Spark Sports’ AFC West Season Preview

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John Elway missed out on Kirk Cousins and will now rely on veteran Case Keenum to bring the Broncos back to the playoffs. With a strong rookie class, the Broncos look poised to be a better team than last year.

Odds: 

AFC WEST DIVISION WINNERS: +400 (Bovada)

AFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS: +1800 (Bovada)

SUPER BOWL 53 CHAMPIONS: +4000 (Bovada)

Team Win Total: O/U 7.5 (Westgate)

Schedule:

Week 1 vs. Seattle (+2)
Week 2 vs. Oakland (-1)
Week 3 @ Baltimore (+5.5)
Week 4 vs. Kansas City (-1)
Week 5 @ New York (Jets) (-1.5)
Week 6 vs. Los Angeles (Rams) (-2.5)
Week 7 @ Arizona (-1.5)
Week 8 @ Kansas City (+4.5)
Week 9 vs. Houston (PK)
Week 10 BYE WEEK
Week 11 @ Los Angeles (Chargers) (+4.5)
Week 12 vs Pittsburgh (+3)
Week 13 @ Cincinnati (-1)
Week 14 @ San Francisco (+4.5)
Week 15 vs. Cleveland (-5.5)
Week 16 @ Oakland (+4)
Week 17 vs. Los Angeles (Chargers)

Schedule Outlook

Seattle to start the year is tough for any team even with their new look roster. Road tests at Ravens and Jets will most likely give fans a good idea of where this team sits. Home games against Rams, Steelers and Houston will be tough test but help the home team here.

Key Team Additions and Subtractions 

Additions – QB Case Keenum, T Jared Veldheer, DT Clinton McDonald, CB Tremaie Brock, S Sua Cravens, and P Marquette King

Subtractions – QB Trevor Siemian, C.J. Anderson, WR Bennie Fowler, WR Cody Latimer, TE Vigil Green, and CB Aqib Talib

Draft – DE Bradley Chubb, WR Courtland Sutton, RB Royce Freeman, CB Isaac Yiadom, LB Josey Jewell, WR DaeSean Hamilton, TE Troy Fumagalli, G Sam Jones, LB Keishawn Bierria, and RB David Williams

Offense

Vance Joseph looked like his college scheme would work for Denver, but defensive coordinators quickly caught on. Trevor Siemian was asked to throw 50 times in games and that wasn’t a winning game plan. Case Keenum is coming from a situation where he benefited from two of the best wide receivers in the league as well as one of the best tight end. Keenum manages games well and didn’t turn the ball over much which is what the Broncos need.

Devontae Booker and Royce Freeman will most likely see split time at the running back position. The Broncos felt like C.J. Anderson cost a little too much for them and will now lean on Booker’s upside and Oregon’s heavy lifter Freeman. The run game should improve now that there is a threat to throw the ball.

With Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders healthy, they should return to their norms. Both aging and showing serious regression, is somewhat on the play calling in Denver.  Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton should be solid contributors and steals in the draft. Both could end up taking the roles of the two staples. Jake Butt will get his first crack at the NFL after recovering from injury. If he can solidify the tight end spot, that will immensely help this offense.

The line was one of the worst in the league last year. They will need Veldheer to step up, the right tackle spot which has been awful the past few years. The left side is not near as bad with Garett Bolles, Ronald Leary and Matt Paradis solidifying the the blindside, the right side will need to improve to help move this pack.

Defense

Derek Wolfe came back and they added Clinton McDonald to the mix. Those two are a solid pair but Domata Peko will need to bring some more gap stopping weight to the game.

Bradley Chubb was blessed to fall to the Broncos. He will have less pressure and alleviate some from Von Miller causing chaos on the other side. Brandon Marshall will continue to roam the center of the field with Todd Davis and rookie Josey Jewell. The line backing core will be strong and one of the best in the league.

Talib will be missing from the NO FLY ZONE but Denver believes Bradley Roby is ready to take the leap. Lock down Chris Harris Jr. is one of the best in the league and will help contain a division with great wideouts. Darian Stewart and Justin Simmons will man the safety spots but need to play a little better to help control the passing game. Su’a Cravens could be a potential beast and help in nickel formations.

Special Teams

Kicker Brandon McManus and punter Marquette King are two of the better at their respected positions. Booker and Jordan Taylor will most likely be in the return game in what needs to be much better from last season.

