So I reach the end of the AFC previews for the site, Jay has been working on the NFC previews which will come in the next few weeks, he hasn’t been as lucky as me in having a week or two off work, so I won’t moan at him too much for not getting them all done in one week, there’s a hell of a lot of stuff to go through!
As I alluded to yesterday, this is one hell of a tough division to call, any of the 4 teams could feasibly win it, and they contain some of the best secondaries in the entire league. I did my original W/L sheet a few weeks back, and looking back at it now I completely disagree with myself on it. All of the teams have a horribly tough schedule, for one they have to play the other teams in their division, then the NFC East, the AFC east, and the AFC North and South. Better news for the Chargers as they’ll be against the Browns again and the Jags, but the Chiefs start with the Pats, and also get to play the Steelers due to finishing top last year. I have no idea how I have them at 12 wins?! So without any further ado… I present to you… the winners(?) of the AFC West in 2017/18…
Oakland Raiders?! (Currently 3/1 at 118bet, and if you can get on that, I would recommend it, they’re around 2/1 everywhere else by the look of it, under in some places) I would probably have them as my favourites for the division. If it wasn’t for Carr breaking his leg last year they would have won it and then who knows. But was that “Their year”? Nah, they’ve kept largely the same team together, paid Derek Carr rather well although because he’s such a bloody lovely guy he actually took less than he could have done so that they could re-sign other players essential to the team. Offensively, they look great, Cooper and Crabtree are a great one/two punch, Cooper gets the yards, Crab gets the TDs. Last year they had Latavius Murray who got himself 12 TDs, he’s moved to the Vikings, but they did sign a chap called Marshawn Lynch, you may have heard of him. Beast mode is in the city he grew up in, and I am confident he’ll do a job for them. He’s had a year to rest, a full off season (well, hopefully) to get in shape, and he will want to do what he can for his city. I think he’s due 10 Tds and 1,000 yards… maybe more on the TDs and less on the yards. But they probably won’t throw the ball from the 2 yard line with 3 downs to go. For a mixup in the running game they’ve got Deandre Washington and Jalen Richard as an alternative, both did a good job last year as that guy, so no reason why they won’t improve this year and go even better, they also drafted Ishmael Zamora who can provide a similar role if needed. Other than the 2 main guys in the passing game, Seth Roberts ended with 5 TDs on the season and was a solid red zone target for Carr, they also singed Cordarelle Patterson. That may sound a bit pointless, but he’s a physical freak. If they can figure him out and give him a role then that could prove to be a great signing although he does seem a bit of an enigma. At tight end, it looks like it could be the end for Mr. Walford, which hurts me deeply as he shares my surname, but they signed Jarred Cook who has actually proved he can do something in Green Bay rather than Brother Clive who sucked most of last year. Now, they’ve tried to improve on defence which was definitely needed, they drafted Gareon Conley as their first pick, despite the fact he could have been arrested for an incident before the draft, they apparnelty had him hooked up to a polygraph and asked him questions and decided he was telling the truth. He hasn’t been charged with anything (yet) so it seems a decent enough pick on talent. They also signed someone who has some relation to England… Obi Melifonwu. Another physical freak, plays safety, and go can from sideline to sideline in a split second, extremely athletic and should do well for them in the coming years. Oh yeah, they’ve got this Khalil Mack fella too. He’s supposed to be all right.
