The AFC West has a lot of teams with stories, many just haven’t told a story in awhile. The Broncos are living in Elway’s shadow, both as a player and as a manager. The Raiders are still hanging in there waiting for things to finally align for them. And Philip Rivers’s kids will soon be old enough and plentiful enough to field every position on the field for the Chargers–but I digress. Below is our preview of the division. As with all things unprovable, we are 100% correct all the time and should not be questioned.
Expected record: 4-12, Poor Raiders. They really are getting better. I just don’t think it will result in wins this year. With the combination of having the worst roster in their division and playing both the NFC and AFC North this year, it’s going to be another long year for the team wearing silver and black.
Key Matchup: November 29 at Tennessee
This game could be key in the overall standings as teams battle for the young Mr. Bosa from Ohio State. Can you imagine Bosa partnering up with Khalil Mack to chase down 40-year-old Peyton Manning? See Raider fans, I said something positive!
Key Matchup: Oakland vs. San Diego vs. St. Louis
It’s the race to Los Angeles! So many possibilities but many believe two of these teams will be playing in L.A. sooner rather than later. Right now I like St. Louis owner Stan Kronke’s approach. He’s already bought land and has plans for a stadium. Eventually the NFL will just let him stay because it would be too much effort to stop him.
Impact Player: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB
I promise on the rest of the preview I will not be so obvious, since no one has watched a Raiders game in ten years (See: moving to L.A.) then I want to help spread the word about Mack. He is a beast, a monster, a freak, whatever cliché you want to use. You need to watch the Raiders when they are on Defense this year.
San Diego Chargers
Expected record: 8-8
Could be a year of transition for the Super Chargers. The team could be shifting more towards a running team with the addition of Melvin Gordon and a beefed up offensive line. They could be transitioning to a new city. That second one could be a bit of a distraction.
Key Matchup: October 12 vs. Pittsburgh
This game is part of a brutal start of the season. If San Diego wants to compete for a playoff berth this game will be key.
Key Matchups: December 20 vs. Miami. Merry Christmas Chargers fans! Come see your team for the last time, In what could be the last home game before they move to L.A. It’s either a key playoff matchup or a going away party. We’ll see.
Impact Player: Danny Woodhead (RB)
Little Danny was injured most of last year and the Chargers really missed him. He doesn’t look the part of an NFL running back so people underestimate his effectiveness. But Woodhead is great catching the ball out of the backfield as well as running near the goal line. Pay attention fantasy players.
Kansas City Chiefs
Expected record: 9-7
Bold prediction time! I predict that Alex Smith WILL throw a touchdown to a wide receiver this year. Not very many, but it will happen. Having Jeremy Maclin is nice but this team will depend on its Defense. With many returning injured starters, the K.C. Defense should be one of the top units in the league.
Key Matchup: September 17 vs. Denver
Just 5 days after the season opener, Denver comes to town for the first Thursday night matchup. If Kansas City has improved enough to contend for the AFC West title this will be a great early test against the four time reigning AFC West champions.
Key Matchup: December 20 at Baltimore
A week 15 matchup against a top AFC team could be key to the Chiefs playoff chances. Battles of quality running games and dominate defenses. Should be fun to watch.
Impact player: Eric Berry (S)
Just by stepping back onto the field, Berry is an amazing story. For those who don’t know, Eric Berry was diagnosed with lymphoma in his chest. He is back now and it’s not only a great story but Berry is a great safety and could be a key to the KC Defense.
Expected record: 12-4
Homer Alert! Homer Alert! I will admit that I grew up in Denver and am a diehard Broncos fan. So please know that I have orange and blue running through my veins but I will try to be realistic. This team will go as far as Peyton Manning (OLD) and their offensive line (YOUNG) can take them.
Key Matchup: November 8 at Indianapolis
The Colts eliminated the Broncos from the playoffs last year. Not to make excuses but Peyton was hurt, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas were playing scared because free agency was coming up, and John Fox/Adam Gase/Jack Del Rio already were thinking about their next jobs. Fine, that’s a lot of excuses. But this will be an important game.
Key Matchup: November 29 vs. New England
The Broncos actually do pretty well when the Patriots come to Denver, not so much the other way. Should be a battle for one of the top seeds in the AFC. Brady vs. Manning for the last time…again!
Impact player: Malik Jackson, DE
Jackson is a young DE who has been solid but is ready to explode this year. With Wade Phillips attacking style, Jackson can do what he does best. Hit the quarterback. With all the attention on Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, and Shane Ray, expect big things out of the Jackson and the Broncos Defense as they lead the team to another Super Bowl. I couldn’t help myself. Go Broncos!