WILL defending champions Denver challenge again this time round? Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) gives us his AFC West thoughts.
AFC West | 8th September 2016
Hands up. Who else forgot that Denver won the lot in February? I spent most of the summer convinced that Carolina must have won the Super Bowl but no, despite a less than brilliant return from injury, Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset with his second ring.
Trevor Sieman (who’s he I hear you ask) will start the season under centre although a safe pair of hands, a difficult thing to say about a guys who’s never thrown a pro pass, you get the idea that he is keeping the seat warm for first round draft pick Paxton Lynch.
Devontae Booker will take on the role of back up to C.J. Anderson after the departure of Ronnie Hillman. A player to watch will be Tight End Jeff Heuerman who missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL.
Demarius Thomas had for him a poor season last time with a huge number of dropped passes. He still managed some 100 catches and 1300 yards. He will hope to take a step forward this time. Emmanuel Sanders is as good a number two as there is in the AFC.
Make no mistake, Denver’s success was on the back of its monstrous defence. One or two have been lost such as Danny Trevaythan but one or two also return.
Most importantly Von Miller will run everyone close for Defensive Player of the Year. Reports have him in the best shape of his life. Oh and most teams won’t even try to attack the Denver secondary. Fairly pointless.
Prediction: Hard one with the QB situation. Defence is elite so 11-5 and a chance in post season
Kansas City Chiefs
I don’t think anything impressed me more than the last 10 games of Kansas City’s season. Standing at 1-5, they lose their star Jamaal Charles to a career ending torn ACL. Nowhere to go.
Alex Smith steps up throwing for a career best 3486 yards and the Chiefs find not one but two rushers to take on Charles’ production. 1-5 became 11-5 and the Chiefs won a playoff game for the first time in 23 years.
All bright at Arrowhead then? No not really. Despite, Smiths career season the Chiefs were 30th in passing yards and their biggest weapon Jeremy Maclin went down in preseason.
Remember this is the team that went over a year without a Receiver catching a single touchdown. Travis Kelcie is nothing special at Tight End and it remains to be seen how well Charles returns from his 3rd ACL.
It’s on defence where they may really take a step back. Despite managing to retain the majority of this elite unit, they are seriously hurt in the secondary.
Justin Houston is the key to this football team and he could end up missing the entire season. A lot of steps forward were taken last season. A few backward ones could be in store this time.
Prediction: 9-7 Houston too big a loss to overcome early on
So I am going to surprise a few and say I think the Raiders can make a return to the post season for the first time in 15 years. I also expect this to be their final season in the Bay Area before Las Vegas finally snares an NFL Franchise.
I think the organisation has made huge strides over the last four years. There is talent and young talent at that, all over the field. Derek Carr could have a breakout season and he want too shabby last time out.
There are targets all over the field. Latavius Murray, Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper are a very solid trio of very fast receivers. An added bonus for Carr is the recruitment of Kelechi Osmeli who will boost his Offensive Line.
Can the Silver and Black find a defence to back up the supremely talented Khalil Mack? Safety Karl Joseph and Cornerback Sean Smith are high class additions from the first round of the draft and free agency respectively.
Jack Del Rio’s first season went as well as could be expected. If he can shore up his pass defence then his young quarterback can get this team over the line. With quarterback issues in Denver and Defence a problem in Kansas, there is a chance to step up and leave Oakland in a blaze of glory.
Prediction: 10-6 and a trip to the playoffs. decent chance of winning the Division.
San Diego Chargers
Another team possibly in its last season in their current home is the Chargers. There is little doubt they will leave Qualcomm but remaining in San Diego is by no means a done deal. Apart from that, the situation on the field is worse. Much worse.
I am not sure how to describe the train crash that was their 4-12 effort last year. How on earth can a team with Philip Rivers finish with just four wins.
As always in the NFL, the stats do not lie. 32 of 32 in rushing yards per attempt and 30 of 32 on rushing yards allowed. That is really not a good combination and there have been some significant losses on the defence during the off season as well. Even the recruitment of Joey Bosa as pick number 3 in this years draft has not gone well with Bosa holding out until a week before the season started.
Where to start with the offence. Well, on the positive side Travis Benjamin is an excellent pickup. This is a guy that despite the mess in Cleveland and its revolving door policy for quarterbacks, managed to catch 68 passes for a shade under a 1000 yards.
Take that Kelvin Benjamin and have Philip Rivers throwing to him and you have the makings of a Pro Bowl season. Antonio Gates will continue in the role of Antonio Gates which basically involves catching touchdowns thrown by Philip Rivers and then going to the bench for oxygen.
Eric Weddle is a huge loss and it is unlikely that San Diego has recruited well enough to not only cover Weddles absence but also improve on a very bad situation where Rivers cannot possibly score enough points to win games. I’m not sure it gets a whole lot better for the Chargers
AFC Best Bets
New England Patriots to win AFC (15/4 Bet365)
Khalil Mack to be Regular Season Sack Leader (4/1 Bet365)
New England Patriots to finish with Best Record (15/2 Bet365)
Cleveland Browns to finish with Worst Record (4/1 Bet365)