So, who the hell should I go for as second place?! Well, the head says KC Chiefs, but the heart wants the Los Angeles Chargers (13/2 at 188Bet) So I’ll go with them in second, it’s my bloody preview, it’s been a pretty crap day (RIP Chester) and I’ve been drinking. So what. I like a few beers and a brandy and coke or two on some nights, especially if i’m off work for the week. Shut up! IF, and given that they’ve possibly already lost their #7 overall draft pick for the year (Mike Williams), a big IF they can keep people fit, then this team could be a real contender in any division in the league. Philip Rivers could possibly be a hall of fame quarterback, admittedly he threw FAR too many interceptions last year, but they’ve tried to fix that this year drafting 2 offensive linemen after Williams, they’ve seen that he might benefit from a little more protection up front. Another who it would help would be Melvin Gordon, he went from 0 Tds in his rookie year to 10 last year, and agonisingly close to the magic 1,000 rushing yards, finishing with 997. That was in just 13 games, and he added 419 in receiving yards as well. All in all it was a long way from his debut season and if he can keep that up again this year then he should break 1,000 rushing yards as well as a couple hundred through the air as well now that Danny Woodhead has left for Baltimore. The passing game was looking promising, Rivers isn’t always the most accurate of passers, and the drafting of Williams gave him a guy with the big wingspan, but alas, the Chargers aren’t allowed good things for too long. Hopefully for them Keenan Allen will be able to stay fit. He managed less than one half of football last year, in that half he hauled in 6 catches from 7 targets for 63 yards. It’s fair to say that Rivers was happy to have him there. The good thing is that his injuries haven’t been connected, they’ve just been freak occurrences, surely he’s due some good karma finally?! Tyrell Williams was a 1,000 yard receiver last year coming from nowhere to become a key cog in the chargers offence, with no Mike Williams for at least the first 8 weeks (assuming he starts on the PUP list) I would expect him to be a big target again. They’ve also got Travis Benjamin and Dontrelle Inman, more experienced guys who can mix in as WR3s in the team. At Tight end they’ve got the best ever in terms of scoring. Antonio Gates needs 1 more TD to take a solo lead in scores by position, and I can’t see it taking too long to get that, I believe that once he’s got that 1 that he’ll be eased down and usurped by Hunter Henry who had a very good rookie season with 8 TDs last year, but it wouldn’t shock me if they carried on using both in Redzone situations. They have the easier schedule, a pretty decent defence, a possible hall of fame QB and all the weapons he could need. Is it too preposterous to say they’ll be top 2 in the division?! I also think that playing in the 30,000 stub hub centre will be an advantage to them once they get used to it, that’s going to be a crazy atmosphere.
So up third I’ve got to go the The Kansas City Chiefs (12/5 favs)(sorry Matt) They could easily win the division, Andy Reid is a very very good coach, and they seem to own every other team in the AFC West, but… Can Tyreek Hill become a proper WR1 rather than a player they manufacture touches for? Can Travis Kelce perform as he did at the end of last season when Jeremy Maclin (now in Baltimore) was out injured? Can Spencer Ware do better in the run game than the second half of last season? Can Alex Smith throw the ball past the chains instead of a yard short every time? All of this is very pessimistic, and is what most of the media criticise the chiefs with every season, and they usually get it wrong. Alex Smith is an adequate quarterback, he’s the Andy Dalton of the West. He can do the job, he can get a team to the playoffs, but can he change the flow of a game by himself? Seems unlikely and that’s why they moved up considerably to draft big armed Paddy Mahomes for the future. If all goes to plan we won’t see him this year but he’ll be learning the skills he doesn’t yet possess from Smith and Reid is a very good QB coach. Can Tyreek Hill be a no.1? That remains to be seen. He was used in every facet of the game last year, rushing, receiving, returning and did it all well using his explosive pace to simply run away from everyone. His route running is overlooked in general because of his pace, but it’s actually pretty good! Matt Harmon has him passing his reception perception with flying colours, and predicts that he can indeed become a WR1 if needs be. Time will tell. Other than Hill they will be relying on Albert Wilson and Chris Conley in the passing game, both do OK when called upon but will need to step up this year to help the offence achieve, it could be worth keeping an eye on Jehu Chesson should either of these two not step up to the plate. Kelce should probably be your no.1 tight end off the board in redraft leagues (health concerns put me off Gronk) he hit 4 100 yard games in a row when Maclin was out last year and it seems like he’ll be either the main or #2 target in the offence. His ability to separate and his acceleration over the first few steps allows him to break coverage and that first tackle, and while his top speed isn’t anything too impressive, he gets there quickly and can get away from tackles well and once he’s got that yard he’s a tough man to bring down! The running game struggled last year, Ware started the year very well but fell of towards the end of the season failing to top 70 yards in any of his last 8 games, and only scored 3 TDs over the whole season. He’ll need to step up this year otherwise rookie Kareem Hunt will probably take his place in the lineup, there’s been a lot of hype on the kid and he seems like he’ll get a chance. There’s also CJ Spiller… so you know… watch out Spencer! And Charcandrick West but he didn’t get much of a look in last year despite Ware not doing too well. Unfortunately they lost Running back, backup QB and all round beast Dontari Poe to the Falcons which could ruin their offensive plans…. They do however boast one of the best defences in the league, Eric Berry and Marcus Peters were pro-bowlers last year and in the few game that Justin Houston played he showed he still had the talent despite injury restricting his game time. Tamba Hali and Dee Ford complete a very good linebacker group.
