So… The calendar is about to hit June which signifies that the NFL season is only three months away. For the first time in a while the division looks wide open, as each team could contend. Let’s take a look at each team and see where they currently stand.
The defending Super Bowl champs will have a new QB because the great Peyton Manning has finally retired. They acquired Mark Sanchez in the off-season and drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round of the NFL Draft. Many scouts think that Lynch will be better off if he sits this season and learns from a veteran. So that means that Sanchez will be the starter when the Broncos open the season against the Carolina Panthers, in a rematch of Super Bowl 50.
Obviously Denver still has the NFL’s best defense and they will once again be asked to carry the team. The Broncos have enough talent on the defensive side of the ball to remain a contender. However if Sanchez can’t put 21 points up on the scoreboard game-in and game-out, 2016 will be a tough season for the defending champs.
Kansas City Chiefs
Unlike the Broncos, everything remains mostly the same in Kansas City. Alex Smith is still the QB, Andy Reid still is the head coach and they still have a talented defense. With Manning gone I think KC is the best team in the AFC West. I’m not saying they’ll win the west, I’m just saying they are ready to take the next step.
For that to happen, KC will need more explosive plays from the receiving core and I think Andy Reid will make that happen. The chiefs have a nasty defense, led by All-Pro LB Justin Houston and his sidekick Tamba Hali and let´s not forget S Eric Berry and CB Marcus Peters, if they get rolling early they will be a Super Bowl contender.
To me the Raiders are not as close as everyone thinks they are, but they do have a solid foundation for the future. QB Derek Carr seems to play with great confidence and is quickly developing into a top-15 passer. They also have a talented WR in Amari Cooper, but I think the offensive line over-achieved last season and is due for a let down in 2016.
On the other side of the ball there is no question that Oakland has a lot of talent with players like Khalil Mack and Karl Joseph. This is still a very young unit that may lack leadership now that Charles Woodson has retired, so I think the Raiders are still away from contending.
San Diego Chargers
Now let’s take a look at our hometown team. Tom Telesco did a nice job with the draft and like I said in my draft post, if Joey Bosa becomes a Pro-Bowl caliber player, 2016 could be the beginning of a new era for the Bolts. The NFL is a passing league and the Chargers have one of the generations best in Philip Rivers. He is not getting any younger though and will need solid play from the O-line if San Diego wants to compete for the division crown. The Chargers also need to get Keenan Allen back to his rookie season form in order to put fear in secondaries.
On defense the Chargers have the most talent they’ve had in a while. It’s safe to say that if Rivers and the offense can score 24 points a game, the Bolts should be in every game they play in the 2016 season.