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NFL season preview 2016: AFC West

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This is the 2016 NFL Season Preview of the AFC West. Last year this division produced the Superbowl Champion Denver Broncos, you can’t get much better endorsement than that. The San Diego Chargers seem to be in the middle of their rebuilding face. The Kansas City Chiefs, who made the playoffs last year, are still within striking distance of winning a decision title, and the Oakland Raiders looks like the most improved team in the division and looks to jump over everyone this year. So with that said, let’s get to the AFC West team previews.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos are your defending Superbowl Champions. With that, comes the pressure of everyone’s best shot, but they also get the respect of people who predict records. They lost Peyton Manning in the offseason and even though Bronco fans may try to make you think this won’t hurt, it will. Even though Manning’s arm was not what it was, his mind was still there. He was still the offensive leader of the offense and was a great teacher. They will miss his mind offensively.

The defense remains mostly intact except for DT Malik Jackson, who went to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The loss of Jackson will hurt their interior pressure. Broncos were one loss away from being a wildcard team and going on the road 3 times, instead they had home field throughout. My point is they were at the top, but not that far ahead. Not sure if they can pull off the same gameplan they used last year with essentially a rookie QB in Trevor Siemian and a rookie backing him up in Paxton Lynch, we’ll soon see.

Last Year Record 12-4
Vegas Win Prediction 9.5
My Prediction 8-8

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs return pretty much everyone on both sides of the ball, in my opinion, that is a good and bad thing because their offense was boring, not effective, and very predictable when the games got more important. QB Alex Smith may not lose you too many games, but he also has shown a lack of winning them. He’s a field general, but when you have the lack of weapons that have on that side of the ball, you need more than him to win you games late.

Now on to the good part of their players returning, the Chiefs defense is 1 of the top 5 units in the league, and I expect them to be no worse this year. Chiefs are good both against the run and the pass and throw in solid special teams, with a very good home field advantage. Chiefs should be in every game this year, but it will come down to the health of RB Jamaal Charles. Without him on the field when it matters, their fate could end very similar to last year.

Last Year Record 11-5
Vegas Win Prediction 9
My Prediction 9-7

Oakland Raiders

Raiders Nation is back with a vengeance this year as the light is shining brightly on their young rising starts. To go along with QB Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Latavius Murray, and Michael Crabtree, the Raiders added rookie RB DeAndre Washington to go with a much improved offensive line to set their offense off this year. You win and lose a game with their offensive and defensive lines, and the Raiders arguably have a top 2-3 offensive line in the sport.

On defense, they Raiders are led by DE Khalil Mack and backed him up with LB Bruce Irvin, CB Steve Smith, and S Reggie Nelson. They also added S Karl Joseph and DL Jihad Ward through the draft. I think the Raiders are ready to explode and win the division. They have all the talent to go far this year, and the only thing that can hold them back is youth and inexperience. This is going to be a fun team to watch for a lot of the next few years.

Last Year Record 7-9
Vegas Win Prediction 8
My Prediction 10-6

San Diego Chargers

I am not a fan of what the Chargers have done this offseason. I feel the pick of DE Joey Bosa is not a fit for their team and even though they improved their offensive line a bit, not sure if they concentrated on it enough. QB Philip Rivers is turning 35 this year, and he will always be compared to the two other high profile QBs taken in his draft, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger. The bad part for Rivers is both of them have multiple Superbowls and Rivers is still just trying to get there.

On defense, the Chargers have some talent, but overall, on both side of the ball, they need some playmakers. If they can get one more, good offensive lineman, and then grab a big time pass rusher on defense, I would have an entirely different opinion on this team, but until they do that, I can see them struggling all year long. For a team that won 4 games last year and didn’t add much, I think it’s amazing that Vegas even gives them seven wins.

Last Year Record 4-12
Vegas Win Prediction 7
My Prediction 5-11

Can the Denver Broncos prove me wrong and win the division title once again? Can the Kansas City Chiefs stay healthy enough and put up enough points to not just make the playoffs, but move on to the divisional round? Is Derek Carr ready to make that jump from good QB to top 10 QB? Are the Chargers just spinning their wheels by not taking and going through a full rebuild? All of these questions will be answered during the 2016 NFL Season.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com