So that means the Denver Broncos (3/1) are at the bottom of the league in my write up here. Again I wouldn’t be shocked if they won the division, I think I should probably say I really don’t like the Broncos, I have tried to be impartial, but it could add to why I’ve got them bottom of the West. But the quarterback “competition” is a worry for me. I think that Trevor Siemian will start the season, but most of the media seem to think that it’s Paxton Lynch’s to lose, if they’re equal in the eyes of the coaches, it will probably be Lynch due to his first round draft price. Whoever starts has downsides. Siemian barely throws more than 12 yards and Lynch is still inaccurate according to reports I’ve seen. They’ve got a new head coach this year and a new offensive co-coordinator in Mike McCoy. This seems to have boosted the spirits of Demaryius Thomas who last season hauled in 90 receptions from 145 targets for just over 1,000 yards but a lowly 5 TDs, and is expected to at least match that this season. He recently posted that he “has his play back” which seems to signal bubble screens to him, good for both QBs and probably the Broncos offence as a whole as they get the ball away quickly. Alongside him is Emmanuel Sanders, he was 40 yards short of Thomas last year with over 1,000 himself and also 5 TDs from a few less receptions. Neither of these guys really excite me when I’m watching, but they obviously do a job. Rookie Carlos Henderson could be the WR3 in the offence seeing as Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler and others don’t seem to be able to step up on a consistent basis. He’s good running after the catch and will at least get some work on kick returns. They don’t really have or use the tight ends, although that could change with the change in coaching. If they do, it’s either AJ Darby or Jeff Heuerman until rookie Jake Butt gets himself fit, reports suggest that he could take the position easily enough. if he can stay fit, I actually like CJ Anderson to do a job. The Broncos struggled with their offensive line last year, but drafted Garrett Bolles with their first pick this year and brought in Ron Leary and gave BRITISH Menelik Watson a bumper contract to sign for them, so they obviously know that was an issue. If Cj Anderson doesn’t do it, they’ll likely give Devontae Booker a go, he was highly rated last year but didn’t live up to that hype.
That’s all probably too much talk about this offence. This team relies on the no fly zone on their defence. I hate Aqib Talib as a person, he’s frankly not a very nice guy, and shot himself in the league last off season. But he’s part of an elite Cornerback group, he, TJ Ward and Chris Harris jnr are formidable and allowed the fewest yards through the air, and the fewest receiving TDs against them last season. Add to them Von Miller and Brandon Marshall getting the to opposing QBs with regularity and you can see why teams struggle through the air. They were however, pretty crap against the run last year, 28th of the 32 league teams, so it wouldn’t shock me to see teams take that route again this year. Why attack a top pass defence when you can march over the opposition.
Apologies to the fans of any of these teams. They could all win the division, and I would be stunned if I get probably any of these in the correct order come the start of 2018! But at least 72% of the 100 who voted in my twitter poll about this division also picked the Raiders, so general consensus helps me!
That’s the end of my AFC write ups, as always, they’re mainly based on my opinion and bits and pieces I’ve read/heard over the off season from various places.