Outlook

The Broncos will be much better than last year. But they were really really bad last year. Case Keenum will help solidify the quarterback spot. Vance Joesph isn’t the coaching answer, he’s just not ready for the title. The defense again will be strong for the Orange Crush. However, the offense still has a ton of questions, will the line hold up, will DT and Sanders return to form, can Jake Butt be that guy, will the running backs produce? There is too many questions surrounding the Broncos offense in a deep division to trust them.

Plays

N/A

No play here. The wins total is too close to where they should land to be comfortable playing that line. The lean is the under but there isn’t enough evidence to feel comfortable playing either way.



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The Chargers came thundering back into the playoff race after a horrible start. Tabbed as a dark horse contender this year, Los Angeles will need to get off to a better start.

Odds: 

AFC WEST DIVISION WINNERS: +155 (Bovada)

AFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS: +1000 (Bovada)

SUPER BOWL 53 CHAMPIONS: +2000 (Bovada)

Team Win Total: O/U 9 (Westgate)

Schedule:

Week 1 vs. Kansas City (-3)
Week 2 @ Buffalo (-1)
Week 3 @ Los Angeles (Rams) (+3.5)
Week 4 vs. San Francisco (-3.5)
Week 5 vs. Oakland (-5)
Week 6 @ Cleveland (-4)
Week 7 vs. Tennessee (-3)
Week 8 BYE WEEK
Week 9 @ Seattle (PK)
Week 10 @ Oakland (PK)
Week 11 vs. Denver (-4.5)
Week 12 vs Arizona (-9)
Week 13 @ Pittsburgh (+4.5)
Week 14 vs. Cincinnati (+7.5)
Week 15 @ Kansas City (+2.5)
Week 16 vs. Baltimore (-3.5)
Week 17 @ Denver

Schedule Outlook

An early test in Buffalo is never an easy trip for a West coast team and then returning to play the Rams will be a rough back-to-back.  Traveling to Seattle and Pittsburgh after their bye week should also be tough games.

Key Team Additions and Subtractions 

Additions – QB Geno Smith, C Mike Pouncey, TE Vigil Green, and Caleb Sturgis

Subtractions – C Matt Slauson, T Kenny Wiggins, LB Chris McCain, LB Jerry Attaochu, LB Korey Toomer, and S Tre Boston

Draft – S Derwin James, LB Uchenna Nwosu, DT Justin Jones, LB Kyzir White, C Scott Quessenberry, WR Dylan Cantrell, and RB Justin Jackson

Offense

Phillip Rivers spoke out about not playing as long as some of his counter parts. So Rivers needs to make these next few years great. He ended top five in yards and touchdowns last season. Phillip is a talented player and will keep them in every game.

Melvin Gordon took another step forward in his development and should continue to improve each season. Justin Jackson should be the back up and was one of the most productive backs in college football for four years straight.

Losing Hunter Henry will hurt but the receivers are solid for Rivers. Keenan Allen finished third in yards and fourth for wide outs in yards after catch. Travis Benjamin will stretch the field while the Chargers hope the Mike Williams breaks out this season.

The line was pretty rough last year, plagued with injuries. With the addition of Pouncey, he will improve the center position. Okung and Forrest Lamp will be a strong blindside. Joe Barksdale and Dan Freeney are still younger and will likely be studs. This line is set to protect Gordon and Rivers this season in a pass rush heavy division.

Defense

Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are two of the best at getting in the backfield. Between them Brandon Mebane and Darius Philon need to stop the run. This was one of the worst run defenses in the league because the gut was carved up.

The linebacking core consists of Jatavis Brown, Denzel Perryman and Kyle Emanuel. This is an average group all with different strengths. They will need to hope the line gets pressure to give the backers time to make a play.

Losing Jason Verrett for the season will hurt but second year pro Desmond King looks like he will be ready to jump into his role. Casey Hayward is one of the best corners in the game. The safties will be rookie Derwin James who looks like he will be a beast at the NFL level and tackling machine Jahleel Addae.

Special Teams

Nick Novak has been around for a long time and there is a reason for that. He is consistent as any kicker. Desmond King and Travis Benjamin will be the primary kick returners.

Outlook

The Chargers look like a really solid team on paper and came on strong after stumbling out of the game last year. Phillip Rivers has enough to go one or two more solid years. This team will miss Jason Verrett but it should be able to move on with out them.

Plays

AFC WEST TITLE/OVER 9/Lean AFC CHAMPIONS

The Chargers have great value as a AFC WEST TITLE CHAMP, Over 9 wins and AFC Champions. Of the teams that could win the AFC, the Los Angeles have the best value. This seams like a no-brianer, this team is too talented not to run away with the division.


