5) Predicted order of finish?
BL: 1. Chargers 2. Chiefs 3. Broncos 4. Raiders
The Chargers are the only team in the division that can boast of continuity, and if they shore up last year’s horrid run defense, they’re solid across the board. The Chiefs cast their lot with 2017 first-round QB Patrick Mahomes, who is gifted, but there are sure to be growing pains. The Broncos appear to have solidified a brutal QB situation with Case Keenum replacing a cast of misfits. With the security of a 10-year contract, Raiders boss Jon Gruden knows he has time to build sustainable success without the pressure of winning now.
EE: 1. Chargers 2. Chiefs 3. Raiders 4. Broncos
We’ll take the cheese here. The Chargers long have been known as offseason darlings and regular-season duds, but even with the Hunter Henry injury, we like this defense a ton and the offense enough, barring their seemingly annual medical epidemic. Mahomes will make the Chiefs’ offense even more dynamic, but can the defense hold firm? We have some doubts. And we honestly debated flip-flopping the last two teams. Gruden’s arrival is no cureall, and the Broncos figure to be a tad sturdier this season than last.
GG: 1. Chiefs 2. Raiders 3. Chargers 4. Broncos
Picking the order of finish in the AFC West is a difficult task. Every team looks to have improved on paper. Jon Gruden, after years in the broadcast booth, is back coaching and has total control of the Oakland Raiders. He will make that team better prepared. Basically every team in the division is just about equal, so who wins won’t be known until late in the season. My guess in early June is the Chiefs.
AA: 1. Chargers 2. Chiefs 3. Raiders 4. Broncos
The Chargers have to make their own luck eventually, and with one of the league’s more explosive rosters and some nice momentum from last year’s impressive finish, the time is finally here. Kansas City is going to give up a lot of points, but Patrick Mahomes just might be talented enough to cover for a ‘D’ that’s rebuilding on the fly. We’ll believe that Jon Gruden didn’t lose his fastball when we see it, and that would start in the form of reviving Derek Carr. I like Denver’s roster but still have real doubts about Case Keenum.
HA: 1. Chargers 2. Chiefs 3. Raiders 4. Broncos
The Chargers are loaded, and how much they get from Lynn could be their only concern. I think the move from Alex Smith to Pat Mahomes in Kansas City came way too soon and the Chiefs miss the playoffs. The fact is that after winning a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy's team in Tampa, Jon Gruden became quite mediocre and got fired. So, we'll see how his second Oakland stint goes. Denver had an incredible draft on paper, but Case Keenum has to prove last year was the real deal.