The AFC West is one of the more intriguing divisions in all of football. Denver’s defense has become better with the addition of Bradley Chubb, Oakland’s aerial assault is extremely effective with the gunslinger Derek Carr and speedy wideout Amari Cooper running the show. Kansas City is in the beginning stages of the Patrick Mahomes era, and the Los Angeles Chargers have the talent necessary to make a strong run for the playoffs in 2018. With that being said, let’s take a look at my 2018 record predictions for each AFC West team.
Denver Broncos – Record Prediction: 8-8
The Broncos coming into the 2018 season have one of the more dynamic defenses in the entire league, and the addition of pass-rusher Bradley Chubb their defense only became better. Even with the departure of Aqib Talib (who’s now with the Rams), Chris Harris Jr, Bradley Roby, and the rest of the Denver secondary can certainly hold things down.
However, it’s not the play of the defense that causes me to have some concern, it is the lack of production from the offense, specifically the quarterback position. Now, I will say that adding Case Keenum, who had a career-best season in 2017, should certainly help the Broncos have more success in 2018. But the offensive line still has it issues, and the receiving corps hasn’t had great production in past seasons either, which is why I have Denver winning only eight games this season.
Kansas City Chiefs – Record Prediction: 9-7
Another team in the AFC West who has a dominant defense, but traded their best corner in Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams. The team also traded quarterback Alex Smith to Washington and are now in the Patrick Mahomes era, a quarterback which some NFL experts have compared his arm talent to that of the legendary Brett Favre. Although the start of the Mahomes era is something we all can look forward to, it is the dynamic play of second-year running back Kareem Hunt that can truly make this offense explosive this season.
An explosive offense (one that ranked in the top 10 last season), may not make up for a defensive unit that was ranked 28th in yards allowed per game with 365.1. Some would argue that with the loss of Pro-Bowl safety Eric Berry was one of the primary reasons for the ranking, but it was the entire secondary as a whole. With Patrick Mahomes now set to be the face of the franchise, and Berry looking to make his return this coming season, the Chiefs have a legitimate shot to be a Wild Card team in 2018 by winning 9 games.
Los Angeles Chargers – Record Prediction: 12-4
The Chargers are a team that truly intrigues me as an overall unit. They had a 9-7 record last season, just falling short of a playoff position in 2017. That completely changes in 2018 with how Phillip Rivers and Melvin Gordon running the show. Rivers seems to put up tremendous numbers, all while ranking 1st in passing yards gained per game with 276.9. Having star wideout Keenan Allen and running back Melvin Gordon certainly makes Rivers’ job much easier.
However, it is the defense with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, arguably the best pass-rushing duo in the entire league, and the secondary with ball-hawking corner Casey Hayward and safeties Jahleel Addae and rookie Derwin James that makes this Chargers unit special. Even with the loss of rising-star tight end Hunter Henry, the Chargers have other play-makers on both the offense and defensive side which will help guide them to an 12 win season and a division title in 2018.
Oakland Raiders – Record Prediction: 7-9
The Raiders took a major step backwards from 2016 into 2017. They went from a 12-4 record in 2016 to a 6-10 record in 2017, which is partly due to the lack of production on the defensive side of the ball. Other than star pass-rusher Khalil Mack, there isn’t much production coming from anywhere else on the defense, especially in the secondary.A secondary that ranked 26th overall in passing yards allowed per game with 241.1 needs to improve immensely in 2018 if they wish to compete for a division title.
Derek Carr has a new coach in Jon Gruden, who is very well-known to the Bay area. It’ll be very interesting to see how Gruden utilizes both Derek Carr’s gun-slinging abilities combined with the physical, down-hill running of Marshawn Lynch, and the explosiveness of both Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson. Overall, this defense still has some major holes to fill, and the offense isn’t perfect either, which is why I have the Raiders winning 7 games this season.
Count on the Denver defense to continue its’ dominance in 2018, but it won’t be enough due to the lack of productivity that I believe will come from the offense. The Raiders will struggle defensively while winning only 7 games, the Chargers to be the biggest “shock” of the league with Bosa and Ingram helping to bolt them to a 12-win season, and finally, the Chiefs and new starter Patrick Mahomes will play well enough to potentially earn themselves a Wild Card spot this coming season.