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Jon Gruden is now the Oakland Raiders coach for the foreseeable future, signing a ten year contract. Kahlil Mack is gone and their top wide receiver was signed by Baltimore.

Odds: 

AFC WEST DIVISION WINNERS: +325 (Bovada)

AFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS: +1600 (Bovada)

SUPER BOWL 53 CHAMPIONS: +3500 (Bovada)

Team Win Total: O/U 9.5 (Westgate)

Schedule:

Week 1 vs. Los Angeles (Rams) (+1.5)
Week 2 @ Denver (+1)
Week 3 @ Miami (+1.5)
Week 4 vs. Cleveland (+7.5)
Week 5 @ Los Angeles (Chargers) (+5)
Week 6 vs. Seattle (-1.5)
Week 7 BYE WEEK
Week 8 vs. Indianapolis (+6)
Week 9 @ San Francisco (+1.5)
Week 10 vs. Los Angeles (Chargers) (PK)
Week 11 @ Arizona (-1)
Week 12 @ Baltimore (+5)
Week 13 vs. Kansas City (-2.5)
Week 14 vs. Pittsburgh (+3.5)
Week 15 @ Cincinnati (-1.5)
Week 16 vs. Denver (-4)
Week 17 @ Kansas City

Schedule Outlook

The Rams, Seahawks, Ravens, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh are spread out throughout the season and making it hard for the Raiders to get a break. They only play back to back at home twice once with the bye week and then in weeks 13 and 14.

Key Team Additions and Subtractions 

Additions – RB Doug Martin, WR Jordy Nelson, WR Martavis Bryant, WR Ryan Switzer, DE Frostee Rucker, LB Tahir Whitehead, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Emmanuel Lamur, and CB Daryl Worley

Subtractions – WR Michael Crabtree, CB T.J. Carrie, LB Navorro Bowman, LB Aldon Smith, K Sebastian Janikowski, and P Marquette King

Draft – T Kolton Miller, DT P.J Hall, T Brandon Parker, DE Arden Key, CB Nick Nelson, DT Maurice Hurst, P Johnny Townsend, LB Azeem Victor, and WR Marcell Ateman

Offense

Many thought Derek Carr would take a huge leap into elite level quarterback last season. Rather moving forward he took a step back. He will have a new receivers in Jordy Nelson and Martavius Bryant as well as a new running back in Doug Martin. He has plenty to be successful, can Gruden get him to that next level?

Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement and probably shouldn’t have. He was productive but not near what they expected. Pairing him with the muscle hamster should allow the Raiders to have a stronger run game.

Amari Cooper had a brutal season due to drops. However he did have a career high in touchdowns (7). Jordy Nelson is coming off one of his worst seasons, but he was missing Rodgers throwing to him. Martavis Bryant and Ryan Switzer are solid options as 3-4 wideouts, with Jared Cook as a steady threat in the passing game.

The o-line was really a strong unit for the Black and Gray. Only allowing a total of 24 sacks, third lowest in the NFL. Donald Penn Kelechi Osemele are some of the best at their respected positions drafting two tackles should also help the team have rotational help as well as depth along the line.

Defense

The defensive line will be a lot different if Khalil Mack doesn’t get his contract figured out. Bruce Irvin on the other side is a strong edge rusher. Rookie Hurst could have been a first round pick but due to heart conditions fell. If he can play, him and Arden Key (also a rookie) should be beasts along the line.

The linebacking core was a rough spot for the Raiders. They brought in veteran Johnson but he may be well past his prime. Tahir Whitehead played much better. They may use Key as a pass rusher out of the second level with his athleticism.

The secondary was extremely bad last year and it really didn’t improve much this season. Hopefully new comer Daryl Worley and second year pro Obi Melifonwu can step in and play key roles to soak up this swiss cheese pass defense.

Special Teams

Nick Novak has been around for a long time and there is a reason for that. He is consistent as any kicker. Desmond King and Travis Benjamin will be the primary kick returners.

Outlook

Tavecchio was a bright spot from the kickers role. Ryan Switzer and Dwayne Harris Will handle the returning roles, while Townsend will replace Marquette King in the punt game.

Plays

Under 9.5

This team isn’t better than the Chargers and most likey wont be better than the Chiefs. Gruden hasn’t coached in almost ten years. The game has evolved from what he may be used to. Outside his Superbowl Championship, he hasn’t had the best record, 83-77 taking out that season and 2-4 in the playoffs. Derek Carr isn’t elite and neither is the defense. This team has too much hype surrounding it and not enough talent.


