Going into the 2017/18 NFL season, it seems people are finally starting to get on board that the AFC West is one of the most interesting divisions in the League. The Oakland Raiders lead the division, and THEN add hometown hero Marshawn Lynch. The Denver Broncos are a Quarterback away from being the same team that won Superbowl 50. The scrappy Chargers move to LA and bolster an already electric Offense. The Kansas City Chiefs… also plays football.
Any one of these teams could take the division any given year. So who has the best chance to cash in?
• Kansas City 11/5
• Oakland Raiders 11/5
• Denver Broncos 12/5
• Los Angeles Chargers 9/2
Oakland Raiders (11/5)
Starting with the team that is Far and away the most talented in the division, and only a few key pieces from leading the Conference. The Raiders come into 2017/2018 having gone 12-4 the previous season, tieing the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West title. That shouldn’t happen again this year, as Oakland stands the best chance to run away with the AFC West.
The Raiders come in having had the second overall offense in the AFC, just behind the New England Patriots. For reference, The Chargers came in 7th, The Chiefs at 10th, and The Broncos at 14th. And this is before adding Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch. Marshawn’s last season, two years ago, he only ran for 400 yards in 7 games before getting injured and has now crossed over into the 30-year-old club. Bad news? Not quite. When you consider his general consistency and having a year to recover, you can bet he’ll be running hard behind a talented offensive line that ranked 3rd in the AFC.
Not to mention the motivation he must feel, playing for his hometown team in their last season before departing for Las Vegas.
Where the Raiders hope they’ve made the most improvements are on the defensive side. While do Have Kahlil Mack, one of the best players in the league, regardless of position, they still ranked 12th. They hope the additions of former Ohio State stud Cornerback Conley and Connecticut Safety Obi Melifonwu will bring their passing defense down from 13th, and allow more sacks for Mack (who had 11 of Oakland’s last place 25).
Los Angeles Chargers (9/2)
The Chargers made a huge change in location, and a huge push to improve their offense. Los Angeles is a weird team, in the sense that they have all the talent in the world but have had problems with injuries, and putting teams away. They finished 5-11, with 7 losses coming in the last 2 minutes of the game.
In the Draft, they selected Mike Williams, big Dez Bryant-like receiver to Join Keenan Allen in an oft-injured receiving corps. They also picked two talented guards to join new left tackle Okung to both protect Philip Rivers, and help Melvin Gordon continue his meteoric rise. This is a relative term of course, as he contributed 67% of their rushing yards, up from 42%. They climbed from 16th to 14th in rushing in the AFC, with a tattered offensive line.
Their strength is finishing second in the AFC in passing yards. They’ve only improved this passing attack, so they should continue to rise over Denver’s 7th, Oakland’s 9th, and Kansas Cities last place passing offenses.
Their defense was 9th overall in the AFC, and 4th in rushing defense. If stars Joey Bosa, Jason Verrett, and Melvin Ingram can all stay healthy, then they should also bring down their 12th place passing defense numbers.
Denver Broncos (12/5)
The Denver Broncos have seen very little turnover of the team that won the Superbowl 2 years ago. The result seems to be an offense that very much ran through Peyton Manning, but a defense for the ages.
The Broncos offense has seen what being led by Quarterback Trevor Seimian results in, and it’s not good. They stand at 10th in passing yards, 14th in rushing yards, and 14th in Total Yards. These are all last place stats in the AFC West. And yet they are sticking with him. They have talent on the offensive side of the ball, with Wide receivers Emmanuel Saunders and Demaryius Thomas both posting 1000 yard seasons. They also added Jamaal Charles to a now crowded backfield with CJ Anderson and Devonte Booker.
They also now have an added hole on their offensive line, with Russell Okung going to LA.
Where they are the cream of the crop is on defense. A squad that has remained almost entirely untouched for years, it is night and day from their offense. They are second in the AFC in total defense and first in passing defense. They also led the AFC in sacks, most of which come from Von Miller, one of the highest rated defenders in the league.
Where they can stand to improve is their run defense, which is worst in the AFC West, and 13th in the AFC.
Kansas City Chiefs (11/5)
And finally, one of the most consistently overrated teams in the league (in my opinion), are the Chiefs. They rank mid/bottom of each statistical category and only lost players this offseason.
The Chiefs offense is led by one of the least extraordinary quarterbacks in the league, Alex Smith. His offense comes in at 9th in touchdowns scored, only better than the Broncos in the AFC West. They released Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles and Pro Bowl receiver Jeremy Maclin, in favor of two sub par players Spener Ware and Albert Wilson. This is an offense one year separated from having no Wide Receiver catch a touchdown all season. They rank 10th in total yards, 8th in passing offense, and 10th in rushing, while making no notable improvements.
Their defense is just as unspectacular. While they are led by All-Pro Safety Eric Berry, there is only so much one player can do for a team that finished in 11th in every statistical category in the AFC.
I don’t expect them to do much this season in terms of repeating their 12-4 finish last season.
Current early betting sees Oakland receiving 68% of bets, Los Angeles at 19%, Kansas City at 9% and Denver with 5%.