The AFC West was taken by storm in 2018 by the high flying Kansas City Chiefs who were stopped just shy of making it to the Super Bowl. Patrick Mahomes took home the league MVP honors after passing for 50 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards. The offense was ranked number 1 overall in both points scored and yards earned. Their defense, however, was near the bottom in both categories. This year, the offense should have just as much firepower and most people around the league are excited to see what Mahomes and company can accomplish during the 2019 campaign. Aside from Kansas City, the Los Angeles Chargers will compete for divisional honors and will be fighting for a return trip to the playoffs. The Chargers fielded both a top ten offense as well as a top ten defense which led to a 12-4 finish in 2018. Denver had another disappointing season last year and wound up finishing with a 6-10 record. This year, they bring in veteran quarterback Joe Flacco from Baltimore and are hoping that they can revitalize an offense who ranked 24th in points scored a season ago. The Raiders are also hoping to make some drastic improvements in 2019 as they bring in the superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown to help Jon Gruden in his 2nd season back in the league as head coach.
Kansas City will be the odds on favorite to win this division, but the Chargers shouldn’t be too far behind. A lot of people anticipate this Los Angeles team to do great things in the upcoming year. Both Denver and Oakland should be improved, so the division might be a little tighter than it was last year.
2019 Line: 6 Wins
2018 Record: 4-12 (3-5 Home, 1-7 Away)
Oakland enters it’s second season under Head Coach Jon Gruden. Gruden’s first year back was not what the franchise was hoping for as they struggled on both sides of the ball en route to a 4-12 finish. The Raiders revamped their roster during the offseason and should look a lot different than they did in 2018. Antonio Brown highlights the new additions to the team. Brown consistently put up monster numbers during his time with the Steelers, but obviously comes with a decent amount of dramatics. Brown will need to figure out a new offensive system and the chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr will be critical for this offense to succeed in 2019. Defensively, the Raiders upgraded their unit with draft picks Johnathan Abram and Clelin Ferrell. Oakland allowed the most points in the league in 2018, and will need to drastically improve this statistic if they intend on crawling out of the NFL’s basement.
Divisional opponents in 2018 were extremely difficult for Oakland, and their record showed it. They finished with a 1-5 record, getting swept by both Los Angeles and Kansas City. Unfortunately for Oakland, the 2019 season won’t be any easier within the division. Their main target for wins within the division will be the Denver Broncos. They took 1 out of 2 last season, and have been able to split the series with Denver for 4 straight seasons. Looking at both the Chargers and Chiefs, if they were able to steal 1 out of the 4 games with these teams it would be a success. Both LA and KC will be fully loaded and ready for deep playoff runs. As we preview their schedule outside the division, they face the following teams in Oakland: Chicago (Week 5), Detroit (9), Cincinnati (11), Tennessee (14), and Jacksonville (15). Overall, the teams on this list are not world-beaters, and the Raiders may have an opportunity to pad their home record against a couple of these opponents. Chicago will be the biggest challenge, as the Bears defense will be tough to penetrate. Oakland will be hoping that the chemistry between Carr and Brown will have solidified by Week 5, so that they can spread out the defense and put up some points. The rest of the games against the Lions, Bengals, Titans, and Jaguars are all games that the Raiders can win. None of these teams qualified for the playoffs in 2018. Though most of these teams intend to be improved from a year ago, the Raiders also intend to be much improved and will need to win a couple to prove that they are not a league doormat anymore. Their road schedule will be slightly more difficult as they face Minnesota (Week 3), Indianapolis (4), Green Bay (7), Houston (8), and NY Jets (12). The only clear-cut game I see the Raiders having a good chance to win will be in Week 12 against the Jets. The Vikings, Colts, Packers, and Texans have deeper rosters and should be favored in their matchups against the Raiders.
A successful season for the Raiders before they transition to Las Vegas will simply be an improvement from their poor performance in 2018. Jon Gruden came back to have an immediate impact and make this team a contender once again. Well, they are not a contender, and unless they come out and play lights out, I don’t see that changing by the time 2019 wraps up.
My Prediction: 4-12 (UNDER 6 Wins)
2019 Line: 7 Wins
2018 Record: 6-10 (3-5 Home, 3-5 Away)
Joe Flaccos joins the Denver Broncos in 2018 after leaving his long time home in Baltimore. Flacco appears to be getting the starting job over second round draft choice Drew Lock. I would expect to see a conservative style offense in Denver this year that emphasizes the running game and allows Flacco to game manage. Defensively, the Broncos bring back one of the more talented groups in the league. In 2018, however, this unit did not meet expectations and finished 13th in points allowed, and 22nd in yards allowed. New Head Coach Vic Fangio comes over from his defensive coordinator role with Chicago last season. Fangio was able to coordinate one of the best defenses in the league with the Bears, and intends on implementing the same tactics to right the ship in Denver. Expect to see a much improved defense that will keep the Broncos in a lot of games throughout 2019.
