the helm, but hey Jake Butt could be good!
Vance Joseph will not be having the time of his life this year (Has anybody even heard where Sergio Dipp is these days???). Joseph is depending on the defense which just lost Aqib Talib for a half-eaten bag of Chex Mix to be able to carry the team. Drafting Bradley Chubb was the only great move I will say the Broncos really made this offseason. I’d almost dare to say four wins is generous for the Broncos. Elway is probably banking on drafting a quarterback once again next year or the following one if he doesn’t get the can. Joseph is arguably the worst coach in this division, he really needs to step his game up if they look to have better than a top five pick once again.
To achieve better than this prediction they’d need Keenum to show last year was not a fluke. Considering he’s never really shown promise anywhere else I doubt it. Royce Freeman could honestly be good, if he exceeds expectations it might tack on an additional win or two. Who really expected Kamara and Hunt to be as good as they were last year? Lastly, the defense must show they are as good as the one which carried Peyton to his second ring. Basically a miracle needs to happen for this team to win consistently. If the Broncos are under .500 by week 8 it is hard to say Vance Joseph will not be fired.
Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)
Reasons for the record:
Chiefs fans have been spoiled for the past few years to be honest. Alex Smith is a hell of a quarterback, but he was not the issue at the end of the day. Reid is the guy calling the plays during crunch time. I was incredibly impressed with Smith’s stats last year. He played lights out as if he were an elite quarterback. I know I’m going to get grilled for this, but Patrick Mahomes is not the answer. Living in Kansas City you’d probably think he was the second coming based on the hype. It is an insult to Brett Favre to hear his name mentioned as a comparison. I’ll give my take: Jay Cutler meets Jason Campbell meets Graham Harrell. If anyone isn’t sure what that means, it means he’s going to be eaten alive by Kansas City residents by 2020.
Now with that being said, the offensive potential is otherwise tremendous with Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill. The problems lie with three things: inexperience of Patrick Mahomes, injury history of Sammy Watkins, and the always questionable health of the offensive line. Now if the Chiefs can overcome two of the obstacles I will say seven wins could definitely happen if nothing else goes wrong, but let’s not forget the defense.
This defense is arguably the worst in the AFC West. You expect Justin Houston and Eric Berry to not get hurt for a minimum of three games apiece? Prepare to be disappointed. I’m a big fan of Kendall Fuller and Anthony Hitchens joining the team, but honestly how did Brett Veach not take a fifth-round supplemental selection of Adonis Alexander from Virginia Tech with how atrocious the secondary is looking? The defensive line is made up of Chris Jones and players who are not even noteworthy outside of KC. It is a spotty defense with no identity at the moment.
Special teams is easily the best part of this team. I will say Harrison Butker is a top five kicker in the league this year. Butker was an absolute steal of a pickup for the Chiefs last year. I was recently talking to a buddy of mine who honestly would cringe every time Cairo Santos would get set. If the Chiefs have anybody but Tyreek returning the ball it is an ABSOLUTE mistake. I see Mahomes struggling but maybe not as bad as DeShone Kizer did last year, Watkins starts ten games at most, and the line does it’s thing and has two injuries for at least half of the season. The defense gives up a minimum of 20 points per game, but special teams is able to pull out a few close ones to keep this team from being a 5-11 team.
To achieve better than this record Reid is really going to have to do some serious coaching. He is arguably the best coach in this division, but I’d dare to say there were too many negative-impacting roster moves this offseason. Mahomes must prove me to be wrong, he has to defy the stigma which has plagued all Texas Tech quarterbacks of the past few decades. Injuries must be kept to a minimum, this roster has been riddled with them to key players each year which in turn might be another pivotal reason why the Chiefs have not moved further in the playoffs these last few years. The rookies and youthful defense HAVE to step it up! The run defense has been absolutely atrocious over the last few years besides 2015. Establishing a solid run defense will be difficult considering the pass defense will miss the luxury of Marcus Peters. This team will be interesting, it’s young, expect mistakes and plenty of them, but also expect some big plays occasionally.
Los Angeles Chargers (12-4)
Reasons for the record:
Phillip Rivers is probably the closest thing we have seen since Dan Marino. The man is trashed on by rivals for his obnoxious faces he makes, but the guy is a freaking wizard with the ball. Melvin Gordon when healthy is a top ten running back in the league but staying on the field remains to be seen. The offensive line is easily the best in the AFC West and arguably one of the best in the league. Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams are a solid enough duo of receivers, but Mike Williams NEEDS to improve this year for this squad to be special. The real fault lies with the shaky tight end position since Hunter Henry is out for the season.
