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Owen’s AFC West Record Predictions

After Thursday’s forgettable season opener, it’s almost time to see the Chiefs in their first matchup of the year against the Jaguars. The team look extremely strong on paper and seem to have the talent needed to take them all the way this year. But, before we get ahead of ourselves, we firstly need to get through the division.

So here it is, my predictions for how the AFC West will pan out in 2019 and why.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (13-3)
  2. Denver Broncos (10-6)
  3. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9)
  4. Oakland Raiders (3-13)

Kansas City Chiefs (13-3):

Schedule:

  1. @ Jacksonville – W
  2. @ Oakland – W
  3. VS Baltimore – W
  4. @ Detroit – W
  5. VS Indianapolis – W
  6. VS Houston – W
  7. @ Denver – L
  8. VS Green Bay – L
  9. VS Minnesota – L
  10. @ Tennessee – W
  11. @ Los Angeles (C) – W
  12. BYE
  13. VS Oakland – W
  14. @ New England – W
  15. VS Denver – W
  16. @ Chicago – W
  17. VS Los Angeles (C) – W

The Chiefs impossibly seem to have taken a step forwards on offence as Patrick Mahomes lights up his first 6 opponents and gives the team a comfortable 6-0 cushion. Damien Williams secures the starting role on the team by rushing for 4 touchdowns and catching 2 more during this stretch. Lesean McCoy, on the other hand, looks good in flashes but isn’t consistent enough to challenge number 26 for top dog.

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However, the prime time week 7 match-up at Mile Hile Stadium will prove to be too much for Kansas City, as Denver hands them their first L of the season. The Broncos defensive line, combined with a consistent running game, takes the weight off of Flacco’s shoulders as he does just enough to come away victorious.

This will be the start of a mid-season slump for the Chiefs as they go on to lose to both Green Bay and Minnesota in back-to-back weeks. Aaron Rodgers’ football IQ picks apart the Chiefs’ thin cornerback room whilst Vikings’ receivers Steffon Diggs and Adam Thielen combine for 3 touchdowns to bring the Chiefs’ record to 6-3.

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In weeks 10 and 11 they go on the road and return to their winnings ways; beating both the Titans and Chargers. This puts the team in a great position as they enter their week 12 bye with an 8-3 record.

The break from football doesn’t seem to slow the team down either as they taste the sweet dish of revenge in the form of back-to-back victories against Denver and New England. They then go on the road to the Windy City and hand former offensive coordinator Matt Nagy an L as well.

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With the AFC West title already secured at this point the Chiefs decide to still play their starters in the final game of the season in order to try and secure the number 1 seed in the conference. The decision works in their favour as they beat out the Chargers in Arrowhead and are rewarded with home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Overall:

The Chiefs will look great in 2019. Mahomes irons out some of the creases from his MVP campaign and, although he doesn’t put up the same stats as 2018, he definitely looks more comfortable, and in command, than last year. The offensive line still has a good performance, despite losing Mitch Morse, and the abundance of skill players run the field all season long.

As for the defensive side of the ball, Frank Clark and Chris Jones dominate opposing offensive lines week in week out and the run defence shows improvement from last year. However we still look flimsy in the secondary which proves to be the weakest position on the field.

Kansas City earn their 5th straight playoff appearance as the number 1 seed in the AFC and dominate the AFC West with 5-1 record within the division.

Denver Broncos (10-6): 

Schedule:

  1. @ Oakland – W
  2. VS Chicago – L
  3. @ Green Bay – L
  4. VS Jacksonville – L
  5. @ Los Angeles (C) – L
  6. VS Tennessee – W
  7. VS Kansas City – W
  8. @ Indianapolis – W
  9. VS Cleveland – L
  10. BYE
  11. @ Minnesota – W
  12. @ Buffalo – W
  13. VS Los Angeles (C) – W
  14. @ Houston – W
  15. @ Chiefs – L
  16. VS Lions – W
  17. VS Oakland – W

The Broncos start off the season a little shaky; winning only 1 of their first 5 games. After picking up a fairly easy victory on the road against divisional rival Oakland, they then go on to face 4 of the top 10 defences in the league and are suffocated offensively in all of them.

