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Predicting the AFC West

With the regular season a little over 2 weeks away I decided it was about time to predict the records of the AFC West teams. Despite some losses in off season this division is still considered one of the strongest in football at the moment. I took into account the strength of the teams alongside their opponents across their 2018 campaigns.

Los Angeles Chargers:

2017 record: 9-7
2017 position in AFC West: 2nd
Predicted 2018 record: 12-4
Predicted 2018 position in AFC West: 1st

With the other 3 teams in the AFC West looking a little rough around the edges and a lot of their players coming back from injury, I think that LA are the most complete team in the division, hence why I think they’ll finish 1st.

1. VS Chiefs = W (1-0)
2. @ Bills = W (2-0)
3. @ Rams = W (3-0)
4. VS 49ers = W (4-0)
5. VS Raiders = W (5-0)
6. @ Browns = W (6-0)
7. VS Titans = L (6-1)
8. BYE
9. @ Seahawks = W (7-1)
10. @ Raiders = W (8-1)
11. VS Broncos = W (9-1)
12. VS Cardinals = W (10-1)
13. @ Steelers = L (10-2)
14. VS Bengals = W (11-2)
15. @ Chiefs = L (11-3)
16. VS Ravens = L (11-4)
17. @ Broncos = W (12-4)

I think the Chargers come into the season looking like one of the most confident in the league. Starting with a 6-0 run against the Chiefs, Bills, Rams, 49ers, Raiders and Browns

I’ve then got them finally picking up their first loss at home against the Titans due to the formidable duo of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis who will run all over that LA defence; who’s run defence is slightly weaker than they are against the pass.

Tyreek Hill vs Chargers 3

Coming out of the bye I think the Chargers will be in a very confident position at 6-1. After the break I think the Chargers continue their hot streak with a further 4 wins against the Seahawks in Seattle, the Raiders in Oakland, and the Broncos and Cardinals at home. Two reasons why I think they’ll take down Arizona is because it’s a home game whilst the team’s on a roll and, their defence, if still healthy, will be able to make the most of playing against a young QB (if Josh Rosen starts this game) but if Sam Bradford happens to start I still don’t think it’ll change the landscape of the game too drastically. However with a week 13 match-up at Heinz Field against Pittsburgh I think the offensive trio of Big Ben, Brown and Bell (plus sophomore stud JuJu Smith-Schuster) will be enough to get the better of that Chargers defence.

A swift win against the Bengals will then be followed by two losses to the Chiefs (at arrowhead stadium) and the Ravens at home; where I predict Lamar Jackson’s legs will just get the better of LA with his scrambling ability. With a 11-4 record and 1 game to go I think they’ll close off the season with a pointless W in Denver because the AFC West throne would have already been locked in for the Chargers with the week 14 win against Cincinnati.

Kansas City Chiefs:

* 2017 record: 10-6
* 2017 position in AFC West: 1st
* Predicted 2018 record: 10-6
* Predicted 2018 position in AFC West: 2nd

I’m predicting a slight step back for Kansas City this season; mainly due to what happened to the defence this off season. However, despite this, a wildcard spot is still on the cards.

1. @ Chargers = L (0-1)
2. @ Steelers = L (0-2)
3. VS 49ers = W (1-2)
4. @ Broncos = W (2-2)
5. VS Jaguars = L (2-3)
6. @ Patriots = L (2-4)
7. VS Bengals = W (3-4)
8. VS Broncos = W (4-4)
9. @ Browns = W (5-4)
10. VS Cardinals = L (5-5)
11. @ Rams (Mexico) = L (5-6)
12. BYE
13. @ Raiders = W (6-6)
14. VS Ravens = W (7-6)
15. VS Chargers = W (8-6)
16. @ Seahawks = W (9-6)
17. VS Raiders = W (10-6)

Off to a shaky start with two losses to the Chargers and Steelers. I’m predicting a close game against the Chargers but their defence and home field advantage gives them the edge, and an absolute shoot-out against the Steelers at Heinz Field. With 2 of the best offences in the AFC and struggling defences I reckon that game will be one of the most exciting in the season (scoring at least 60 points combined).

In the first home game of the season I’m predicting we take out San Francisco, as Tyreek Hill mosses the older, slower, Richard Sherman all game long, and I’m also predicting a thriller in week 4 at the Mile High Stadium which ends with a close Chiefs victory; however that Denver pass rush will still be a challenge to overcome.

In weeks 5 and 6 the team will take a couple more L’s, giving us a 2-4 record by week 7. I think that Jaguars defence (1 of the best in the NFL) will be a bit too much for Patrick Mahomes, expect a fair few interceptions by both teams, and Brady’s smart football IQ and newly acquired receiver Cordarrelle Patterson will pick apart the new look Chiefs D.

