Over the past five years, the AFC West has essentially been flipped upside down. It seems like just yesterday that the Broncos were coming off of their Super Bowl winning season, as the Raiders were the typical Raiders we’ve grown to picking on each year. The tides have certainly changed, as the Raiders are growing to be viewed as a serious playoff contender, whereas the Broncos seem to need a lot ofpieces in order to even make the postseason. The Chiefs and Chargers have been in the middle of the pact, but don’t show any real signs of standing out. With that, let’s talk about both the fantasy football on each roster, as well as the realistic expectations that each team will have going into 2017.
Denver Broncos- Fantasy football aside, these guys might finish at .500 or above. The Broncos have a new head coach, a poor quarterback situation, and their offensive line is underwhelming. Let’s also not forget that the Broncos have the toughest schedule this upcoming season, based on 2016 win percentages. As far as the fantasy value goes, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are players worth owning, and they’ll likely be started every week in most leagues. The biggest question is going to be their backfield, and specifically how they utilize C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker, and Jamaal Charles.
I think Anderson will be the guy to own, but the other two will likely cut into his carries. If you’re going to draft Anderson, I would advise either building some depth at the running back position, or handcuffing Anderson with Charles. Keep an eye on training camps and preseason games, as really any of the aforementioned names could be viewed as the future starter in the Broncos backfield.
Kansas City Chiefs- With a stout defense, and a somewhat solid offensive line, the Kansas City Chiefs should fall right around 11-5 or 12-4. Not much has changed for these guys, which makes them neither a boom, or a bust.
What I don’t like about the Chiefs is that outside of Travis Kelce, there is no top tier fantasy value on this roster. Alex Smith will be a borderline backup, depending on the league size. Running back Spencer Ware should be owned in most leagues, but he’s certainly not a home run guy. Finally, Jeremy Maclin will viewed best as a flex player, but not an every week guy at the position.
Fans should expect the Chiefs to make the playoffs, and if the Patriots get knocked out of the postseason, you never know what can happen from there.
Los Angeles Chargers- One of the strangest things about fantasy football is the fact that no matter how bad a team is, they can still have a lot of fantasy value. The Chargers have close to, if not the most fantasy value. Philip Rivers will be a borderline starter, as I think he’ll finish around the top-fifteen among fantasy quarterbacks. Running back Melvin Gordon is easily a top-ten back, and Keenan Allen is going to finish in the top-ten as a receiver as well.
Despite the fact that they will have quite a bit fantasy value, I doubt the franchise will finish above 6-10. They just have a tough time winning close games, and I don’t think their offense can outscore teams when it matters.
Oakland Raiders- This is an exciting time for this team, as last year proved that they are capable of being one of the best teams in the NFL. With the addition of Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch at the running back position, this offense really has the chance to blow teams out. On the other hand, their defense isn’t quite championship caliber in my opinion.
Going back to Marshawn Lynch though, I recommend others tread carefully when drafting him. Lynch is up there in age for his position, and even though he sat out for a year, there’s still no guarantee that he will remain to be elite.
If Lynch plays the whole year, he’ll likely finish in the top-ten at his position. Amari Cooper and Derek Carr are week-to-week starters in fantasy football, as they’ll likely finish in the top five of their respective positions. I think the Raiders will win the AFC West, and if the Patriots are eliminated, they have the best chance to win the conference.
The AFC West this year won’t change much compared to last year. The Chiefs and Raiders should be battling it out for the division title, while the Chargers and Broncos will have to fight tooth and nail to finish better than 8-8.
The best of this division will be Derek Carr, Melvin Gordon, Amari Cooper, and Travis Kelce. My prediction is that they finish the same as last year, with the Chiefs and Raiders swapping places.
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