Thursday, August 18, 2016

AFC West Preview: 2016

            I wrap up our preview of the AFC with a look at the AFC West. This division is surprisingly deeper than you think, with any team having a legitimate case to finish first. It contains the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos, the underrated Oakland Raiders, the playoff-contending Kansas City Chiefs, and the upbeat San Diego Chargers. Who will emerge on top of the AFC West? You'll be surprised by who's picked first.

  1. Oakland Raiders: You read that right, now hear me out. I'm picking Oakland to surprise everyone and finish atop the AFC West. That's right. The team that was formerly a laughingstock of the NFL will finish first in the AFC West. Why? Because their offense is underrated. Latavius Murray (266 carries, 1,066 yards, six touchdowns) is one of the more underrated running backs in the NFL. Plus, It'll depend on how well Derek Carr does this year. Carr should only get better with the likes of Amari Cooper (72 receptions, 1,070 yards, six touchdowns) and Michael Crabtree (85 receptions, 922 yards, nine touchdowns) as his receivers. The Raiders also added Reggie Nelson to assist on a defense that's led by Khalil Mack (77 tackles, 2nd-most sacks in the NFL with 15, 12 tackles for loss) and Malcolm Smith (122 yards, four sacks, ten tackles for loss).
  2. Denver Broncos: A part of why I've picked Oakland over Denver in the AFC West this year isn't just because the Raiders actually have a formidable team this year. It's because of the fact that both Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler are gone. Now, both an aging Manning and Osweiler both aren't world-stoppers. However, having Mark Sanchez (Yes, THAT Mark Sanchez) compete for a starting job with a rookie in Paxton Lynch isn't an ideal quarterback battle that the defending champs want. Still, Denver's defense and slew of receivers should ease the pain and keep the Broncos in contention up until the last week (Perhaps they'll prove me wrong and win the division after all).
  3. Kansas City Chiefs: Defense is the name of the game in the AFC West and the Chiefs are no exception. The Chiefs have a solid young secondary with defensive back Marcus Peters (60 combined tackles, a forced fumbles, and led the league in interceptions with eight). Kansas City still has a strong pass rush as well in spite of Justin Houston having a down year compared to his 2014 season (7.5 sacks, 30 combined tackles). Still, this Chiefs team should be hard to score on. It's just a matter of whether they can score points on their own.
  4. San Diego Chargers: Little known fact: San Diego only allowed 299 first downs last season, good for 7th in the NFL. Their stinginess will be in full effect again as the Chargers look to rebound from an abysmal season last year. They'll also get Keenan Allen back, which will help their offense immensely. San Diego must hope that the injury bug doesn't sting key players like last season.
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