In 2015, the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl, holding off the surging Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. It was a pretty incredible way for quarterback Peyton Manning to ride off into the sunset. The question now: Can the Broncos win the division again and push to repeat as Super Bowl champions? The road won’t be easy, so we’re give some preseason AFC West predictions.
While we’ve already touched on a few other divisions, there’s no question that the AFC West has many potential outcomes. This division could be one of the most entertaining aspects of the upcoming season. Here are our preseason AFC West predictions, starting with a general ranking of how we think this division will turn out:
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Oakland Raiders
- Denver Broncos
- San Diego Chargers
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs haven’t finished first in the AFC West since 2010, but they have made the playoffs twice since then (2013 and 2015). Even with running back Jamaal Charles playing in only five games due to a knee injury, Kansas City still finished with an 11-5 record last season.
Quarterback Alex Smith excelled in a role where he wasn’t asked to do much. He finally had a consistent, talented threat at wide receiver in Jeremy Maclin. This duo, paired with Charles and a ridiculously talented defense, will help the Chiefs take down this division in 2016. There’s a lot to like about the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016, and we wouldn’t be shocked to see them make a playoff run.
Here’s where the real fun begins. While some believe that the Chiefs can get the job done and win the division, not many believe that the Raiders will be able to best the Broncos when all is said and done. However, we’re on board with Oakland. Thanks to a pairing of Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, as well as an improved defense, the Raiders are not only talented enough to finish ahead of the Mark Sanchez-led Broncos, but also talented enough to make it back to the playoffs.
The additions of both cornerback Sean Smith and linebacker Bruce Irvin will prove to be huge. This defense could really change the game for the Raiders. The franchise hasn’t made the postseason since 2002, the year they lost the Super Bowl with Rich Gannon leading the charge. The 2016 season is when they get back into the fun.
Everyone will want to talk about Sanchez being the team’s starting quarterback (as we just did above), but that’s not the only aspect of the Broncos that needs to be factored in. Losing Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan really stings, and while the lack of both Manning and more specifically Brock Osweiler are huge, it’s the combination of it all that really hurts Denver.
The Broncos will still be good, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them push for a wild card spot, but they won’t be able to bounce back from the brutal 2016 offseason immediately. Give the Broncos a year to regroup and figure out the best route to move forward. This upcoming season just won’t be their year.
San Diego Chargers
After five seasons straight of floating around the .500 mark, the Chargers finally saw their momentum swing. Unfortunately, it went in the wrong direction. The Chargers have finished no better than 9-7 in any season since 2010. Then they fell all the way to 4-12 last season and simply couldn’t catch a break. While San Diego should be able to improve on their four wins from 2016, there’s some bad news.
The rest of the division is rapidly improving, while they seem to be at a standstill. Philip Rivers is talented enough to win some games, and a healthy Keenan Allen will help out, but we aren’t sold on this defense and their running game. Don’t expect much out of the Chargers in 2016; they’ll find themselves at the bottom of the division when all is said and done.