By: Jason Gandhi
The Super Bowl champs made it out of this division last year. That Denver Broncos team looks a little different than it did a year ago. In fact, the whole division looks different than it did a year ago. The Denver Broncos, defending champs but will have some work to do as they are without both quarterbacks from last year as well as some of their key defensive starters. The Kansas City Chiefs, who get back their star in Jamaal Charles coming off the ACL tear and are looking to go farther in the playoffs this upcoming season. The Oakland Raiders, made a whole lot of changes to the defense but are hoping this is their year to get back to the playoffs since 2002. And finally the San Diego Chargers, almost bolted for Los Angeles this off-season but are in San Diego for at least one more year, and still can not sign their #3 overall pick in this year’s draft.
The defending champs have a lot of work to do to be able to defend the Lombardi trophy. Losing Manning and Osweiler, while neither played extremely well last year, will hurt them as they look to either Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian, or Paxton Lynch. Mark Sanchez has 86 TDs’ in his career which isn’t too bad, but he also has 84 career interceptions. If he in fact is named the starter, they will need him to be able to manage the offense ENOUGH to not turn the ball over, so those 84 career interceptions do not look too good for the Broncos. The alternatives are Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Siemian has never thrown a regular season pass, and played one snap last year that resulted in a QB kneel. Paxton Lynch is a rookie and a rookie is never safe to lead a team especially a team trying to repeat. I see the Broncos going about 6-10 or 7-9 as their defense is still formidable. Mark Sanchez scares me as a starting quarterback so I can not put them in the playoffs with him at the forefront of the offense.
Kansas City Chiefs-
Last year was much more successful for the Chiefs than many expected. Starting off 1-5 and losing their star RB in Jamaal Charles, many had packed it in for the Chiefs. Instead, they reeled off 10 straight wins and made it to the divisional round of the playoffs. This year they lost starting cornerback Sean Smith to the division rival Oakland Raiders, and are expecting Marcus Peters to be able to step up as the #1 CB. They still have one of the scariest defenses in the league with Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Eric Berry and Derrick Johnson. Alex Smith is actually very underrated as he has a 49-21-1 record for the teams he has played for in the past five years. He knows how to win, and Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin should help that again. The Chiefs will go 10-6 and get the wild-card spot in the AFC playoffs.
So the Broncos and Chiefs both do not win the division. Who takes the division then? It can’t be the Raiders. Or can it… The Oakland Raiders are revamped this year and the young nucleus of stars they have is ready to take the next step. Derek Carr and Amari Cooper aka AC-DC are leading the offense, while Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are defensive stalwarts. The Raiders made some bold offseason moves in the signings of Sean Smith, Kelechi Osemele, Bruce Irvin, Reggie Nelson and Donald Penn. Smith will come in and immediately be the #1 corner for the Raiders. Osemele will be the starting left guard barring any major change. Irvin will lead the best linebacking core in the NFL with Khalil Mack, and Reggie Nelson will be taking over Charles Woodson’s place in the safety spot. All in all, the Raiders filled almost every hole on the team, and are really ready to make a run in the playoffs. The Raiders will also go 10-6 but sweep the Chiefs to grant the Oakland Raiders their first playoff berth since 2002. Look out for Oakland in the next few years!
San Diego Chargers-
The 2015 season was a let down for the Chargers. Melvin Gordon did not play like expected only rushing for 641 yards. Injuries plagued this team at nearly every position, and with all of those factors the Chargers finished 4-12 and were awarded the #3 pick in the draft. With that, they drafted Joey Bosa, a defensive end from Ohio State. That sounds great right? Yeah, not so fast, it is August 6th and they still have not signed him and he has still not came to training camp. There is a dispute over when his bonuses will come into play. Besides Bosa, Philip Rivers has also been on a recent trend of decline. There just seem to be so many questions and holes for the Chargers that I do not really see a way they finish better than 5-11.
MVP- Derek Carr (OAK)
LVP- Broncos QB (Sanchez, Siemien, Lynch)
Rookie Sleeper- Hunter Henry (SD)
Breakout Player- Marcus Peters (KC)
Division Champ- Oakland Raiders