At the top of each NFL season some fans are brimming with confidence. Other fans are brimming with... the opposite of confidence. While nobody is certain about which teams will be good and which ones won't, Ron Hampston and Kyle Madson provide the overly optimistic and overly pessimistic preview for each team.
OPTIMIST’S GUIDE TO THE AFC WEST
Denver Broncos (defending Super Bowl champions)
The Broncos are the physical embodiment of “defense wins championships.” Their defense carried them to a Super Bowl win last year and they’ll have to do the same again this year.
Denver is going to contend. Their defense remained intact and will be the most feared unit in the NFL. As long as their offense is adequate, they’ll be fine. CJ Anderson is back and will likely be the focal point of their offense as the try and keep their quarterback from messing anything up. It’s going to be really odd watching Denver be a ball control offense, but with a defense like that, it's all they’ll need to return to the Super Bowl. -KM
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are there. They’re ready to take over the league. We know what this defense can do and the offense is good enough to win it all. They’ll get Jamaal Charles back at some point after he tore his ACL a season ago. Alex Smith can lead a Super Bowl offense as long as they have a strong running game- and the Chiefs have that when Charles is right. A fully healthy Chiefs team is going to make a ton of noise in the AFC this year. -KM
The Raiders might mess around and be the best team in the AFC. Their offense is going to be explosive. Derek Carr slinging the ball to Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree will be a ton of fun and 2016 will be the coming out party for Carr as an elite quarterback.
Defensively, they addressed some glaring needs this offseason, most notably signing Bruce Irvin from Seattle. Not to mention they already had a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Khalil Mack. This team is young, hungry and ready to kick some ass. They’ll win the AFC West and will be a tough out in the postseason. -KM
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers are too talented to be as bad as they were last year. Danny Woodhead won’t be the leading receiver again on a team with Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates. Melvin Gordon was disappointing in his rookie season, but he’s also too talented to expect another subpar season.
Defensively they’re loaded with top draft picks, and it feels like this is a team that’s going to put it together eventually. While it’s unlikely, everyone in San Diego fully realizing their potential at once would immediately turn the Chargers into a threat in the AFC West. -KM
PESSIMIST’S GUIDE TO THE AFC WEST
The Broncos lost several key parts from their championship defense.
Although Peyton Manning was a shell of himself, his impact will be missed the most. Gone is the football savvy and know-how to manipulate defenses. In his place will be second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian.
Let's repeat that for the folks in the back. Second-year quarterback and 2015 seventh-round draft pick Trevor Siemian.
The defense won’t miss a beat, but it won’t be enough to carry a lifeless offense led by a quarterback that has yet to make an NFL start. -RH
Last season, Smith found a cure for being allergic to wide receivers as not one of them caught a touchdown pass in 2014. Despite the fact that the wide receivers had a much better output in 2015, the Chiefs fell short in competing for a Super Bowl bid.
Kansas City were one of the hottest teams in the NFL a year ago and their seemingly soft schedule allowed them to become one of the league’s best. They'll have a much tougher schedule this time around, and with four out of the five first games against playoff contenders, it could be a long year for Andy Reid and the Chiefs. -RH
The Raiders have so much potential it’s scary. They have a budding star at quarterback in Carr, and they have the perfect pieces on both sides of the ball to compliment him.
On offense there is Crabtree and Cooper, on defense they have Mack and newly acquired Bruce Irvin to give offenses hell.
2016 may be a year too early to predict a Super Bowl for Oakland, but over the next few years, the Raiders will be a force to be reckoned with. -RH
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