So I said that the AFC South preview was a tough one to predict… it doesn’t get much easier when you head over the the West. AFC North and East previews are available as well.
I have gone back and forth on this division a few times this off-season. I know who I expect to finish bottom, although even that could be very wrong as it’s all a bit up in the air over there.
#1 Los Angeles Chargers – Last year – 9-7, SB Odds – 25/1 (365), Division odds – 9/5 (365), o/u – 9.5 (9s and 10s)
The Chargers have one of the better rosters in the AFC. If they had a kicker who could actually kick the ball they would have easily been a playoff team last year. In all honesty they’ve not exactly stopped my fear of that happening again with Robby Aguayo trying out for them, but still… They are also cursed. They get at least 2 or 3 major injuries to important players each year. This summer both TE Hunter Henry and CB Jason Verrett received season long ACL injuries. They have one of my favourite QBs, the baby making machine Philip Rivers, he was 2nd in the league in passing yards last year and should do well this year with an improved offensive line giving him protection. His main target will again be Keenan Allen who is brilliant and I enjoyed watching him play the entire season last year after injury curtailed a couple years in a row for him, nearly 1,400 yards from over 100 receptions shows how much Rivers likes him. Hunter could possibly have been the number 2 target here, but that’s now open to one of the Williams’ in most likeliness, Mike Williams was the #7 pick in the draft last year but was one of those guys who was injured, he suffered with his back all year. He’s been getting good reviews over the summer though and has the wingspan and physicality to benefit most from the Henry injury. Tyrell Williams filled in with over 1,000 yards last time Keenan was out injured, he can do that if needed. Travis Benjamin adds downfield threat for them and he’ll chip in with a few TDs. In the run game they’ve got Melvin Gordon who will be pretty much a bell-cow back with Austin Ekeler mixing in occasionally. Gordon got o1,000 on the ground and 8 TDs, nearly 500 in the air and 4 TDs. Ekeler added 5 TDs as well, 4 of them in a 4 game spell in the middle of the season, he’s had a few touches in pre-season too so will be interesting to see how much action he gets. I don’t mention many defenses, but they have, in my eyes, the best pass rush in the league, Joey Bosa is amazing, his energy is just crazy, he doesn’t stop, opposite him is Melvin Ingram who would walk into most teams in the league as the #1 pass rusher in the team. Their secondary is great too, Cam Heyward is a pro-bowler and their first round pick, Safety Derwin James looks really good too. IF they sort the kicking out, specifically the pressure kicking. They should win this division.
#2 Kansas City Chiefs – Last year – 10-6 – SB Odds – 35/1 (Betstars), Division odds – 7/2 (Betstars), o/u – 7.5 (odd 8)
My original favourites for this division were the Chiefs. I liked Alex Smith, I have nothing against him, he was great last year, but I really like the idea of Patrick Mahomes with Tyreek Hill. Mahomes has a huge arm, can run the ball as well, which is something they’ll want to keep from having Smith at QB. He will need to tune up his game elsewhere, but he’s got the raw talent to be brilliant in this league. Hill was mentioned above as his pace combined with Mahomes arm could be lethal this year. They had one huge play in pre-season where Mahomes gave the ball more air than any TD pass in the league last season. Hill was still hit and miss last year, the first half of the season he alternated between 60+ yards and a TD and less than 40 yards and no TD. He levelled out a little after that and ended the season with 1,100 and 7 TDs. He’s joined by Sammy Watkins who has supposedly always had the talent but doesn’t ever seem to put it together anywhere. He’s not been great over the summer in all honesty. I’ve taken him in a few best balls and a few drafts hoping he’ll reach his potential but again that remains to be seen. What also remains to be seen is how Kelce is used by Mahomes. Most “rookie” QBs use their tight end a lot, but someone with this arm probably won’t want to check down a huge amount, but Andy Reid should ensure he still gets 100+ targets over the year. I don’t think he’ll reach 8 TDs again though. At running back they will be starting with last years league rushing leader, Kareem Hunt, he took over the job when Spencer Ware got injured in pre-season last year, and showed everyone what he could do with 3 TDs in the opener against the Pats. He won’t be repeating that this year, even if he was the full time back again, he wouldn’t be repeating that feat, but Andy Reid has never used one RB that much when he’s had the options, and he welcomes back Spencer Ware this year. As a duo they should be good, as an individual I won’t be taking Hunt anywhere. Their defense is not very good this year, they lost Marcus Peters who was a top 10 CB in the AFC and haven’t really replaced him. Great for Mahomes fantasy owners and a reason I was on him for over 4,000 passing yards a week or two ago! – In fact given how poor their defense looks in week 3 of pre-season I’m actually even higher on Mahomes TDs and yards this year.
