By: Cory Vest
West, we go. A division filled with pillaging and plundering, tribal encounters, stampeding herds, and thunder bolts of lightning; how very, very, frightening. The AFC West is composed of two frightening teams at least; the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. The other two are not so frightening; the Denver Broncos and the San…I mean Los Angeles Chargers.
1. Oakland Raiders – Over/Under 10
The silver and black are going to be back with vengeance. The Raiders’ sails were filled with winds of hope in 2016. The wind quickly died when Derek Carr suffered a broken Fibula in week 16. With Carr’s season over, so was the Raiders’.
A healed Carr, and a new beast in the backfield, have the Raiders looking to mimic the success seen last season. A high-powered offense teams up with a capable defense; capable of showing up but also capable of shutting up. Khalil Mack and the Raiders D will do just enough to get the Raiders back into the playoffs.
It is the power of the offense that propels this team. Derek Carr is accompanied by newly signed, and fresh out of retirement, Marshawn Lynch. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree will continue to be the top options for the gunslinger Carr. Points will be a plenty for the eye patch wearing swashbucklers.
The Raiders will outshoot 10 opponents and will finish the season 10-6. No over/under here, the Raiders will push when it comes to their 10-win mark. The Raiders will enter the playoffs with a deadly offense and a defense that can be exposed. Since defense wins championships, the Raiders make a first round exit; even with a healthy Derek Carr.
2. Kansas City Chiefs – Over/Under 9
They’re not a sleek, sexy sports car. They are no Maserati or Lamborghini. They are reliable, get you where you need to go, and get the job done; a Honda Accord maybe? Regardless of their make or model, the Chiefs have been improving each year. Each year, the Chiefs have been a team to be reckoned with. Each year, the Chiefs seem to lose by the slimmest of margins halting their playoff run.
The Chiefs’ roster is bland and boring like original oatmeal. Original oatmeal still has its perks and benefits; like the chiefs’ roster. Fitting to the Chiefs’ insipid nature, plain in name Alex Smith, sits at the helm of a steady offense. Travis Kelce provides Smith with a dependable set of hands at tight end. Tyreek Hill is KC’s jack of all trades; an electric athlete gifted with speed. Hill was a difference maker for the Chiefs last season as he ran back punts and kick offs, took hand offs, and hauled in passes. The word is out on this guy however, film has been watched, and NFL personnel are intelligent folk. Hill will be reined in this season, not stopped, but subdued. The Chiefs have also shipped out the aging and often injured Jamaal Charles; Spencer Ware will continue to handle the starting role.
The Chiefs’ defense makes big plays and can keep opponents out of the end zone. With both sides of the ball able to get the job done, the Chiefs work for an 11-5 record; two over their Vegas win total. A meeting with the Patriots in the playoffs is in store for the Chiefs for a second straight season. For a second straight season, the Patriots hand the Chiefs their notice of eviction from the playoffs.
3. Los Angeles Chargers – Over/Under 7.5
The Chargers packed up their bags and loaded up their trucks to make the two hour haul up to Los Angeles. Trading in the old and out dated Qualcomm stadium for a sardine can called StubHub Center, the Chargers will find themselves making a new home. A slew of late game mishaps, poor possessions at valuable moments, and untimely mistakes led the Chargers down a loss filled road last season; 11 to be exact.
The Chargers’ offense put up their share of points last season despite losing their top wideout Keenan Allen to another unlucky injury. Melvin Gordon managed to stay healthy however and proved worthy enough, finding pay dirt 10 times on the season. If Allen manages to stay healthy, Gordon improves upon his yards per carry, and Philip Rivers continues to awkwardly sling the ball, the Chargers offense shouldn’t miss a beat this year.
The defense was a letdown for the Chargers last season. Joey Bosa was not. In his second year, look for him to continue to do big things. The defense will be tested by strong offenses in 2017. A slight uptick in defensive production will occur and late stops will be made, limiting the amount of games that slip away from the bolts.
Overall, the Chargers feed off of the noise and excitement of playing in a small stadium. With fans to be won over, the Chargers will put up a decent 2017 campaign; it will fall short of the playoffs and under the win total though as they finish 7-9 on the season.
4. Denver Broncos – Over/Under 8.5
The Broncos have been known for their stout defense for quite some time now. The defensive roster possesses names to be feared. Von Miller, Aquib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Brandon Marshall, Derek Wolfe; you get the point. One name that will be missing in 2017 will be the coordinator behind it all, Wade Phillips. The defense played a key role in Denver’s 9-7 record last year.
Trevor Siemian appears to be QB1, followed by a watchful and ready Paxton Lynch. Siemian has viable targets in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The ceiling for the Denver offense is limited as the battery in the backfield calls for improvement. The Broncos’ solution at RB was signing Jamaal Charles; apparently, he can still help the team while injured on the sideline. Quarterback play will see a rise in production and effectiveness, which will help the offense slightly.
The offense will rely heavily on the defense to win games, causing the defense to wear down throughout the season. Denver’s schedule features offenses that are equipped with a variety of weapons. A 7-9 record for the Broncos leave them under the 8.5-win total and out of the playoffs. First year head coach Vance Joseph should see signs of hope for Denver’s future however as the game’s will be hard fought.