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Denver start searching for a bounce back in order to build some confidence and that’s exactly what they find. Their offensive identity takes shape again against Tennessee as Phillip Lindsey and Joe Flacco both have strong performances. The pressure on Mahomes and run game rules the day against Kansas City (and being at home in a prime time game doesn’t hurt either).

The Colts aren’t the same without Luck and the Broncos take advantage of this too; levelling out to a 4-4 record. The week before their bye doesn’t go exactly to plan however as the talent alone on Cleveland’s roster is enough to overcome the Broncos game plan in week 9.

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After the bye the Broncos look strong, despite having a losing record. They increase their chances of placing 2nd in the division by beating Minnesota, Buffalo, Los Angeles and Houston in weeks 11-14. The questionable offensive line of Minnesota is no match for Bradley Chubb and Von Miller and their victory against the Chargers the following week proves to be a pivotal turning point in the AFC West.

They’re not able to go 2-0 against the Chiefs, losing to them at Arrowhead in week 15, but they do finish the season with wins against the Lions and Raiders (both in Denver). These 2 wins also secure the Broncos a wildcard spot as they scrape into the playoffs as the 6th seed.

Overall:

Despite calls for Lock to start by week 6, Elway remains faithful in the over-criticised Flacco and that works in his favour. Lindsey has another good year on the ground and 2nd round pick Dalton Risner has a strong rookie campaign alongside 1st round TE Noah Fant.

Defensively Bradley Chubb and Von Miller get the job done in the trenches and their secondary is neither impressive nor a liability. The true weakness of the team as a whole will be the lack of star talent outside of Miller and Chubb.

The Broncos will be a surprise playoff team in 2019. However I’ll leave you to decide whether this is because of their performance or a lack of contenders elsewhere in the conference.

Los Angeles Chargers (7-9):

Schedule:

  1. VS Indianapolis – W
  2. @ Detroit – W
  3. VS Houston – L
  4. @ Miami – W
  5. VS Denver – W
  6. VS Steelers – L
  7. @ Tennessee – W
  8. @ Bears – L
  9. VS Green Bay – L
  10. @ Raiders – L
  11. VS Kansas City – L
  12. BYE
  13. @ Denver – L
  14. @ Jacksonville – L
  15. VS Minnesota – W
  16. VS Oakland – W
  17. @ Kansas City – L

With a 4-1 record by the end of week 5, the Chargers begin their 2019 campaign in the opposite fashion to the Broncos. In week 1, Brissett shows that he isn’t ready to lead the Colts and gift the Chargers multiple turnovers whilst being held below 17 points (despite LA not having Derwin James). They then head to Detroit in week 2 and pick up a fairly easy win.

Their first loss comes from Houston where, despite a multiple sack game for Joey Bosa, Watson and Hopkins pick apart the Chargers’ damaged secondary. They beat out Miami, because of a talent mis-match, and also take a 1-0 lead against Denver due to the forms both teams are in at this point.

Despite the strong start, LA are dominated by Pittsburgh in their own backyard in week 6. This spirals the Chargers into a 1-4 record over their next 5 games (understandably losing to Green Bay, Chicago and Kansas City). The shock defeat is when the Chargers travel to the Black Hole in week 10 and fall to the Raiders, thanks to an excellent ground performance by Josh Jacobs (who will prove to be an OROY candidate by this point in the season).

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After their bye week, and sitting at a negative 5-6 record, LA has a lot of ground to cover in order to remain in the playoff hunt. However they don’t manage to pick up the slack and fall to both Denver and Jacksonville in weeks 13 and 14. At 5-8 it seems like the Chargers are just playing for pride at this point; especially as Kansas City and Denver lead the division with 10-3 and 8-5 records.

