Denver Broncos: 2015 Record: 12-4
2016 Projected Record: 7-9
Key Additions: Donald Stephenson, Russell Okung, Mark Sanchez?????
Key Losses: Peyton Manning, Danny Trevathan, Malik Jackson
With Denver their whole season depends on the QB play from Trevor Siemian (and if Mark Sanchez is still there). Although it’s preseason I haven’t seen anything that proves that Siemian can be a starting QB in this league. The Broncos drafted Paxton Lynch in the 1st Round but he’s a project at the QB position and I don’t believe he’ll be ready to start this year.
The Broncos almost lost C.J Anderson to the Dolphins in free agency but the Broncos decided to match the offer. The running game was vital for the Broncos in the 2nd half of the year & the playoffs. In week 12 last year C.J Anderson had 113 yards & 2 TDs against the Patriots with one of them being a 48 yard run in overtime to win it. I’m not worried about the Broncos’ receivers cause they’re one of the best groups in the NFL I’m worried about who’s getting them the ball.
Denver’s defense is definitely it’s strong point. Denver has the best defense in my opinion with one of the best pass rushes in the league. Their pass rush is of course led by Von Miller who has 60 sacks in his first 5 years. The Broncos also still have Demarcus Ware on the other side to wreak havoc. The Broncos lost Danny Trevathan to the Bears in free agency but they still have Brandon Marshall in the middle.
The Broncos’ secondary is labeled as the “No Fly Zone” and it shows. They’re led by arguably the best CB group with Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr.,& Bradley Roby. The secondary of the Broncos had 4 INTs that went for TDs which was tied for the league lead (the other 2 teams were the Arizona Cardinals & Carolina Panthers). I see the Broncos being a .500 team solely on the fact there’s a big question at the QB position.
Kansas City Chiefs: 2015 Record: 11-5
2016 Projected Record: 9-7
Key Additions: Chris Jones (draft)
Key Losses: Sean Smith, Ben Grubbs
The Chief’s offense is still led by Alex Smith (is that a good thing?). I don’t know if I’m the only one but I think this offense is held back by the limitations of Alex Smith’s arm. He’s a QB that won’t lose you games by making bad plays but he also isn’t going to be a QB that can bring you back to win a game from behind. Alex Smith has yet to throw for 3,500 yards & 24+ TDs.
The Chiefs are hoping that Jamaal Charles can come back healthy this year. Charles in his 8 year career has NEVER played a full season & it’d be hard to think that he’ll start this year coming off a torn ACL. He is key to what the offense does with his dual threat ability out of the backfield. The Chiefs receivers are led by Jeremy Maclin… yep that might be about it. The main threat in an Alex Smith offense is the TE & Travis Kelce is one of the best in the NFL. Kelce was the 6th leading receiving TE with 875 yards in 2015.
The defense is also the strong point of the Chiefs. Their D-Line is led by Dontari Poe in the middle. Poe is one of the best nose tackles in the NFL. Of course the Chiefs still have Tamba Hali & Justin Houston on the outside to create their pass rush but it is unknown when Houston will play this coming off a knee injury in 2015. Houston has been one of the best pass rushers in the league with 56 sacks in his 5 year career.
The secondary of the Chiefs is led with Marcus Peters. Peters in his rookie year in 2015 had 8 interceptions to tie the league lead with Reggie Nelson. Chiefs are obviously hoping for similar production from him. The Chiefs lost Sean Smith to the Raiders and now start their 3rd round pick Steven Nelson opposite Peters. This Chiefs team is pretty good but that’s about it so I have them going 9-7.
Oakland Raiders: 2015 Record: 7-9
2016 Projected Record: 10-6
Key Additions: Reggie Nelson, Bruce Irvin, Kelechi Osemele, Sean Smith
Key Losses: Curtis Lofton
The Oakland Raiders have one of my favorite young QBs in Derek Carr. Last year Carr threw for 3,987 yards, 32 TDs & 13 INTs. In 2015 we saw the connection that him and Amari Cooper have. I see Carr having an even better season in his 3rd year.
The Raider’s running game is pretty good especially if Latavius Murray can do what he did last year. In 2015 Murray rushed for 1,066 yards & 6 TDs. Murray is a very dynamic back who also added 41 catches for 232 yards. The receivers of the Raiders are Michael Crabtree & Amari Cooper. Crabtree had 85 receptions for 922 yards & 9 TDs while Cooper had 72 catches for 1,070 yards & 6 TDs.
The Raiders now have an improved pass rush with Bruce Irvin now on their roster. The Raiders now have Khalil Mack & Bruce Irvin to rush the passer which sounds scary. Khalil Mack had 15 sacks last year which was 2nd in the NFL only to J.J Watt’s 17.5.
The Raider’s secondary added 2 new guys in Sean Smith & Reggie Nelson. They also still have David Amerson who has shown signs of improvement. Reggie Nelson was tied for the league lead in interceptions with 8 with Marcus Peters. Sean Smith is a big physical corner that can help stop the run. Here’s another “Am I going insane?” predictions like I did with the Jaguars (check out my AFC South Preview). I have Raiders winning the AFC West at 10-6.
San Diego Chargers: 2015 Record: 4-12
2016 Projected Record: 5-11
Key Additions: Joey Bosa (draft), Casey Hayward, Travis Benjamin
Key Losses: Not really anyone
The Chargers have Philip Rivers at the helm still for his 13th season. Rivers has always been one of those good but not great QBs for me. The good thing for Rivers is that he’s played in all 16 games in every year of his career besides the 2 years he sat behind Drew Brees.
The running game for the Chargers was abysmal last year. They were ranked 31st in the league in total rushing yards with only 1,358 yards & had as many fumbles as TDs with 4. Melvin Gordon has to improve from his rookie year last year which shouldn’t be too hard to do. Gordon last year only had 641 yards on 184 carries & had 0 TDs. He also added 5 fumbles which is another thing he needs to fix. The Chargers get Keenan Allen back from injury which is huge for them cause he looked like he was on pace to have a top 5 WR year in the 8 games he played in.
The Chargers defense has a lot to be desired. The Chargers have a couple bright spots and one of those is Melvin Ingram. Ingram had his best year last year with 10.5 sacks & 3 forced fumbles. The Chargers also drafted Joey Bosa with the 3rd pick to bolster their defensive line. Of course everyone knows about the holdout that went on but now that is finally over so I expect him to make a huge impact on their defense.
The Chargers secondary should be improved with the addition of Casey Hayward from the Packers. One of the other bright spots on this team is Jason Verrett. A lot of people consider Verrett as a top 5 CB in the NFL. Verrett finished 2015 with 47 tackles, 3 INTs, & 1 TD. The Chargers are a below average & I don’t see that changing unless their run game & defense drastically improve.
Final Prediction: Raiders win the division at 10-6. What a time to be alive if Jaguars & Raiders make the playoffs.
I will be concluding my AFC review with the AFC East in my next article.