2017 AFC West Preview

1. Kansas City Chiefs– For the first time since 2010, the Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC West. What I like about them is they just play football. They don’t run any wildcat type of formations. They run the football downhill, they control the clock, the offensive line wins the battle up front and most importantly, they have a quarterback that doesn’t turn the ball over in Alex Smith. They also have the best tight end in football not named Gronkowski in Travis Kelce. Their defense has also been elite as well. Justin Houston has become one of the elite pass-rushers in all of football, Tamba Hali on the other side, Derrick Johnson patrolling the middle at linebacker and then, there’s a secondary with two all-pro guys in Marcus Peters and Eric Berry. They’ll always be a tough team for anybody to play because of the brand of football they play. They’ve lost in the divisional round of the playoffs two years in a row. Getting over the hump and advancing would be something big of itself.

2. Oakland Raiders– The last time the Raiders finished a season with a winning record, it was in 2002 and Rich Gannon was their quarterback and he had a pair of wide receivers who are now both in the hall of fame. Do the names Jerry Rice and Tim Brown ring a bell? The Silver and Black are back. If he didn’t get injured, Derek Carr is the league’s MVP and you saw just how differently the team looked after he went down last year. He’s back now and enters the year as a potential MVP candidate once again. Everyone is back on that offense. Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, that offensive line is still intact and they have a new face on the team this year. The Raiders lured Oakland native Marshawn Lynch out of retirement. The defense was up and down all season, but the most consistent part of the unit was Khalil Mack who won the defensive player of the year award last year. The secondary is looking to improve after drafting safety Obi Melinfonwu from UConn. It could be another fun year again by the bay.

3. Denver Broncos– Four straight years, they were dominating this division. Last year, that streak came to an end. They entered the 2016 season with a different looking team. Peyton finally retired from the game, they lost some pieces on the offensive line and some key assets to the defense that propelled them to win Super Bowl 50. They got off to a good start, then struggled to close out the season. Gary Kubiak decided to retire from coaching and the Broncos hired former defensive coordinator Vance Joseph as the team’s new head coach. Trevor Siemian caught a lot of flack for his first season under center as the quarterback. He isn’t a bad quarterback and he got more comfortable as the season went along. Hopefully, the offense gets a boost with C.J. Anderson returning from injury. The defense wasn’t bad last season, but it definitely wasn’t the 2015 version. The Broncos struggled to stop the run in 2016 and will look to improve on that especially with Joseph being a defensive-minded guy.

4. Los Angeles Chargers– It’s a new beginning for the Chargers. They’ll now be playing in Los Angeles after playing in San Diego for so many years. Mike McCoy was fired and the team hired Anthony Lynn as the new head coach. In 2016, the Chargers had a league-worst 21 players on injured-reserve. As he’s gotten older, Philip Rivers has shown no signs of slowing down. Last season, we also saw the emergence of running back Melvin Gordon. The Chargers haven’t had a force out the backfield since the days of LaDainian Tomlinson. The defense got a big time boost out of Joey Bosa, their first draft pick in the 2016 draft and he has a very bright future ahead of them.

2017 Predictions
1. Raiders (11-5)
2. Chiefs (10-6)
3. Broncos (9-7)
4. Chargers (7-9)

The Oakland Raiders will win the AFC West for the first time in 15 years. Marshawn Lynch enters a very good situation in Oakland. He has talented receivers on the perimeter that will each see one on one coverage’s because of the attention that Marshawn will draw when teams load the box, a talented quarterback in Derek Carr, a very solid and all-around offensive line. Just like last season, the Raiders begin with three of their first four games on the road and end the season with three of their last four on the road. After a 12-4 season in 2016, the Raiders enter 2017 with the fourth toughest strength of schedule in the NFL.