They manage to pull off a close victory against Minnesota in week 15 and even up the series against Oakland to move to 7-8. However, with the number 1 seed still hanging in the balance, the Chiefs bring their all to week 17 and defeat LA in the final game of the season.

Overall:

The Chargers manage to get away with multiple concerns across their offence in the first quarter of the season. An aged Philip Rivers, inexperienced offensive line and Melvin Gordon’s contract holdout aren’t exposed enough by the weaker teams they face. However as their opponents get stronger, and the season progresses, the cracks begin to show. By the time Gordon makes his return it’s already too late as the Bolts won’t be able to make up for lost ground.

Defensively they suffer from the loss of sophomore safety Derwin James. They still have a good all-round defence but just can’t seem to close out big games and are picked apart by the more intelligent quarterbacks they face (namely Watson, Rodgers and Mahomes).

Oakland Raiders (3-13): 

Schedule:

  1. VS Denver – L
  2. VS Kansas City – L
  3. @ Minnesota – L
  4. @ Indianapolis – L
  5. VS Bears – L
  6. BYE
  7. @ Green Bay – L
  8. @ Houston – L
  9. VS Detroit – W
  10. VS Los Angeles (C) – W
  11. VS Cincinnati – W
  12. @ New York (J) – L
  13. @ Kansas City – L
  14. VS Tennessee – L
  15. VS Jacksonville – L
  16. @ Los Angeles (C) – L
  17. @ Denver – L

Back-to-back divisional losses start Oakland’s rough season as Kansas City and Denver both beat them out due to talent mismatches (especially if Antonio Brown doesn’t play the first few games). Things don’t get much better for the Raiders as they lose their next 3 and enter their early bye week with a 0-5 record. Rookie RB Josh Jacobs will need a few games to warm up to the pro-level but even if he starts putting up numbers, his efforts alone won’t be enough to carry the team to some W’s early on.

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After the bye they’ll lose their next two to Green Bay and Houston as well. Green Bay will suffocate the Raiders’ offence and their defence won’t be enough to stop Rodgers and 

Davante Adams connecting for 2 touchdowns. The week 8 match-up against the Texans will be a heartbreaker as they narrowly miss out on picking up their first win of the year.

With a 0-7 record, and their bye week already in the rearview mirror, things are looking disastrous for Oakland. However in week 9 they finally end the drought when the Lions come to town and are beaten by a touchdown; Josh Jacobs picks up 100+ yards on the ground and walks into the end zone twice.

With a win finally under their belt, the Raiders keep their momentum and beat their next 2 opponents as well. Every season they seem to be able to pull off an unpredictable win. Last season it was against the Steelers in week 14 and this year I have them upsetting the Chargers in Oakland. The following game they take down the Bengals and sit at a 3-7 record by the end of week 11.

The sudden change of form doesn’t last long however as they go on to lose to both the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs in back-to-back weeks. Le’veon Bell takes over the game in week 12 and the Chiefs’ offence just overwhelms the Raiders defence at Arrowhead. In a week 14 thriller the Raiders can’t seem to close out the Titans in overtime and fall to 3-10.

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By this point the Oakland fans have lost hope and it seems like the team has too. They end the season 0-3, losing to Jacksonville, Los Angeles and Denver.

Overall:

It’s not a surprise that the Raiders don’t do well this season. Their roster is desperate and conflict fills the locker room. One plus from the year is that OROY contender Josh Jacobs has a great performance despite not being able to win many games.

On the other side of the ball rookie Clelin Ferrel has a good year under the radar, Arden Key also looks strong. However their secondary gets exposed consistently throughout the year which is the downfall of the side.

They run to Las Vegas with their tail between their legs and question marks all over the roster and organisation as a whole. At least they can rely on their run game and Derek Carr to build around going forward.

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