Can the Oakland Raiders Bring Home a Title Before they Leave Town?-2017 AFC West Preview

The AFC West has shifted from an offensive oriented division to a defensive oriented one. Don’t get me wrong, there are some terrific offensive players in this division but there is some elite talent on the defensive side of the ball. The rivalries within the AFC West are intense with rabid fans. The one thing that makes things a little weird going into this season is the relocation of the Chargers to Los Angeles and Raiders to Las Vegas. Those moves are blasphemy to their loyal fan bases.


Denver Broncos

Record in 2016: 9-7

Key Player: Linebacker- Shane Ray

Player To Watch: Offensive Tackle- Garett Bolles

Outlook-The Denver Broncos are looking to bounce back after missing the 2016 playoffs. The quarterback situation has been resolved now that Trevor Siemian has been named the starter. Although wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both had over 1,000 yards receiving last year, they only had five touchdowns apiece. That has to improve. The running game should be fine, even with leading rusher Devonte Booker on the PUP list. C.J. Anderson is more than capable and the Jamal Charles signing will pay dividends. The pass defense is as fierce as ever because they can pressure the quarterback and collect sacks (see linebackers Von Miller and Shane Ray). The defensive backs can also cover. In order for this team to reach it’s goals, the run defense must drastically improve. That will hinge on defensive linemen Derek Wolfe, Damata Peko and Jared Crick. Can they put it together to make the playoffs? Time will tell. Prediction: 10-6


Kansas City Chiefs

Record in 2016: 12-4

Key Player: Wide Receiver- Chris Conley

Player To Watch: Running Back- Kareem Hunt

Outlook-The Kansas City Chiefs are hoping to erase last year’s disappointing end to the season. The offense seems to be stuck in neutral. The individual numbers look good but the team is in the middle of the pack statistically. Quarterback Alex Smith is solid but still can’t lead them to the promised land. Running back Spencer Ware rushed for 921 yards but is lost for the season with a torn ligament in his knee. A lot of weight is now placed on the shoulders of rookie Kareem Hunt. Electrifying running back, receiver and return specialist Tyreek Hill needs more touches to balance out the offense. The defense has a bend but don’t break mentality with being near the bottom of the league in yards given up and sacks. They make up for that with an excellent, opportunistic secondary (specifically Marcus Peters and Eric Berry), leading the NFL in interceptions. On top of that, they are near the top in points allowed. Having one of the best special teams unit really helps their chances and offense. They have to get past that psychological hurdle. Prediction: 11-5


Los Angeles Chargers

Record in 2016: 5-11

Key Player: Offensive Tackle- Russell Okung

Player To Watch: Wide Receiver- Keenan Allen

Outlook-Although the Los Angeles Chargers finished last in the division last year, they were in a lot of close games that led to some heartbreaks. They were competitive despite quarterback Philip Rivers getting pressured and/or sacked on almost every snap. He still managed 33 touchdowns but the lack of protection also led to 21 interceptions. Imagine the possibilities if he has some time. That’s why the most important offseason acquisition was free agent offensive left tackle Russell Okung. The defense had decent sack numbers and had the second most interceptions in the league. They also gave up a lot of points and leads late. There is talent on this roster on both sides of the ball such as running back Melvin Gordon, tight end Antonio Gates, defensive end Joey Bosa, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and linebacker Melvin Ingram to name a few. At some point, first round pick Mike Williams will be added to this mix. If Keenan Allen is healthy, he could tip the scale in a huge way. If the defense can hold some leads, this team could easily improve by 3-4 games. Prediction: 7-9


Oakland Raiders

Record in 2016: 12-4

Key Player: Running Back- Marshawn Lynch

Player To Watch: Defensive Tackle- Eddie Vanderdoes

Outlook-The Oakland Raiders are the sexy pick to get to the Super Bowl. Their rise has been about leadership and head coach Jack Del Rio has instilled a confidence in this team’s DNA. Not only do they believe, they expect to win. The offense is led by rising star quarterback Derek Carr. He’s healthy and ready to take it to another level with weapons all around him. Running back Marshawn Lynch can provide the balance needed to make the offense even better, which is a scary thought. The defense is headlined by All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack but this unit has underachieved. There is too much speed and ability for this defense not to be better. If the defense comes together, the talent can take this team to new heights. I believe the key to the defense is the front three of Mario Edwards Jr, Justin Ellis and rookie Eddie Vanderdoes. Quarterback pressure and run stuffing must be their focus to get the defense back to a dominating unit. The development of talented rookie defensive backs, Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu, will be interesting. Super Bowl or bust! Prediction: 13-3

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