#3 Denver Broncos – Last year – 5-11 – SB Odds – 40/1 (Everywhere), Division odds – 9/2 (WillHill), o/u – 7, 7.5
Denver are a team I struggle to place. They have a good home-field advantage due to the altitude at mile-high which gives them a little nudge up in their home games before a ball is kicked. They struggled last year due to some awful Quarterback play throughout the season, and that’s something they’ve looked to address with Case Keenum signing from Minnesota. He had somewhat of a career year there, and instantly improves the whole Denver offense by providing what should be competent QB play. Now, here’s where I struggle a little more, I don’t rate Demaryius Thomas, I think there was more to his downturn last year than just the QB throwing him the ball. There’s no real reason to this, just what I personally think. He still had 141 targets so they were trying to get him the ball still, and nearly hit the 1,000 yard mark, he also suffered with a niggling injury for most of the year, so maybe I’m hugely wrong. He’s just not a guy I trust. I prefer Emmanuel Sanders in the passing game, again, no real reason or logic to it, I just think he’s more likely to perform well, he had nearly 100 targets in 11 games, again dealing with injuries and garbage QBs. They brought in Courtland Sutton in the draft who has been blowing up camp and pre-season and looks a lock for at least WR3 work and will help the other two in their assignments as well. At running back it’s a bit of a mess, but a good mess, it seems like Devontae Booker will start as the RB1, but all reports suggest that won’t last long as rookie Royce Freeman will be taking over within a few weeks. He’s had good reports all summer as well, but they at least now have options at RB and don’t have to rely on one guy. At tight end we all seem to be assuming it will be Jake Butt. They picked Butt last year despite the fact he wasn’t going to play due to an ACL injury he suffered before the draft. He should be recovered from that by now and at 6’6 and 250lbs he should be the guy in the passing game. Unfortunately it’s not something we’ve seen in pre-season, but no other guy has really done much there either. The main strength of the Broncos is their defense though and they strengthened that by taking Bradley Chubb to go opposite Von Miller giving them probably the best outside pass rush in the league. They should compliment each other well and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both of them up there in the sack leaderboard. They did lose Aqib (prick) Talib in their secondary but they’re still strong there. A lot of “experts” seem to think the Broncos will do well. I’m not as sure, hence them being 3rd in the division in this write-up.
#4 Oakland Raiders – Last year – 6-10 – SB Odds – 40/1 (Everywhere), Division odds – 4/1 (888), o/u – 8. 8.5
Jon Gruden is back. He’s getting paid ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS. Fully guaranteed over 10 years. The Raiders better hope he works out well after a long hiatus from coaching! The hope is that his years in the booth and his QB camps have kept him in touch with the game. I’m not convinced, especially in this first year. He seems to be clearing out everyone who was at the team when he arrived and replacing them with very experienced veterans. He has even said he wants players with experience in there. The belief is that he’s going to be going back to the old school way of play, a full back and heavy run game. Marshawn Lynch should be the main beneficiary of this, he finished the season really well and has looked fit and raring to go in pre-season, I believe that they’ll use him lots from the start this season, and Doug Martin may be used to spell him, that’ll be about it from the muscle hamster, strangely enough he doesn’t seem so muscled or sharp after his PED ban. The rookie Chris Warren has looked good in pre-season as well and may be a name to keep an eye on during the season. The passing game has hardly had a mention so far this year. Derek Carr was on an MVP level a couple of years back before he got injured, last year was a write off for him so he’s got a lot to do to prove he can get back there. They replaced Michael Crabtree with Jordy Nelson in the passing game, he might not be able to run any more but he can still be a big body in the red zone for them. The loss of Crabtree means that Amari Cooper will probably get even more of a role in the passing game. He has been painfully annoying to own in fantasy over recent years, he can blow up for 210 yards from 11 catches, and 2 TDs, and then he’ll revert to his usual single digit yardage a week later. In fact pretty much half of his yards on the season came from 2 games last year. They’re counting on him being more reliable this year, they also brought in Martavis Bryant from the Steelers, if he’s fit, and allowed to play, he could be a very viable downfield threat for them. Tight end? Jared Cook? Meh. One thing to keep an eye on with them is the Khalil Mack contract stuff, it seems from the outside that neither the team nor the player are actually talking to eachother and it’s seeming more and more likely he’ll sit at least the start of the season. Either that or he’s waiting for Aaron Donald to sign with the Rams and is going to gazump that one. The Raiders don’t seem to be overly fussed about re-signing one of the best defensive players in the league, so it’s definitely one to keep an eye on.
As with the South, and in fairness the North and maybe even the East, there’s a good chance this could be utterly wrong.
I definitely have the Raiders bottom, but even then I have a feeling I’m far too low on them. The good thing is that the money will keep coming for the Raiders because they’re a public team and the upcoming move to Vegas means that a lot of the locals there will be backing them. So if you want to take the unders then it will probably remain at 8 or so.
- Patrick Mahomes o3950.5 passing yards – 10/11 (RedzoneSports) – 2 points (This is a repeated bet, but the great odds we had at Skybet have long gone. Obviously if you’re on o4,000 at 2/1 or better as recommended a few weeks back then don’t bother with this one!
You can get Mahomes 4,000 yards and 25+ TDs at 9/2 on Betfred which is tempting.
- Oakland to finish 4th in the Division – 21/10 (RedzoneSports) – 2 points
You can get 25/1 on any team to win the Superbowl at RedzoneSports. My advice would be to use it on the Pats, or the Vikings for the value, 6/1 and 12/1 respectively.
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