It all looks doom and gloom in the first half of the season doesn’t it? Well don’t fret because the worst is behind us now. The next 3 weeks I’m predicting 3 fairly easy wins at home against the Bengals and Broncos and then on the road against the newlook Browns giving us a record of 5-4 as we enter week 10. However I think the Cardinals come into town and pull off the upset. Simply because I feel like they had one of the strongest draft classes in the league with Josh Rosen the young QB, WR Christian Kirk in the 2nd round and a C in the 3rd which has given them a solid offence for the future (and you can’t forget about Larry Fitzgerald who will also cause the Chiefs defence some problems).

Heading to Mexico City for week 11 I think the new look Rams will just get the better of the Chiefs in this matchup. With former Chief CB Marcus Peters teaming up with ex-divisional rival Aqib Talib; as well as Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald on defence, I think it’ll be a great matchup to watch against our powerhouse offence. However I think that the game will be decided by their star-studded offence; who will clean up and make the most out of our weaker defence.

After the bye week I’m predicting we heat up going on a 5-0 winning streak in the last 5 weeks of the season. With a close nail-biting win against the Raiders on the road in week 13, as well as W’s against Ravens, Chargers, Seahawks and closing off the season with another win against Oakland. Therefore a wildcard spot is booked for the Chiefs with a 10-6 record.

Denver Broncos:

2017 record: 5-11
2017 position in AFC West: 4th
Predicted 2018 record: 6-10
Predicted position in AFC West: 3rd/4th

Calling this season as an ‘improvement’ doesn’t really say a lot considering I have them only getting one more win in 2018 compared to 2017. However I think the Broncos will make huge leaps which can’t be measured by points on a scoreboard; the confidence and structure of the team. With a quarterback they can rely on in Case Keenum instead of the toss up between Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian I think Denver will have a more natural and stable position rather than constantly feeling under pressure. Although, having said that, I don’t quite think they put themselves in the perfect position to exceed the result of last year.

1. VS Seahawks = W (1-0)
2. VS Raiders = W (2-0)
3. @ Ravens = L (2-1)
4. VS Chiefs = L (2-2)
5. @ Jets = W (3-2)
6. VS Rams = L (3-3)
7. @ Cardinals = L (3-4)
8. @ Chiefs = L (3-5)
9. VS Texans = L (3-6)
10. BYE
11. @ Chargers = L (3-7)
12. VS Steelers = L (3-8)
13. @ Bengals = W (4-8)
14. @ 49ers = L (4-9)
15. VS Browns = W (5-9)
16. @ Raiders = W (6-9)
17. VS Chargers = L (6-10)

The reason for the week 1 victory at home against the Seahawks was a close one, considering they’re both pretty beat up teams, however I think Seattle is just a bit more beat up than Denver. With the collapse of the threatening ‘Legion of Boom’ defence, plus the departure of red-zone giant Jimmy Graham to the Packers this offseason, I feel like the Broncos just have more pieces in place to take a W from this game. The same applies for the week 2 game against Oakland. I’m predicting a very close game between these two as they both struggle to bring together a complete team.

So after a 2-0 start to the season this is where the issues start to get exposed by more talented teams. Losing to the Ravens at Baltimore in week 3 and again against the Chiefs; but this time at home ground in Denver. That pass rush will be an essential piece to the puzzle against the young QB Mahomes and the Chiefs so, if Denver can keep the pressure on who knows which way the game will go.

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos

A fairly easy win should be in the bag against the Jets as poor Sam Darnold gets eaten alive by the likes of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Sitting at 3-2 doesn’t look too bad of a way to start the season, right? Well… that’s where things really do get turned on their heads for Denver as I’m predicting a 0-6 slump in the middle of the season (hear me out).

The Rams at the Mile High Stadium will be a tough one for LA but something they’ll be able to pull off as Gurley has a huge game running over that Denver D whilst the likes of Donald and Suh are enough on the defensive side of the ball for the Rams to force turnovers and limit possession time for the Broncos; giving them the victory. Moving onto the Cardinals at Arizona; where I predict a fair few turnovers by either Rosen or Bradford due to that formidable pass rush again (a staple of the Denver defence this season). I genuinely think if their defensive line and linebackers don’t live up to expectations (especially Chubb and Miller) the Broncos’ season could fall apart in front of their very eyes. Having said that, I still think that the Cardinals are able to scrape through just enough to pull a win out the bag at home and bring Denver to a 3-4 record. Onto the Texans in week 9 which should be a fairly boring game with Houston taking the win thanks to the natural talents of Watson throwing to the incredible Deandre Hopkins (who finally has a reliable QB), and a healthy and improved defence.

This is slightly off-topic but I’m also predicting a career-high year for Hopkins this season. He’s always been a top 5 receiver in the league, which may not sound very impressive, however consider the fact that he has had 17 quarterback changes in the past 5 years (11 different quarterbacks in total) and you’ll begin to realise why I think he’s going to have a monster year; that is if Watson manages to stay under centre for the full 17 weeks.

