Here's Your 2016 AFC West Preview
Well I'm packing up my game
And I'm a head out West
-- Kid Rock, Cowboy
There's a longstanding belief in some quarters regarding East Coast bias among the media.
The reason given is they've long since started their REM sequence before games on Pacific time aren't even half over.
Thank goodness for the NFL Red Zone, the advent of the DVR, and smartphones to now keep Northeasterners up to date on happenings around the league.
If you're really old school, grab the Monday morning newspaper and read through box score. That's, you know, how people used to get the news.
No matter the medium, there's no excuse not to cover the AFC West this season. It'll likely be one of the more competitive divisions, especially with the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos looking to repeat with a different QB under center.
Will the Raiders finally end the second-longest playoff drought in the NFL? They look poised to make a run and have some exciting new players led by QB Derek Carr.
More importantly, will the Raiders find a permanent home before, during, or after the 2016 season?
As the late, great Elvis Presley once said: Viva Las Vegas!
Just don't tell that to the Chargers.
1. Denver Broncos
One local medical marijuana dispensary, Native Roots, has stepped up to the plate -- or, should we say, called an audible -- and offered to purchase the naming rights, but it's facing opposition because marijuana is bad, mmm-kay?
Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller isn't going anywhere, having signed a 6 year, $114.5million dollar deal, nearly equivalent to the Gross Domestic Product of Kazakhstan. Dude, you can buy your own country!
The Broncos are counting on retread QB Mark Sanchez after getting spurned by backup QB Brock Osweiler in the off-season. Just try not to make any major blunders Mark, and hand off to CJ Anderson, like a lot.
Denver drafted Memphis QB Paxton Lynch for the future, so hopefully he learns what not to do from Sanchez.
As long as there aren't too many costly mistakes from Mr Butt Fumble, the stout Orange Crush defense can lead them to another division title and a likely first round bye in the playoffs.
Repeating in the NFL is an extremely difficult task, though, especially without quality quarterback play.
But defense wins championships. Ain't that right, Cam?
2. Kansas City Chiefs
How long had it been between playoff victories in Kansas City?
Not nearly as long as the three decades it took the Royals to return to the playoffs. But still, I was a senior in high school.
Some other tidbits from 1993:
- Joe Montana was the Chiefs quarterback.
- Bill Clinton became the 42nd President.
- Michael Jordan had just retired for the first time.
- The Houston Oilers existed.
- Blockbuster was on top of the world (Be Kind, Rewind!).
The Chiefs got the proverbial monkey off their backs last season with a 30-0 road victory over the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round. Their season ended in Foxboro a week later, which has become a familiar fate for many AFC playoff teams over the past 15 years.
Kansas City is built according to the same blueprint as the Broncos:
- a strong running game,
- stout defense, and
- a game manager under center, although Alex Smith is much more functional than Mark Sanchez.
Can the Chiefs catch lightning in a bottle in back-to-back seasons like their MLB counterparts?
3. Oakland Raiders
Pre-season predictions have the Raiders tabbed as many experts' surprise playoff team of 2016.
The Silver & Black got close last year, finishing 7-9 while showing vast improvement in all areas of the gridiron. QB Derek Carr and WR Amari Cooper proved to be a lethal combination, and DE Khalil Mack has quickly become one of the finest defensive players in the entire league.
Signing OLB Bruce Irvin from the Seahawks was a huge coup and will provide mad pass rushing skills.
The Raiders' schedule is favorable to start the season, with the Saints, Falcons, and Titans up for the first three matches.
Can Oakland finally return to the post season? 2002 was a long time ago!
Will they still reside in Alameda County? That's a bigger question.
4. San Diego Chargers
These dudes are kind of like nomads roaming the southern California desert.
There are bigger fish to fry in San Diego, as top draft pick Joey Bosa threatens to hold out the entire season over a contract dispute.
Can't we just all get along?
Newly signed DT Brandon Mebane will provide much girth in the middle of the d-line, but the entire unit needs to step up in order to keep up with the Lightning Bolts on offense.
QB Philip Rivers shows no signs of slowing down, and the WR combo of Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin could put up big numbers. RB Melvin Gordon needs to step up to take pressure off of Rivers and the offensive line. Gordon failed to score a rushing TD in 2015 and averaged just 3.5 ypc. Not good!
Don't bother purchasing playoff ticket packages, Chargers fans. Hopefully, you'll still have a team in 2017.