The AFC West earns hype as one of the top divisions in the NFL for the last few years. Last season, the division suffered one of its worst seasons overall. Despite a neck and neck end of the year race for the division crown, play faltered.
The Kansas City Chiefs possessed a strong grip on the division early last season, with a 5-0 start. After the 5-0 start, the Chiefs lost five of six and it took a home win to secure the division. Last year was the first time the Chiefs won their division in back to back seasons. It’s a new era in Kansas City, but there’s still reasons to believe the Chiefs can be the cream of the crop.
The Run of the Mill Chargers
Going into 2018, there is a good handful that believes the Chargers are the AFC West favorites. First let’s look at the roster. What is not to like about the defense with Joey Bosa wreaking havoc up front, and Casey Hayward racking up the interceptions in a deep secondary. Offensively, Philip Rivers is one of the most competitive quarterbacks in league history, who is showing very little signs of slowing down. Last season, the Chargers displayed their best product they’d had on the field in a few years. But, it was yet another year where they were on the outside looking in to the AFC playoff picture.
Despite the hype, there’s plenty of reason to believe the Chargers are going to be the same old team in 2018. There is a few things to bank on if this is the case.
First, the Chargers will have a slow start to the season. Last season, it was an 0-4 start for the Chargers return season to Los Angeles. 2016 saw a 1-4 start to the Chargers season. In 2015, the Chargers sat at 2-7 heading into their bye week. Looking at the schedule, the Chargers don’t have the worst start on paper. But, we know there is no given victories in the NFL.
Then there is the injuries. Every team is going to go through injuries, but the Chargers have had some of the worst luck the last few seasons. There is only so much depth at certain positions and this has been a derailer for this team. Also, their sure handed tight end Hunter Henry is already out for all of 2018 with a torn ACL.
Case Keenum’s Play Will Regress From 2017
Last season, the Vikings looked to start the season with Sam Bradford as the starter. Bradford lit up the Saints as well as could in Week 1, but injuries continued to haunt Bradford and it became Case Keenum’s starting job throughout the rest of 2017. Fifteen games was the most Keenum had played in one season. Keenum was also part of arguably the best rosters he had ever been on since entering the league with Houston in 2013. Thanks to one of the league’s top defenses on the other side.
This offseason, Keenum joined the Broncos on a two year, $36 million deal. Besides the strong roster in Minnesota, the coaching staff was also more proven that what Keenum will have in Denver this season. There were some doubts about head coach Vance Joseph at the end of his first season last year, but general manager John Elway decided to bring him back rather than go through another head coaching search. Also since Peyton Manning, the offensive coordinators have been a big talk at why Denver has had trouble producing offensively. So, there is a ground that needs to be met between Keenum and this coaching staff.
Keenum owns all the tangibles to succeed in the NFL. However, after such a strong season I see him regressing after a career year. With the load that is going to be put on Keenum’s shoulders, there will be parts of the season that Denver will fall short due to Keenum’s little history as the top man. Doubting Denver given their history over the last decade for the feels very difficult to do. Yet, as strong as Keenum could be, setbacks at Mile High coukd occur.
The Chiefs Division Prowess
Since Andy Reid became head coach in 2013, the Chiefs have a 21-9 record against the division. This includes a 16-2 record over the last three seasons. The Chiefs have won eight consecutive games against the Chargers and are 6-2 at home against the Chargers during this current decade. The Chiefs have also won five consecutive games against the Broncos. This is relieving for the Chiefs, as it comes after seven consecutive games versus the Broncos. Then against the Raiders, the Chiefs are 8-2 since the hire of Andy Reid. The Chiefs have not lost at home against the Raiders in that span, and the only two losses came on heartbreakers in Thursday Night contests in Oakland.