After the bye week and a 3-6 record things get worse for the Broncos before they get better. Picking up 2 more L’s against the Chargers in LA and the Steelers at home before they finally get back to a winning mentality against the Bengals at Cincinnati. However this feeling of euphoria doesn’t last particularly long for Broncos fans as they then head to San Francisco to lose to the 49ers in a blow out. With the Chiefs at a 6-7 record at the same point in the season these final 3 games are must-wins for the Broncos in order to try and push for 2nd place in the AFC West and that’s just what they do (well near enough). Winning in weeks 15 and 16 against the Browns and Raiders and bringing their record to 6-9. However, due to Kansas City also winning their week 15 and 16 match-ups, it’s all in vain as they know going into week 17 that their season is over and pick up another L against the Chargers again to close off the season at 6-10.

All in all I have the Broncos looking better but still not being able to turn that new-found confidence into wins.

Oakland Raiders:

2017 record: 6-10
2017 position in AFC West: 3rd
Predicted 2018 record: 4-12
Predicted position in AFC West: 4th

Holes dotted around this Oakland roster, as well as Khalil Mack not playing at the beginning of the season, has me thinking the Raiders will have to get worse at football before they get better.

1. VS Rams = L (0-1)
2. @ Broncos = L (0-2)
3. @ Dolphins = W (1-2)
4. VS Browns = W (2-2)
5. @ Chargers = L (2-3)
6. VS Seahawks = L (2-4)
7. BYE
8. VS Colts = L (2-5)
9. @ 49ers = L (2-6)
10. VS Chargers = L (2-7)
11. @ Cardinals = W (3-7)
12. @ Ravens = L (3-8)
13. VS Chiefs = L (3-9)
14. VS Steelers = L (3-10)
15. @ Bengals = W (4-10)
16. VS Broncos = L (4-11)
17. VS Chiefs = L (4-12)

In week 1 I think Oakland will fall to their fellow Californian team the LA Rams; but that’s no surprise. With the team poised for a deep playoff run (or even superbowl) type year it should be a walk in the park against the Raiders; especially with Mack not expected to play in week 1. Similar story in week 2 with a matchup against the Broncos in Denver as Miller and Chubb is enough to shake that already flakey offensive line and get to Carr on multiple occasions. However I don’t think it’ll be as it was for the Rams the week before. And if the problems with all-pro defensive end Khalil Mack continue, expect this bad run to continue for Oakland.

The next 3 games will consist of 2 solid wins against the Dolphins and Browns. With the Dolphins at the beginning of their rebuilding process and the Browns in the middle of it I think that Derek Carr and Jared Cook are enough to overcome the incomplete defences on both teams. However I think when they visit LA to face the Chargers I think their defence is enough to limit Carr’s production whilst their offence goes to work on that questionable defence.

I think the same will happen the following week where I have the shifty Russell Wilson and the Seahawks running all over the field to beat Oakland before having a bye and then losing again to another veteran QB Andrew Luck and the improving Colts. Indianapolis being 1 of the worst teams in the NFL last year shows how I think Luck’s return as well as the introduction of the 6th pick in the 2018 draft Quenton Nelson on that offensive line will be enough to take out the Raiders.

Another 2 losses will follow as they fall to the 49ers in San Francisco as well as a second win against the Raiders for Philip Rivers and LA. However I think that Mack will be back by this point in the season and the game will be slightly closer. With the possibility of Mack being back on the Raiders’ defence I think they pick up a victory against the young Cardinals on the road in Arizona when neither the Chiefs nor Broncos could; however, by this point of the season, a playoff berth is becoming a distant dream for the Raiders.

To then add an even more sour taste in Raiders fans’ mouths; a stretch of losses are forecast with huge losses to the Ravens in Baltimore, followed by the Chiefs and Steelers, both at home in Oakland.

Raiders Chiefs Football

By this point their season will be practically over; the loss of Khalil Mack in the first half of the year will prove to be the undoing of the Raiders, however I don’t expect big things from this year regardless of the all-pro defensive end being of the field or not (with Mack I predicted them going 6-10). They beat the Bengals in Cincinnati before losing again to the Broncos and Chiefs to finish off the season 4-12 and 0-6 in the division.

Overall:

Position Team Record Playoffs?
1st Los Angeles Chargers  – 12-4 Yes (2nd seed in AFC)
2nd Kansas City Chiefs  – 10-6 Yes (Wildcard)
3rd Denver Broncos  – 6-10
4th Oakland Raiders –  4-12

The Chargers will show the most improvement from last year as they earn a rest in the first round of the playoffs whilst the Chiefs and the rest of the wildcard teams battle it out. However for the other two teams in the division, more work is going to be needed to be done before they can consider themselves playoff contenders.

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