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Andy Reid lost his trusty stead in Alex Smith but now has a Ferrari to play with. Loses of Marcus Peters and Smith may look like big loses but there are replacements on the rise.

Odds: 

AFC WEST DIVISION WINNERS: +260 (Bovada)

AFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS: +1400 (Bovada)

SUPER BOWL 53 CHAMPIONS: +3300 (Bovada)

Team Win Total: O/U 8 (Westgate)

Schedule:

Week 1 @ Los Angeles (Chargers) (+3)
Week 2 @ Pittsburgh (+7)
Week 3 vs. San Fransisco (-3)
Week 4 @ Denver (+1)
Week 5 vs. Jacksonville (-1)
Week 6 @ New England (+7)
Week 7 vs. Cincinnati (-4.5)
Week 8 vs. Denver (-4.5)
Week 9 @ Cleveland(-3)
Week 10 vs. Arizona (-6.5)
Week 11 @ Los Angeles (Rams) (+4.5)
Week 12 BYE WEEK
Week 13 @ Oakland (+2.5)
Week 14 vs. Baltimore (-2)
Week 15 vs. Los Angeles (Chargers) (-2)
Week 16 @ Seattle (+3)
Week 17 vs. Oakland

Schedule Outlook

The Chiefs have a gauntlet of a schedule. It should be a tough task for Andy Reid and the Chiefs to navigate. However, if they can make it to the playoffs, they will be battle tested.

Key Team Additions and Subtractions 

Additions – QB Chad Henne, Rb Kerwynn Williams, WR Sammy Watkins, DT Xavier Williams, LB Anthony Hitchens, CB Kendall Fuller, and CB David Amerson

Subtractions – QB Alex Smith, WR Albert Wilson, DT Bennie Logan, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Tambi Hali, CB Darrelle Revis, and CB Marcus Peters

Draft – DE Breeland Speaks, DT Derrick Nnadi, LB Dorian O’Daniel, S Armani Watts, CB Tremon Smith, DT Kahlil McKenzie

Offense

The Kansas City Chiefs moved up in the draft to get Patrick Mahomes, who was sought after by many teams. He had one start and wasn’t overly impressive. It’s well known Patrick has a monster arm, what he develops into remains to be seen. With the weapons around him and Andy Reid’s ability to build winning game plans Mahomes looks primed to take over the starting role.

Kareem Hunt had an unbelievable rookie season. Leading the league in rushing, the rookie looked like a steal out of the draft. Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West are  strong backups and can help Mahomes development.

The Chiefs went out and got speedster, Sammy Watkins, to open up space for Patricks huge arm. Tyreek Hill is one of the shiftiest players in the entire league and should allow the Chiefs offense to move well. Travis Kelce may be the best tightend in the league with his ability to cause mismatch problems and stay healthy.

Mitchell Schwartz is one of the best tackles in the league and should give them line stability. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif when healthy is also a stud lineman. Mitch Morse if healthy is another strong player along the line. The biggest question here is if the line can remain healthy.

Defense

Defensive end Chris Jones had a strong season last season, once moved to the outside of the line his play stepped up. Allen Bailey needs to step up his level of play to help get pressure behind the line this season. Nnadi and Williams will most likely rotate at the nose tackle, which both should be strong players in the middle.

The linebacking core is anchored by Justin Houston. Outside of Houston the linebackers are just an average group. Hitchens seems to make a good deal of tackles but none of the other three are anything special.

Losing Marcus Peters will hurt but drastically improve the locker room. Kendall Fuller should be a solid addition along with David Amerson if he his healthy. Eric Berry returning from injury will be a huge bonus to this team to pair with tackling machine Daniel Sorenson.

Special Teams

Nick Novak has been around for a long time and there is a reason for that. He is consistent as any kicker. Desmond King and Travis Benjamin will be the primary kick returners.

Outlook

Harrison Butker had a great rookie year after being picked up by the Chiefs. Dustin Colquitt is still one of the best punters in the game. DeAnthony Thomas and Tyreek Hill are incredibly hard to stop in the return game and will continue to man the duty.

Plays

Over 8

This team replaced their quarterback with one that has a higher ceiling as well as rid Peters locker room issues. Kendall Fuller can replace some of what Peters brought and getting Eric Berry back will be huge for Andy Reid. Reid has only had three seasons in his 19 years of head coaching with less than 8 wins. This is a really talented roster and Reid is a really smart coach. No chance the chiefs don’t win 8 games.


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