It’s almost that time again, on September 8th, there will be a Super Bowl 50 rematch to kick off the new NFL season. This series is being used to go through each division, preview each team and where each team is going to place. Since the reigning champions are playing in the first game of the season, their division will be the first in this series.
This should be one of the better divisions in the entire league because all four teams are all good. San Diego had a down year, but they are better than that and Denver will have some serious competition with Kansas City and Oakland breathing down their neck. It will be interesting to see a division with these teams battling for playoff positioning.
San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers are better than their 2015 record of 4-12 suggests. They had a fair amount of injuries to some of their key players that probably affected their record negatively. Keenan Allen missed November and December and Brandon Flowers also missed the last month of the season. Looking to the upcoming season they still have Phillip Rivers, a returning Keenan Allen, a nice free agency signing in Travis Benjamin and an aging Antonio Gates, all of which should make this offensive unit pretty good. The only questions offensively are the offensive line and the running back position. Melvin Gordon didn’t necessarily live up to his first round status from last year, but hopefully he learned a lot and can come in and start living up to the hype that surrounded him. Last year, the offensive line did not perform well, cycling 24 different combinations, they need to get more consistency going forward if they want to be successful.
Defensively, the Chargers lost a good piece in cornerback Patrick Robinson, but replaced him with Casey Hayward, who is younger and maybe a little better. They also lost safety Eric Weddle and replaced him with nine year veteran Dwight Lowery, who is a good player, but isn’t as impactful as Weddle can be. If they can agree to terms with the third pick in the draft, Joey Bosa, they would have an improved pass rush from last year as well. Bosa isn’t the best prospect in terms of potential, but he would be a solid pass rusher that can stop the run as well.
The Oakland Raiders are a young team on the rise that a lot of people are looking to make a big jump in 2016. There is a lot of talent all on both sides of the ball and are still developing. Derek Carr improved a lot last year and should improve even more going into year three. Amari Cooper should become a bigger force coming into his second season and Michael Crabtree should improve his chemistry with Carr, making him a bigger threat. Latavius Murray should benefit from the passing game and probably rush for at least another 1,000 yards this season.
The offense should be really good, but the defense should be even better. They have a top three rusher in Khalil Mack, they brought in Bruce Irvin, and they drafted a very good safety in Karl Joseph. There aren’t enough words in the English dictionary to describe how good Mack is. He can stop the run and he can get to the passer better than almost anyone in the NFL. In his second season, he recorded fifteen sacks and he will probably get around that many again this year. Bruce Irvin is a good linebacker that can do it all and was a key reason that Seattle went to two straight Super Bowls. There is some concern with Karl Joseph’s ACL because of the injury he sustained last season, but if he can come back healthy, he would be the beneficiary of a great pass rush and have a great rookie campaign.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs started slow last year, but really came into their own by the end of the season and ended up making the playoffs as a wildcard team with an 11-5 record. This was after they lost one of their key pieces in Jamaal Charles. Alex Smith is a solid quarterback with some very good to great weapons and their defensive dominated their way to the playoffs. With all of this talent the Chiefs should do very well in 2016.
Alex Smith might never win an MVP award, but he can manage a game and win, especially with the talent around him. Travis Kelce is one of the top five tight ends in the league that can catch and is a pretty good blocker. Jeremy Maclin is still a good receiver that has above average speed and good hands. With Jamaal Charles coming back, he could be a top ten runningback again and help the Chiefs become a threat in the AFC.
The Kansas City defense is the key to their success. The loss of Justin Houston could be devastating to the defense, the Chiefs head office is optimistic that he will play this season, but he will miss a good chunk of the season. Luckily this defense isn’t built around one player. The comeback player of the year, Eric Berry showed that he is still one of the best secondary players in the league. Dontari Poe had a bit of a down year, but should be able to bounce back this year. If the defense can come back strong, they will be pretty good this year.
The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl last year and then lost both of their quarterbacks, but kept most of their incredible defense intact. They had the misfortune of Peyton Manning retiring and his protégé Brock Osweiler bolting for Houston, so they had to get creative in the offseason when it came to the quarterback position. They acquired Mark Sanchez to be their starter for now and drafted Paxton Lynch to be their quarterback of the future. Mark Sanchez isn’t a name that excites a lot of people, but he was a serviceable backup in Philadelphia and will have a lot more talent around him in Denver. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are a great receiving tandem, and CJ Anderson is an efficient running back. If Sanchez can get the ball out then the offense should be good enough to win a decent amount of games this upcoming season.
The reason that the quarterback change might not matter is because of the Denver defensive unit. Von Miller might be one of the two pass rushers that is better than Khalil Mack. Since he came in the league, he has been a complete headache for all opposing offenses, as shown in last year’s Super Bowl. They have found something with Demarcus Ware who seems to be drinking from the fountain of youth and is certainly benefiting from Miller holding down the other side. It isn’t just their pass rush that is good, it is the secondary with Chris Harris, Aqib Talib, and TJ Ward. The only question mark is Talib with his non-football injury and how will affect his play.
4th Place: San Diego Chargers
Although San Diego will be better this year, their division is going to be really tough to gain any ground. If Phillip Rivers can get some protection, then they might be able to gain more ground and make this division even more interesting. They will probably win six or seven games, but their defense isn’t as good as they need to be to compete and there is a fair amount of concern about the offensive line entering the season.
3rd Place: Denver Broncos
This is probably the shocker, how could the defending Super Bowl champions be the finish third in their own division the next year, when their defense is still intact? It is a combination of their quarterbacks, the strength of schedule, and the progression of the other teams above the Broncos. Mark Sanchez is a good backup, but not a good starter and is prone to making mistakes. They have to face New England and Cincinnati, both of which should both be really good this year as well. They will probably win nine or ten games, but that won’t be enough to get above third place in this division.
2nd Place: Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs have a good chance to win their division. Although their schedule is fairly difficult, especially a date in Pittsburgh, they have good veteran leadership and enough firepower on both sides of the ball to compete with any team in the league. The injury to Justin Houston can prove to be detrimental and might cost them the top spot in their division. This team should win ten or eleven games and will be competing for a wildcard spot come January.
1st Place: Oakland Raiders
The Raiders are the darlings in the NFL this upcoming season and it was hard to not pick them as the team to beat in this division. The experience is really the only thing that is lacking when it comes to this team, but they have so much talent that they should be able to overcome those flaws. This defense is just as talented as the Broncos, but they have a better offensive unit. This team could win up to twelve games and should win their division.
Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments below!
My name is Sean, I have been a fan of the NFL for at least 25 years and want to get my thoughts out to the public. Please visit the main site for more posts