- Kansas City Chiefs – Yeah, something doesn’t look right in a division when a team led by Alex Smith at quarterback and the Kool-Aid-Man as head coach are the favorites to win it. But the Kool-Aid-Man a.k.a Andy Reid has been a model of consistency in his coaching career and has made quarterbacks play above their potential. Alex Smith is in a comfortable spot with the Chiefs and he’s a decent enough “dual-threat” quarterback that he keeps defenses honest – although they know the deep ball is a rare occurrence. Outside of Jeremy Maclin, the only real receiving threat is tight end Travis Kelce, but the Chiefs’ offense will circle around their backfield depth. When star running-back Jamaal Charles went down last year the Chiefs saw what they had in Charcadrick West and Spencer Ware. Expect Andy Reid to find ways to get all of three of these backs involved in the offense often. In the draft, the Chiefs didn’t really do much, but look out for their fourth round pick Eric Murray out of Minnesota to add some punch to a defense that allowed less than 18 points a game last season. Chiefs have a middle of the road schedule in terms of difficulty, but this is a team that has most of the same pieces that reeled off an 11 game win streak last year and a division that is win-able with eight or nine wins this year.
2. Oakland Raiders – Yeah, that’s right. Eight or nine wins will win this division and Oakland won’t get the division crown. Do the math. Folks are high on the Raiders this year. Maybe because of the young talent; or maybe because folks are tired of this once proud franchise being a laughing stock. Last season they showed promise and showed they have the centerpieces for their offense and defense: Derek Carr and Khalil Mack, respectively. Mack will have free agent signees Bruce Irvin and (in November) Aldon Smith to help not just with the edge rush but also help to form a very athletic trio up front. Rookie Karl Joseph has all the tools to be a starter for this franchise for the next ten years. Joseph will be playing alongside safety Reggie Nelson who had an NFL leading eight interceptions last year. Amari Cooper is the real deal at wide receiver; and Michael Crabtree looked the best he’s looked in years, but it may be reaching to think he’ll duplicate last year’s performance. The pieces are there for this team to make the next step, but because EVERYONE is saying that, it definitely won’t happen. This is a team that looks better on paper then they will on the field. They are still one year away, and if they can put it together, this division can be theirs for the next three to four years – easily.
3. Denver Broncos – What did we expect? A team wins a Super Bowl, and all the players who were up for new contracts – left for ridiculous pay days. That’s the business of the sport. The Broncos biggest attraction, Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, was set to sit out for the season if he and Broncos didn’t agree on terms – but cooler heads prevailed. Miller will be set to lead a defense that is still formidable even after the losses of Danny Trevathan and Malik Jackson. The defense will have to be key because that’s how they won games last year. The Broncos re-instilled the notion that “defenses win championships” because in this “quarterback league” they basically played without one for most of last year. Although Peyton Manning was trashy last year, his poise and leadership kept this offense motivated and focused all season long – even when times were tough. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are top notch receivers but expect their numbers to plummet this season. The Broncos signed Mark Sanchez who once upon a time was the savior to the New York Jets. Now he’s a journey man, who’s forever haunted by the epic “butt-fumble.” The Broncos also went and drafted Paxton Lynch who has a creepy mustache and a stupid hair cut. Also the general manager John Elway is pretty smug. Nobody with teeth like that should be that smug.
4. San Diego Chargers – The Chargers are basically, sorta, kinda. . . irrelevant? Ugh, you hate to hear the word “irrelevant” associated with a team that has the coolest alternate jersey and a team that is led by Philip Rivers, who has been quiet as kept – this generation’s Dan Marino to some degree. Does he have the records like Marino and is he as good – no. BUT, Rivers has put together quite the career and done so with little to no help for the most part. The organization makes the wrong signings, drafts the wrong people and — oh wait – who’d they draft this year? Ha. . . as of now (August 17th, 2016) the Chargers first round pick Joey Bosa is holding out, and it seems that both sides are not budging. Bosa comes in with a lot of hype, too much hype if you ask me – he’s a piece that would be nice in building a defense, but he is not a piece to build around. Free agent Travis Benjamin signed on to the Chargers from the Browns and he joins a pretty talented receiving group that include Keenan Allen and tight-end Antonio Gates who is still a top five tight end at thirty-six years of age. The Chargers lost eight games by seven or less points and just couldn’t close the deal when they needed to. There is just nothing flashy or exciting about the Chargers anymore. Sick jerseys though. . .