The AFC West has been one of the most competitive divisions despite the Denver Broncos dominance, winning the last four. This division sent three teams to the postseason in 2013 (Broncos, Chargers, and Chiefs) and with the division continuing to get better what will the 2015 season look like.
Denver Broncos (10-6) First Place AFC West (Tie-Breaker)
Offensive line questions, an aging Peyton Manning and head coaching change could lead to a drop off for the 2015 Denver Broncos. Those reasons probably aren’t enough to de-throne them from another AFC West Division title but will have the Chargers and Chiefs to keep at bay.
The Denver Defense is still anchored by Pro-Bowl caliber veterans like Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware rushing the passer and T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib in the secondary. They will also have C.J Anderson who came on strong last season to steal the starting RB job. Orlando Franklin departs the Broncos and will now block for Philip Rivers and the Chargers, leaving an unproven Denver O-line.
Manning will still be PFM and I think the Broncos take the division over the Chargers because of the head-to-head tie breaker.
San Diego Chargers (10-6) Second Place AFC West – Wild Card Winner
The San Diego Chargers look for their first division title since 2009 when they went 13-3. They have revamped their offensive line with the additions of Orlando Franklin and Joe Barksdale. Although 2015 will be the first in 11 years without Center Nick Hardwick, Chris Watt will take over after appearing in a couple games last season as a rookie.
The Chargers also got some much needed depth in the secondary and Philip Rivers looks to be fully healthy heading into the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chargers actually took the division this year and I’m trying to be as objective. With the addition of Melvin Gordon look for the Chargers to take on a ground and pound identity, opening things up for Rivers and the dangerous passing game.
They have a tough schedule with games against Pittsburgh at home but games on the road against the Packers, Vikings, Ravens and then capping of the season at Denver.
The Chargers have some great depth acrros their roster but will have to stay healthy in the key positions (QB, OL, Secondary) to compete for the title.
Key Additions: Orlando Franklin (OL), Joe Barksdale (OL), Stevie Johnson (WR), Melvin Gordon (RB – First Round Pick), Denzel Perryman (LB – Second Round Pick), Patrick Robinson (CB), Jimmy Wilson (S/CB), Jacoby Jones (KR/WR), Re-Signing Brandon Flowrs (CB) and King Dunlap (OL).
Kansas City Chiefs (9-7) Third Place AFC West
The Chiefs finished second last year in the AFC with a 9-7 record. None of the receivers caught a TD in 2014 so they went out and signed Jeremy Maclin. The ex-Eagle will be a nice toy for Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense that already has Jamal Charles in the back field.
There home field advantage is one of, if not the best in the NFL and will be tough to beat at home. They just inked their Outside Linebacker Justin Houston to a six-year $101 million extension, that will certainly be an outline for guys like Von Miller who will be a free-agent after this season.
They will certainly have their work cut out from them from the get go as they start the season at Houston, home for Denver, then on the road against the Packers and the Bengals. If they can survive that first four games and not get too far in a hole early, they could easily be in the mix for a Division title and postseason berth.
Key Additions: Ben Grubbs (OL), Jeremy Maclin (WR), Marcus Peters (CB – First Round Pick), Mitch Morse (OL – Second Round Pick), Re-Signing Justin Houston (LB).
Key Departures: Dwayne Bowe (WR).
Oakland Raiders (7-9) Fourth Place AFC West
The Oakland Raiders haven’t made the playoffs in 13 years, and I’m about 97% sure they miss the mark again this season. Not saying that they don’t improve with a young core of guys. They went 3-13 last season and fired their coach Dennis Allen after a 0-4 start and now Jack Del Rio will take over as Head Coach.
QB Derek Carr is looking to improve in his second year after throwing for over 3,000 yards and 21 TD’s as a rookie. OLB Khalil Mack looks to become on of the premier defensive players in the league. The 5th overall pick in the 2014 draft had 75 tackles and 4 sacks.
To help Carr develop the Raiders used their first round pick on Amari Cooper, Wideout from the University of Alabama will look to make an impact from day one. But the Raiders weren’t done, they also went out and signed Michael Crabtree after a disappointing season across the Bay with the 49ers.
The Raiders look much improved on paper but with a second year quarterback, there’s still a couple more years of rebuilding until the Raiders compete in the AFC West. At least now there seems to be hope for the franchise.