The AFC West had last season’s Super Bowl champions in the Denver Broncos. But with quarterback Peyton Manning retiring, is a repeat performance still on the horizon?
- Denver Broncos (Super Bowl champion): I don’t think it’s ever been said before and it very well may not be said again, but having Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback will be an upgrade for the Broncos based on what they had last season. Despite the Super Bowl victory, Manning was awful for the majority of the season. Sanchez has turnover issues but will provide more consistency. The core of the defending champions is returning, so Denver will be among the favorites going into the playoffs. As long as that defense is as dangerous as ever, they will be fine.
- Kansas City Chiefs (AFC Divisional): Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they live in Denver’s shadow, so a lot of people forget about them. Maybe that’s a good thing because this is a really good team. The receiving options are limited, but as long as that backfield of Jamaal Charles, Charcandrick West, and Spencer Ware keeps executing, the offense should be able to take care of itself. Their defense is really strong too. Expect Kansas City to give their opponents fits in the playoffs.
- Oakland Raiders: The Raiders had an amazing offseason, acquiring linebackers Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith from the Seattle Seahawks and free safety Reggie Nelson from the Cincinnati Bengals, among others. A stronger defensive presence will be key to how they fare throughout the season. Amari Cooper will be more experienced to provide help with Michael Crabtree on the wideouts, and quarterback Derek Carr is at the point in his career where he can really focus on hitting his stride. It hasn’t been said in a long time, but watch out for Oakland as a dark horse this year. I would not be surprised if they end up making the playoffs.
- San Diego Chargers: The Chargers aren’t necessarily a bad team but unfortunately for them, they play in the toughest division in the league, and of course, those head-to-head games are going to make or break them. Melvin Gordon will have more experience to handle the transition from the college backfield to the pros, while defensive end Joey Bosa will bring a lot of firepower to the defense. But with tight end Antonio Gates’s days limited, the other receivers will need to stay healthy for quarterback Philip Rivers, and that proved to be easier said than done for San Diego last season.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Matt Weingarten