Even with Gruden, Raiders no favorite
June 05, 2018 3:00 AM
by Jim Feist
I’ll start breaking down the NFL by division for the 2018 season. Today, I’m starting with the AFC West, one of the most competitive divisions in football.
The current odds to win the division are: Oakland Raiders +190, Los Angeles Chargers +225, Kansas City Chiefs +240, Denver Broncos +380. I don’t agree with these odds. I have the Chargers and Broncos as co-favorites.
Oakland Raiders: The Raiders have a new head coach in Jon Gruden. He has been out of football for a number of years, so in a way he brings a different perspective to the league than what we remember. He is older and lots richer, not that we can handicap either of those facts. Derek Carr did not have the year that was expected of him in 2017. I believe Gruden is too smart to allow him to be without better protection and wideouts.
Gruden has been signing a number of veterans during the off season. No one can know for sure how effective that method of rebuilding will be, as only time will tell. However, be that as it may, I don’t believe they should be favored to win the division. They had the 20th ranked defense in the league last year and I don’t see a lot of improvement in that area for 2018. I’m predicting a third place finish behind LA and Denver.
Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers have the most experienced quarterback in the division in Philip Rivers. The Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos have new starting quarterbacks. However Case Keenum for Denver has a lot of experience as well. Rivers, however has never been consistent in big games. He has a running game with Melvin Gordon. Losing tight end Hunter Henry will not help, but they will be able to pick up talent on the open market by preseason.
The defense for the Chargers was very good last season, particularly against the pass, as they were third in the league in new passing yards per attempt. They have also added quality and depth on defense and that will make them very tough this year. Good chance they will make the playoffs this year.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs are the defending AFC West Champions, but are the third choice to win the division. Kansas City let Alex Smith and Marcus Peters get away, so they are hoping Patrick Mahomes is ready for the lead role at quarterback and hope to find someone to replace Peters in the secondary. Mahomes is facing a lot of pressure to perform at a high level this season and if he fails the Chiefs are in serious trouble.
Kansas City does have some weapons surrounding Mahomes in Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, and they added Sammy Watkins. Kansas City’s defense was just 15th in the NFL last season, so the offense has to carry this team. I’m predicting a last place finish in the division and not making the playoffs.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos have a new starting quarterback as Keenum comes over from the Vikings. He is a huge upgrade from what Denver had last season and should give the Broncos a chance to compete for this division along with the playoffs. The defense slipped a little bit last season, but with a better offense will give them some rest. The addition of Bradley Chubb gives Denver a few added pieces and they should be very good defensively.
The Broncos did let Aqib Talib go, but his best days are behind him. Denver will be counting heavily on Bradley Roby and Chris Harris to play well in the secondary. John Elway is the master at the control on this team and I feel he did a poor job after winning the Super Bowl a few years ago. He is making up for it with his off season moves. They will battle with LA for the division and have a good
chance at the playoffs.
2018 AFC West Predictions: I personally don’t bet futures unless I get monster prices. This division offers absolutely zero value in that regard. I see a real battle between the Chargers and Broncos.
Should be fun barring any serious injuries.