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The Chargers are an incredibly strange wildcard, year in and year out. Expectations are obviously high, as evidenced by being the favorite to win the West, but the newly renamed LA Chargers have seemed to fade expectations whether they are high or low. Last year, they were expected to be bad but missed the postseason by only one game. This year? We shall see what 2018 Philip Rivers shows up. If he can be an above average QB, then LA should coast to this division crown. Their ground game is solid with Melvin Gordon and a beefed up O-Line. Keenan Allen is one of the best wideouts you may have not heard of. The defense is solid, despite Verrett being lost for the season in camp. Outside the division, their only super tough opponents are both on the road, in the Steelers and the Rams. I expect a desperate, but effective, Rivers to step up and keep the wheels on the tracks for LAC this year.
Betting on Mahomes is definitely a large gamble here. The kid has the talent, mobility and arm strength nobody can deny that. But is he ready for a 16 game schedule when his coach is on the hot seat? He cannot afford to come out slow, because while Alex Smith wasn’t necessarily a fan favorite, he was a developed and polished QB who led the Chiefs to the playoffs last year. If Kareem Hunt, Spencer Ware, Sammy Watkins, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce can stay healthy then Mahomes has the tools to succeed. The defense took a hit this offseason with the loss of leadership in Derrick Johnson and the talented Marcus Peters but they did acquire Kendall Fuller in the Smith deal. They also picked up some LB help signing Anthony Hitchens and acquiring Reggie Ragland. The first six weeks of their schedule won’t do them any favors either (@LAC, @PIT, SF, @DEN, JAX, @NE).
Jon. Gruden. 10 years. $100 million. If it wasn’t broken, bring it back right? Since Gruden was traded from Oakland to Tampa in 2001, the Raiders have had 2 winning seasons. TWO! Fast forward to 2018 and Gruden has inherited a bit of a dumpster fire. David Carr was injured all year in 2017 and Marshawn Lynch was very pedestrian. With another year under the belt off of retirement, Marshawn Lynch looks to have an increased load this year. The WR core was addressed in the offseason but I’m not sure if they upgraded the position. Jordy Nelson may be past his prime and Martavis Bryant hasn’t lived up to potential on top of having huge character issues. The defense isn’t very good except for Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. But Mack is only valuable if he actually plays football. Holding out is not ideal for the Raiders nor Khalil. Safety Karl Joseph seems poised to take the next step. The schedule seems like it can be winnable outside the division. If they can be 4-2 or better in the division, then they have a shot at a postseason berth.
The Broncos have not had back to back losing seasons since 1972, but all streaks come to and end sometime right? Coach Vance Joseph has the hottest of seats in the NFL, and Case Keenum is closer to fluke than bonafide starting QB. The defense is strong again in 2018 adding Bradley Chubb and hopefully, with an improved offensive game plan, can get back to its Super Bowl winning ways. Bradley Roby will fill the CB spot left by Aqib Talib. But the offense will control the defense and if Keenum is throwing 35+ times per game that does not bode well for Denver.
This division, collectively, went from being the best division in football to quite possibly the worst. Someone’s gotta win it right? My money will be on LA to scoop up the West.