The defense is looking pretty good to be honest. I could list the stacked lineup led by Bosa but let’s continue. This team was stacked enough to be able to take Derwin James as a luxury pick in the first round. I’m honestly going to be surprised if this team were to get anything less than ten wins this year. The only thing I’d really be concerned about would be the special teams squad, which honestly could’ve been way better had they not cut their kicker for Younghoe Koo who they later cut in the season, honestly who couldn’t root for a guy named Younghoe regardless of the team?
It is hard to imagine this team could be better, but who could’ve imagined the Panthers would have only lost one game when they lost their best receiver in Kelvin Benjamin a few years back. I believe if this offense can get flowing and further develop their young weapons the sky is the limit. If the defense can somehow become a top five unit it will be hard to say this team can’t win thirteen or fourteen. It’s hard to gauge how good of a coach Anthony Lynn really is considering how stacked this team is becoming. This might be one of the last chances for Rivers to catch that ever elusive Super Bowl win. If there was any year I felt the team could make it in the last decade based on potential it might just be this one.
Oakland Raiders (10-6)
Reasons for the record:
Okay, so this was a difficult conclusion to come to. You really must ask yourself if Jon Gruden really has what it takes still. Is this going to be Jon Gruden of a decade ago who ran the Bucs into the ground, or will it be the Jon Gruden of two decades ago who made Rich Gannon a stud? Honestly, it’s a toss-up for me, but I believe anything is better than Jack Del Rio. Del Rio is in that group of coaches which you question why they get more than one chance (Looking at you Jeff Fisher). I mean Del Rio has a 49.7% win percentage, that’s worse odds than a coin flip.
Derek Carr is a good quarterback who has potential to be a great quarterback, Gruden has to prove he truly is a quarterback guru if he wants Carr to achieve his potential. The running back situation is suspect once again, but the addition of Doug Martin could end up being a decent pick up if it pans out. Martin should definitely be the starter over Lynch, if this were a few years ago this backfield would be arguably the best, but Marshawn has already retired once, and Martin has been through rehab. Oh, how the mighty have fallen folks! The offensive line situation is maybe just a little better than Kansas City’s which isn’t great by any means. The real treat is when you look at the trio of receivers. Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper, and Martavis Bryant is a group which has potential to be one of the best groups of receivers in the league. When healthy, Jordy is a monster, if Amari and Martavis can get back to form then this group will not only be good, but maybe even prolific under the right circumstances.
The defense led by Khalil Mack has nowhere to go but up from here! Honestly, I believe people are overlooking the selections of Arden Key and Mo Hurst which have huge potential to be steals from this past draft. How these two dropped so far is beyond me, but a team like the Raiders could use a boost from these guys. I believe Gareon Conley will be solid in the secondary this year, but this defense will need to continue to develop over the next few years if they look to compete with the Chiefs and Chargers. I think the Raiders end up being a better version of what the Chiefs aspire to be this year but with a worse special teams. The offense will be great, the defense will be okay at best which still leads to a wild card berth.
The way this team could achieve a better record is to prove the offensive line is better than we think. Being able to protect Derek Carr was a real struggle for the line last year. Doug Martin and Marshawn Lynch need to show they have something left in the tank. I’m not saying they have to return to Pro Bowl caliber, but at least one of them needs to be within the top fifteen running backs. The receivers all bounce back from last year and become a force to be reckoned with, I have a hard time believing they won’t with Gruden, but anything is possible. Lastly, this defense MUST improve, they were almost within the bottom ten defenses in the league. I believe Jon Gruden can turn this team around, but it might take time for the defense to develop the rookies who could be special. If Arden Key and Mo Hurst start early on I believe this defense can only benefit from giving them reps.
This will arguably be one of the best divisions in the league over the next few years. The Broncos are the only team whose future looks bleak barring a miracle. In the end with the Chiefs rebuilding I believe this to be a two-team race between the Chargers and the Raiders taking the crown from the two-time defending division champion Chiefs. The Chargers would honestly have to be injury riddled and the Raiders would have to underachieve again for this to not happen.