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2017 NFL Preview: AFC West

NFL: Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC West is the premier division in the NFL, bar none. All four teams have legitimate playoff aspirations. Kansas City won the West with 12 wins by virtue of a tiebreaker over the ascendant Raiders, following five straight division crowns by the Broncos. The Chargers are looking to surprise following a five win 2016 campaign.

It would be impossible to find a stronger group of pass rushers than the AFC West boasts. All four teams also feature bonafide playmakers on offense. 2017 is primed to be an absolute dogfight in the West, with as many as three teams making the playoffs. Final divisional standings prediction:

1. Oakland Raiders

Freshly paid quarterback Derek Carr will return from an untimely broken leg. The dynamic receiving duo of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper is among the best anywhere. The Raiders have a bunch of maulers on the offensive line, their elite blockers from left tackle through right guard enticed Marhsawn Lynch out of retirement.

Oakland’s defense features All-Pro edge setter Khalil Mack and his pass rushing counterpart Bruce Irvin. Their run defense remains suspect. However, if the young secondary featuring Karl Joseph, as well as promising rookies Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu can gel, Oakland is in line for an AFC championship game appearance.

2. Kansas City Chiefs

Andy Reid is one of the best in the business and can seemingly mine production on the ground from any running back behind his veteran line. Alex Smith’s arm strength is limited and the loss of Jeremy Maclin will put pressure on Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill to keep defenses honest.

The headliners of the Chiefs defense are ballhawking corner Marcus Peters and outstanding safety Eric Berry. Justin Houston is still an elite pass rusher when healthy and defensive end Chris Jones was made an impact as a rookie last year. Kansas City will be squarely in the mix for a wildcard berth, with their ultimate destiny dependent on precise execution of Reid’s gameplans.

3. Los Angeles Chargers

New head coach Anthony Lynn will have to focus his team because they are surrounded by plenty of positive buzz this offseason. Phillip Rivers has an abundance of receivers at his disposal, led by rookie Mike Williams, Keenan Allen and a pair of capable tight ends. Melvin Gordon has a strong season last year and could be even more productive now that the Chargers invested early draft capital to upgrade their offensive line.

Joey Bosa thrived as a rookie and will have Melvin Ingram to provide pressure from the opposite side. The Chargers young linebackers are solid and their corners are proven above average veterans. Los Angeles could definitely make some noise this year, whether they make the playoffs or not will likely come down to the strategic decisions of Lynn and his experienced coaching staff .

4. Denver Broncos

Denver’s defense is primed for a regression. Von Miller remains a gameplan destroyer and his edge rushing mates Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett are complemented by Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and Bradley Roby at corner. It is difficult to top the Broncos pass defense personnel, the problem is they are quite vulnerable against devoted rushing attacks.

The strength of the offense is the receiver pairing of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Their below average line has the potential to be much better after investing free agent and draft resources into the group. It would not be surprising if new head coach Vance Jospeh gave the starting nod to strong armed youngster Paxton Lynch. No matter who is throwing passes, it still will not be enough in this fiercely competitive division.


Who will win the AFC West?

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  • 46%
    (358 votes)
  • 21%
    (167 votes)
  • 12%
    (99 votes)
  • 19%
    (151 votes)
775 votes total Vote Now