Bold Predictions: AFC West

AFC West

Denver Broncos

The Broncos are something of an unknown quantity heading into the 2019 season under new head coach Vic Fangio. They have a pair of new quarterbacks in the mix: Veteran and former Ravens signal caller Joe Flacco, and second-round draftee Drew Lock. Flacco was mercurial for his entire career in Baltimore, capable of stretching the field, but also throwing a rash of poorly timed interceptions. Lock was Denver’s target all along in this draft. G.M. John Elway made no secret that he sees the team’s future in the Missouri product. Lock’s allure is his big arm and raw potential, and it seems like Fangio wants to see more of Lock ASAP. The new coach has his rookie third on the depth chart but gave the lion’s share of the snaps against Seattle to the new addition. Anyone smell a quarterback controversy?

Bold Prediction: O.K. So maybe it isn’t a controversy, per se. Flacco hasn’t been in Denver long, and it’s well known that Lock is a raw talent. My prediction for Denver is that John Elway and Vic Fangio will keep Drew Lock on the sidelines this season. Despite Flacco’s up and down career, he’s still a good guy to sit behind, and barring injury, he’ll give the Broncos the best chance to win this season.

Kansas City Chiefs

So close, but so yet so far. Kansas City was an offensive juggernaut last season, but a significantly sub-par defense ended their hopes of hoisting the Lombardi trophy. In their two games against New England last season (one regular season and the AFC Championship), the Chiefs scored 71 points. Unfortunately for Andy Reid and crew, their defense allowed 80 in the two contests, both losses. The questions are many for this Chiefs team. Can Mahomes walk on water again this season? What about the departure of Kareem Hunt? What about Tyreek Hill? Those questions are all important, but they pale in comparison to the most important one: Can they improve that ghastly defense?

Bold Prediction: The Chiefs will come up short again. In fact, they won’t win the division. DE Frank Clark is a nice addition to that defense, but it won’t be enough. Kansas City gave up their first-round pick to get him, then selected a wide receiver in the second round… This is a team that ranked in the bottom ten in points allowed and was the second-worst defense in league by yardage. Now that teams have had a good look at Mahomes, and without a top tier running back, his production is likely to drop off. If this defense is that bad again, they’ll be fighting for a wildcard slot, not the division title.

Los Angeles Chargers

Last season, the Chargers were the most dangerous wildcard team that we’ve seen in several years. Despite a sluggish start, losing two of their first three games, the Chargers were in the mix all season. Those two losses, by the way…Kansas City and the Rams. Not exactly an easy early slate… But what about Melvin Gordon? Holding out. What’s the deal? Will he be the next marquee running back to skip a year, get traded AND get a huge deal?

Bold Prediction: Nope. But he’ll get A deal. Let me explain. Gordon doesn’t have the leverage Bell had. First, he hasn’t been hit with the franchise tag several times, so his $5 million-dollar contract for this year would just roll forward into next year. No gain to be had with a long-term holdout from his or his agent’s perspective. Secondly, the Chargers are in win-now mode. That alone is enough to bring them back to the table with a reasonable offer, instead of the type of deal that would have his agent telling him to stay away. Sure, he’s requested a trade to turn the screws on the Chargers brass, but it won’t happen. The Texans sniffed around before looking elsewhere, and I doubt many other suitors will come forward for Gordon if they think it’s going to take LeVeon Bell money. Come week three at the latest, we’re more than likely to see Melvin Gordon taking handoffs in Los Angeles. They’d be nuts to let him walk away in this scenario. If he stays, they win the division.

Oakland Raiders

Where to start? Show of hands. Who’s watching “Hard Knocks”? O.K. great. First thing you need to know. That is no “realer” than professional wrestling, or survival-based reality T.V. It’s all a smokescreen that generates buzz but won’t give you much real insight into the future of the Raiders, their looney-tune coach, or their newly upgraded roster. This was one of the worst teams in football last season and thinking that they’re back on top after getting Antonio Brown is short-sighted, at best.

Bold Prediction: Antonio Brown won’t be the same guy we’re used to seeing. First, his feet are falling off. If you haven’t seen the photos, I’ll let you handle that on your own. But following a cryotherapy session when Brown apparently wore the wrong shoes, the entire soles of his feel have peeled off. It’s as bad, or worse, than it sounds. There’s exactly zero chance of him running at full steam before the season gets rolling. Possibly longer. He’s also threatening to retire if he can’t wear the helmet that he’s used the past few seasons, which is no longer legal for safety reasons. The league is exceptionally unlikely to grandfather the wide receiver in. Also, in case you missed it, dude was singing and dancing in a gigantic hippo costume during the offseason. (Google “The Masked Singer” if you don’t know what I’m talking about…) Brown’s production has been prodigious for his entire career, but I can’t help but think that his days as the league’s best receiver are behind him. I hope I’m wrong. But all of this reeks like a guy who’s ready to hang up the cleats in dramatic fashion.

Check out my other Bold Predictions here.

Image Source: AP Images/Stephen Brashear

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