Last season, the Raiders finished 7-9 but easily could have finished with nine wins. Coming into this season, Oakland is expected to play a lot better and be a potential Wild Card team. I have the Raiders winning the AFC West, though, and getting their first taste of the postseason since losing the Super Bowl in 2002
The Raiders bolstered their line by resigning offensive tackle Donald Penn and added quarterback Connor Cook in the draft to groom behind Derek Carr.
With the offense expected to play well, and another offseason for receiver Amari Cooper to improve, the defense remains Oakland’s main problem. The Raiders added linebacker Bruce Irvin, resigned Aldon Smith and added Sean Smith from division rival Chiefs.
Oakland should improve immensely from their 22nd ranked defense to at least a top 15 defense. An improved defense will allow the Raiders to hold on to leads that their young and talented offense create.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are a popular pick to win the AFC West this season. Ever since Andy Reid and Alex Smith arrived in town, the Chiefs have been a contender in the west. Defensively, Kansas City stacks up with the best teams in the NFL. The linebacker corps of Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston is the heart that beats for this defense. Along with safety Eric Berry.
Kansas City has struggled in the passing game. Smith is a talented quarterback but has always lacked the weapons around him. This year is no different. The receiving corps is led by Jeremy Maclin, but after him, they must rely on Travis Kelce at tight end to help open up the field for the solid running game they have.
Denver is the team that won the Super Bowl, with or without a quarterback, depending on how you look at it. Denver has a top defense and it was a main reason why they won the Super Bowl last season. However, you still have to score points to win, and with Mark Sanchez as a quarterback, that’s hard to do. The Broncos drafted Paxton Lynch out of Memphis to groom as their next quarterback, but he won’t be ready for another year or two. Trevor Siemian, a second year quarterback out of Northwestern, has a real shot to become the Broncos’ starting quarterback. If he plays well in the preseason, Gary Kubiak will have no issues giving Siemian the starting nod.
Overall though, while the Broncos will have a top 5 defense again, the offense will struggle no matter who is at the helm and that will cause them to slip to nine or 10 wins and fighting for a Wild Card spot.
San Diego Chargers
San Diego finished 4-12 last season and the Chargers shouldn’t do much better this year. San Diego added Casey Hayward at cornerback, but lost defensive leader Eric Weddle to Baltimore and tight end Ladarius Green to Pittsburgh.
Offensively, it stops at quarterback Philip Rivers. Tight end Antonio Gates is older, running back Melvin Gordon was unimpressive as a rookie and receiver Keenan Allen hasn’t produced since his rookie year.
San Diego had the 21st ranked defensive last season and the 27th overall rush defense.
On both sides of the ball the Chargers are in trouble and will be lucky to pull out five victories.