August 18, 2016 by Ell and Mike Sports
Ell’s NFL Divisional Rankings AFC West
While the Broncos have one of the most suspect QB situations in the division, the defense is still one of the best, if not the best in the league. The QB battle between veteran Mark Sanchez and 2nd year QB Trevor Siemian should work itself out soon depending which QB has fewer turnovers to be a game manager and placeholder for rookie QB Paxton Lynch. The running game should be solid with the return of RB C.J. Anderson after a solid post season run and small playmaking RB Ronnie Hillman with the addition of hard running rookie RB Devonte Booker. WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders continue to lead the way while Cody Latimer and Benny Fowler fight for snaps. The TE position will be under change and Virgil Green will finally get his chance. The offensive line is under transition with a much needed veteran mix. The defense will still be hitting on all cylinders with most pieces still in place most importantly SB MVP Von Miller. The Broncos have added some veteran depth on the D-line and some young rookie talent to an already talented secondary. The Broncos defense should keep games in manageable situations for the offense to get things in place like last year; they will be built off the run game and good defense.
The Raiders did a good job in free agency and the draft adding to their young core of players. QB Derek Carr is expected to make a leap into being one of the best young quarterbacks. RB Latavius Murray is a big bruising runner who should continue to cause problems while he finally has some young speed backs behind him who have homerun potential. The WR core continues to be led by star WR Amari Cooper who should be even better and veteran Michael Crabtree. The offensive line should be much improved after the re-signing veteran Donald Penn and adding a top O-lineman in G/T Kelechi Osemele. The defense should be much improved with pass-rushing OLB Bruce Irvin and veteran FS Reggie Nelson who can provide much needed leadership with the loss of future Hall of Fame DB Charles Woodson. Veteran CB Sean Smith should be a good free agency steal, as an instant #1 CB who fits the scheme. Star OLB/DE Khalil Mack is expected to take the next step with more help around him and another year under his belt. Rookie S Karl Joseph looks like an impact player who should play from Day 1. The Raiders have a solid young core and can only build from last year after making smart offseason decisions.
The Chiefs are still a solid team with good veteran presence at key spots, but I don’t think they are better than last year. QB Alex Smith continues to provide steady, consistent play, while the addition of RB Jamaal Charles causes excitement, can he stay healthy? However, they do have one of the deepest RB stables with Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West providing solid depth, but Charles is the guy they want out there. The WR core still hasn’t added a key playmaker to take pressure off WR Jeremy Maclin, deciding to continue to groom their current receivers. TE Travis Kelce should only get better as their favorite playmaker who they will find ways to get the ball. The offensive line needed work last year and will definitely be the biggest thing to watch with no real impact additions. The defense should continue to be solid, pending the return of star FS Eric Berry, but the loss of star OLB Justin Houston to injury really limits their pass rush. Veteran DE/OLB Tamba Hali is coming off on injury making it hard for him to cover the pass rush deficiencies. CB Marcus Peters had a great rookie season and will look to build from that, but veteran CB Sean Smith is gone which could pose an issue. The Chiefs are a talented team who need a lot of people to step up in a tough division, along with a tough loss of pass rusher Justin Houston, but a healthy Jamaal Charles (for the season) would make things interesting.
The Chargers passing offense could have been a hot topic, but the loss of veteran Stevie Johnson hurts. The addition of WR Travis Benjamin should add a nice deep ball element and rookie TE Hunter Henry should take the pressure off veteran TE Antonio Gates. Veteran QB Philip Rivers should continue to lead the offense, but the running game is up to the progress of Melvin Gordon. The offensive line is finally healthy with some pieces in place, but an upgrade is still needed. The defense is looking average on all levels despite the optimism and I don’t believe rookie DE/OLB Joey Bosa will save them. The secondary has solid CB starters in Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett, but the safeties will struggle as they try to find their way. The Chargers’ offense will keep them in games, but the defense needs more talent in a tough division full of good defenses.