06 Sep AFC West Preview
Kansas City Chiefs
After a historic 2018 campaign for QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City looks to stay on top of the AFC West and earn another bye this postseason, with bigger aspirations in mind. With a quarterback who looks like he could effortlessly make any throw on the field, the Chiefs offense is again their strong side of the ball and will be a challenge for any defense to contest. Kareem Hunt has been their reliable back the last few seasons but has been “kicked” over to Cleveland and suspended for the first eight games of 2019. Damien Williams will need to pick up the production Kareem left, along with recent addition Lesean McCoy. Still sporting one of the most versatile receiving corps in the NFL, with Ty “Cheetah” Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, and rookie Mecole Hardman. And that is without mentioning former 2nd best TE in NFL, Travis Kelce (Happy Retirement Gronk, see you in December). This offense will have the same electricity they brought last year but it all hinges on the performance of Pat Mahomes in his second season as the Kansas City starter.
A defensive reboot is exactly what the Chiefs needed, one of the worst defense a year ago, and not just points wise, they struggled to even wrap up ball carriers and make simple tackles. KC was able to let Dee Ford walk, but along the way add Frank Clark via trade, Tyrann Mathieu via free agency, and rookie Juan Thornhill. This is a solid core, but still have a lot to prove to confirm that this rebooted defense is actually improved and not just different faces with a similar identity.
Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers had a more than successful 2018 season, many thinking they were a true Super Bowl contender, but entering 2019 without their best player on each side of the ball will definitely effect the level of success they will have in 2019. It is nearly impossible to replace the production that star safety Derwin James brought to this Chargers defense, a first team All-Pro selection in his rookie year solidifies that stance, his presence will be truly missed but Casey Hayward will need to have a career year to take some pressure off the rest of the secondary. Chargers pass rush is nasty again this year, with Bosa, Ingram, and the addition of Thomas Davis, the D-Line and LB corps will continue to improve with their young guys up front and now a veteran leader at LB.
In what seems to be the most serious hold out, with no talks of a deal being made any time soon, Melvin Gordon will not start the season as a LA Charger. He will continue to work out on his own and look for a trade elsewhere, which is a major blow to this LA offense that relied on him fairly heavily throughout 2018. Their RB situation right now is not even close to the star potential they had with Gordon on the field, but Austin Ekeler will need to bring that production for this offense to not bat an eye. Phil Rivers will be slinging per usual, no contraception needed, with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry being the main beneficiaries of receptions in this offense. I expect this team to struggle at times throughout this season, but at the end of the day will be fighting for a Wild Card spot.
One of the most intriguing teams this year for me comes out of the Mile High City. Under a brand new head coach, Vic Fangio, this team decided to take a new direction, cutting ties with former players, drafting a QB, and starting an old Super Bowl Champ. Denver is in rebuild mode and they have a strong base to accomplish this sooner rather than later. Flacco is not going to be the guy that takes them to the promised land by no means, his elite card has long expired, and handed over to the defensive side of the ball in their linebackers. I don’t think there is a better 2 linebackers on the same defense than Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, this group is outstanding with veteran Chris Davis leading the secondary. It is already hard enough to play in Denver, but it would be hard to play anywhere in the world with these two linebackers across from you.
Denver struck lightning in a bottle with Phillip Lindsey, proving the ideology of never paying a running back. Ever. Just do not do it. For this offense to have any type of production, they need Cortland Sutton to step up after a relatively average rookie season, totaling only 4 touchdowns. He has to get that number up as he will need to step up and be a viable number two option in this offense. Trust the process with the Broncos. It may not happen in 2019, or even 2020, but if they can keep this defense intact and continue to build weapons around eventual starter Drew Lock, this team can do some damage in the future.
Oh boy, have we ever seen this much drama from a team cause by one single player? If only there was a show throughout training camp that would give us an inside look of all the built up tension and the effect it had on the team. Wait, HBO does that? I must have missed all the first hand AB drama they covered… AB or no AB, this team is suspect. Using a first round pick, on RB Josh Jacobs to bandage the other issues this team has is what some would say, irresponsible. Listen, I believe Josh Jacobs is a great RB and will have a great season this year, but to use a first round pick here when you could improve your defense with another top pick or protect Derek Carr, which seems to be the more clear answer, but I’m not a GM. I have never seen a player cause so much hysteria with a front office than Antonio Brown has this summer, at this point it hasn’t been announced what the Raiders will do with him, but a suspension/release is very much in play and if they can not pay that $30 million guaranteed to AB, would be a huge win for Oakland.
This Raiders defense raises some red flags for me, they just really aren’t that talented of a group with no true leader. Vontez Burfict leading this defense? Yeah ok. Some young talent on the defensive line is a bright spot for this team, but will need the secondary to match that production with former Rams Lamarcus Joyner leading the way. Second year DC Paul Guenther will need to get the most out of his rebuilt defense in 2019, after filling the glaring holes within this defense that showed in 2018. Oakland looks to struggle again this year, in what may be one of the last seasons in Oakland before finally making the move to Las Vegas.