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NFL Kickoff: AFC West Preview

The AFC West includes star quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers and Alex Smith (average QB), and also Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. This leads to some quality offensive play, but there are some new faces in the division that will likely add to that trend. The likes of Chargers rookie running back Melvin Gordon and new Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will showcase their talents during the 2015 season.

Denver Broncos (12-4)

Quarterback Peyton Manning isn’t getting any younger and Denver isn’t getting any warmer. No one is certain how much longer Manning will continue to play, but he will be under center in 2015 for the Broncos. Behind him is a surprisingly good running back duo of C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman that hit the gaps hungry for another big gain. The Broncos released Montee Ball a few days ago, so it will be the new young guns that will try and run their way into the postseason.

Emmanuel Sanders was a key part of the Denver offense last season as well, and he joins Demaryius Thomas on the outside for an excellent wide receiver duo once again. The key piece of Denver’s offense is gone — tight end Julius Thomas — but veteran Owen Daniels will take over at the position with former Nevada tight end Virgil Green as his backup.

The Broncos’ defense can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and are fairly solid in coverage. Von Miller and Brandon Marshall lead a linebacking crew that flies around with reckless abandon and can pressure the quarterback into a nightmare scenario.

Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)

The Chiefs have one of the best running backs in the NFL in Jamaal Charles but they also have a quarterback in Alex Smith that can’t throw a touchdown pass to any of his receivers. Dwayne Bowe is gone now but former Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin steps in for him. Why Maclin didn’t stay with Philadelphia has many people shaking their heads, especially with the ineptitude of Smith.

The defensive line of the Chiefs used to be one of its strong points, but the only real wrecking ball left is Tamba Hali. Defense will be an issue for Kansas City this season, but they have the potential to shock some opponents in 2015. If you pair a weak offense with an even weaker defense you get the 2015 Chiefs.

Oakland Raiders (3-13)

The Raiders were able to beat the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills late last season and it was just the beginning for this young Raiders’ team. Derek Carr is in his second year and Latavius Murray takes over for the human lowlight, running back Darren McFadden, who is now with the Dallas Cowboys.

Oakland added the best wide receiver in the draft in Amari Cooper (Alabama) and they have enough young talent to finish close to the .500 mark in 2015. Linebacker Khalil Mack roams from sideline to sideline and the 38-year-old safety Charles Woodson leads a young secondary that can learn a thing or two from him and his style of play.

The biggest question for the Raiders this season will be how high of a ceiling this team has and will they be able to compete at a high level. Their scenario is very similar to that of the Cincinnati Bengals a few years ago–a young, hungry team that has potential to be great.

San Diego Chargers (9-7)

Tight end Antonio Gates is serving a four-game suspension to start the season so quarterback Philip Rivers will be without one of his favorite pass catchers. Ladarius Green will hope to perform at a high level in the absence of Gates and he has all of the talent to do so. Wide receiver Keenan Allen should be injury free this season and provide more than enough on the outside for the Chargers.

Probably the biggest addition to the Chargers this offseason is running back Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin). Gordon runs hard but also plays with patience before bursting through the hole and sprinting into the end zone. He will be a welcomed piece of the Chargers’ offense and should provide an exciting rookie season.

Safety Eric Weddle and his beard fortify the defense, and Manti Te’o has shown growth at the linebacker position. It is a unit that needs to play with consistency in 2015 in order to keep pressure off of Rivers late in the game. Another big addition for this team is wide receiver Stevie Johnson who will pair nicely with Floyd and Allen.

 

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