We, as a staff, offered our predictions for the AFC West in 2016. As an independent observer (which means no longer a San Diego Chargers fan) let me offer a quick explanation why the Raiders will win the division and the Chargers will lose double-digit games this year.
Oakland has, by far, the easiest go in the early part of the season. They could easily be 8-0 but no worse than 6-2 at the halfway point. In the second half the year, they play five of eight games at home. In fact, the farthest east they have to travel will be Kansas City.
The Raiders also have the best offensive line in the division which elevates the production of both Latavius Murray and Derek Carr. I have them splitting with K.C. and Denver, sweeping San Diego and only dropping three division games. That means 11-5, which is likely enough to win the division.
Denver won 12 games with Peyton Manning last year. It is logical to believe the combination of Lynch and Siemian will cost the team at least two games, maybe more. That defense is just so good they will be in every game. The trouble for the Broncos will be the schedule. They play at Cincinnati and at Tampa in back-to-back weeks. That travel will be tough. They also host New England, who will have Tom Brady. The defending world champs are still really, really good and I expect they’ll grab a wild card spot.
Kansas City will do what it does every year: play boring football and grind out wins. They just have a tough October (@ Pitt, Oak and Indy) and early Nov. (@ Carolina & Denver) which could put them in a hole that’s too big. They might get to 10 wins, perhaps nine, but I think they’ll be one of the last teams eliminated from playoff contention.
San Diego’s starting 22 is decent but the Chargers have very little depth on both sides of the line. Ask yourself what happens if Brandon Mebane goes down and try not to cry. What if they lose Matt Slauson? Are you filled with confidence at the idea of Max Tuerk?
There are also big questions at safety and running back. Melvin Gordon is okay, but he has never taken the workload of an NFL running back for 16 games. Danny Woodhead is a complimentary player, a good one, but not a workhorse. San Diego could go 0-6 in division again, or possibly 1-5, then mix in out-of-divison games at Indy, Carolina and Houston and you’re looking at another double-digit loss total. I had them going 6-10 before the Keenan Allen injury. How many wins does the loss of Allen cost them?
Sorry guys, this year looks bleak.
In summary, any of the top-3 teams could win the division and/or make the playoffs. The Chargers will draft in the top 10, again, next year. Sorry.