Throughout the NFL season, fans crowd around television sets and cram themselves into packed stadiums; we can’t get enough of the action. However, our love affair with football doesn’t end when the Super Bowl is over.
All offseason activities are geared toward making teams more competitive for the new season. The draft helps restock the team with young talent, while free agency allows the opportunity to pick up skilled veterans that can help right away.
One of the most competitive divisions in football over the last few years has been the AFC West. While the Broncos have seemed to rule the division and the conference, the Chiefs, Chargers, and Raiders are always nipping at their heels. Here is a preview of what is in store for each of the AFC West teams this season.
Many expect for the Denver Broncos to win their division and make a run at the Super Bowl again this year. However, after losing late in the playoffs two years in a row, the organization felt that it was the right time to make some changes.
No one can deny that John Fox did a great job, but two straight playoff losses saw him out of that job. The Broncos promoted Gary Kubiak, former Houston Texans coach, who was also John Elway’s back up in Denver. They are hoping that the transition will be seamless.
The good news is that they return everybody from a stacked team. Their offense obviously features Peyton Manning for at least one more year, and they also return his top three receivers from last year. Additionally, there defense should be in good shape too, as they have some of the most explosive defensive players in the league on both the defensive line, and in the secondary. The Broncos should be primed for another successful season.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs finished out last season with a 9-7 record, which was one win off from being in contention for the playoffs. While the Chiefs have been much improved since Andy Reid’s arrival, they still must compete in this tough division, which can prove difficult.
On offense, the Chiefs have a solid starting quarterback in Alex Smith, and they possess an all-pro running back in Jamaal Charles. The challenge for this offense will be the attack through the air, with the Chiefs receivers not catching a single touchdown all of last year. Defensively, the chiefs should be strong with Tamba Hali as their top rusher, and what they hope will be a much improved secondary from last year.
San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers are in much the same position as the chiefs are, but a little better. They too finished with a 9-7 record, and just missed the playoffs. However, the Chargers made some very important offseason moves that could spell better luck this season.
The Chargers still have pro-bowl quarterback Phillip Rivers, and a receiving core that can push the ball downfield through the air. Where the Chargers lacked last year was in the running game, which they addressed this offseason. With the 15th pick they chose Melvin Gordon, a big physical running back out of Wisconsin. They also possess Brandon Oliver, who came on strong at the end of last season. Their rushing game should be much improved from last year when they were 30th in the league.
The challenge for the Chargers will be stopping other teams from scoring. With another year playing against the tough teams in this division, the defense should be much improved and up to the task of stifling the most potent offense in the league, the Denver Broncos.
The Oakland Raiders were by far the worst team in the AFC West last season, finishing with only 3 wins at the end of the season. However, this is still a very young team and should show major improvement from last year.
One thing they have going for them, is their young quarterback Derek Carr. Carr ended the year with 21 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions, and that was done without a true downfield threat. The Raiders got that in Amare Cooper with the 3rd overall pick in this year’s draft. If those two can develop chemistry early, it could be bad news for defenses in this division.
One place the Raiders might struggle is on the defensive side of the ball. While they have some talented players, a team with a really good defense doesn’t usually lose 13 games. Fans are hopeful that the talented players on this defense can help get the ball back to the offense quicker than last year.