For a team going through plenty of changes in 2019, their start to a hopeful season needs to start from within the division. Unfortunately for Denver, this division will host two of the strongest teams in the league. In 2018, the Broncos finished 2-4 within the division. They split the season series with both the Raiders and Chargers. They were swept by the explosive Kansas City Chiefs. As we move toward the 2019 season, I don’t see Denver taking much of a step forward as far as their divisional record is concerned. Trends tell us that they could split the season series with both the Raiders and Chargers again as they split the past 4 seasons with Oakland, and the past 3 seasons with Los Angeles. Kansas City has beaten the Broncos in 7 consecutive games, and I see that trend continuing. Finishing 2-4 in the division would feel successful for this team, but they could easily go 1-5 or put up a goose egg and get completely swept if Oakland proves they are improved. Outside of the division they will host Chicago (Week 2), Jacksonville (4), Tennessee (6), Cleveland (9), and Detroit (16). Though the only opponent in this group that made the playoffs in 2018 is Chicago, each of these teams will give Denver a hard time. Jacksonville should have an improved offense with the addition of Nick Foles, Tennessee and Detroit both look to be more consistent as they enter year 2 under new head coaches, and Cleveland is a completely different team loaded with star talent. On the road, the Broncos will face Green Bay (Week 3), Indianapolis (8), Minnesota (11), Buffalo (12), and Houston (14). Heading to Lambeau is never difficult, but Denver looks to take advantage of a very new looking team in Green Bay. Indianapolis is still a question mark with the departure of Andrew Luck. Minnesota should find some consistency in year two of the Kirk Cousins era. Buffalo is winnable for Denver, but they have to be efficient on offense to get the Bills behind early. Finally, Houston will prove to be one of their toughest road competitors outside the division as they are the reigning AFC South Champs.
I believe that Denver will see some improvements on both sides of the ball in 2019. Their defense has plenty of talent, and their offense could improve with a veteran quarterback taking the snaps. However, their division is a brutal one to play in, and Denver still has plenty of holes in this roster. I am prediction a down year for the Broncos which will allow them to rebuild through the draft in 2020.
My Prediction: 3-13 (UNDER 7 Wins)
Los Angeles Chargers
2019 Line: 9.5 Wins
2018 Record: 12-4 (5-3 Home, 7-1 Away)
The Chargers enter 2019 with extremely high expectations. Both their offensive and defensive units ranked within the top ten in 2018, and are returning most of that same roster this season. Philip Rivers will be surrounded with a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball, regardless of what comes to fruition with the Melvin Gordon holdout situation. Defensively, Joey Bosa will anchor the defensive unit and get plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Los Angeles was ousted in the divisional round of the 2018 playoffs when they faced the eventual Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. Their main competition within the division is obviously Kansas City who returns with the league MVP in tow. Can the Chargers break through the Chiefs and claim the division this year, or will they need to fight for one of the Wildcard spots as the season winds down?
Make no mistake, the Los Angeles Chargers plan on winning the AFC West crown in 2019. They should be a fantastic team, and they would love nothing more than to get the division title and play some home games in the playoffs this year. They finished 4-2 within the division in 2018. They swept the Raiders, and they split the series with both the Broncos and Chiefs. Finishing with a 4-2 record in 2019 will be a good piece of the puzzle, but grabbing 5 or even taking all 6 games will set them up to take the division this year. They finish the year against the Chiefs in Week 17, and that game might have huge postseason implications if both teams perform as expected. Their slate of games outside the division at home will prove to be challenging. They face Indianapolis (Week 1), Houston (3), Pittsburgh (6), Green Bay (9), and Minnesota (15). Indy will be a game that LA needs to take. They will not want to start the season 0-1, and taking down a team with a new QB looking to find consistency with his team is a great chance for the Chargers to get a win. Houston will be a competitive game, and is one we all should be looking forward. LA’s defense should be excited to contain Deshaun Watson, and the offense will be amped to face a tough Houston defensive unit. Pittsburgh comes to the West Coast with a new look offense without Antonio Brown or LeVeon Bell, but Big Ben still remains and would love to prove that the Steelers are still contenders. NFC North competitors Green Bay and Minnesota are looking to rebound from rough years in 2018. Los Angeles will need to work past these 2 teams to pad their win column as they try to maintain pace with the Chiefs. Their road schedule consists of Detroit (Week 2), Miami (4), Tennessee (7), Chicago (8), and Jacksonville (14). Detroit and Miami should be high on the list of winnable road games for Los Angeles. Tennessee is fighting out of the middle of the pack still, so Hollywood looks to take down Nashville to keep the Titans in the middle. Chicago will be a tough game, as the Bears defense should be equipped to slow down the Chargers offense. Coming out of the Windy City with a win will be a very tall task for this squad. Finally, a late season matchup with the Jags could be important. If Los Angeles falls behind the Chiefs and are playing for a wildcard spot, they may be fighting off the Jags for one of those spots.
I really do expect a lot out of this Chargers team. Philip Rivers has done so much throughout his career, and this team will have all the necessary pieces to put together a successful postseason. Their best opportunity to compete for a spot in the Super Bowl this February will be to win the division. They have to find a way to wind up on top of the Chiefs and get some home playoff games to ease the postseason pressure this team seems to always fall to.
My Prediction: 13-3 (OVER 9 Wins)
Kansas City Chiefs
2019 Line: 10.5 Wins
2018 Record: 12-4 (7-1 Home, 5-3 Away)
Speaking of high expectations, this Kansas City team in 2019 will have some of the highest. The Chiefs lost in a complete shootout against New England in the AFC Conference Championship game a year ago. Many believe that if Kansas City had won the coin toss in overtime, they would have been the team representing the AFC in the Super Bowl rather than the Patriots. That being said, the Chiefs organization realized that their defense was not where it needed to be, and made some significant changes on that side of the ball. Kansas City ranked 24th and 31st in points allowed and yards allowed in 2018. The Chiefs bring in Steve Spagnuolo as their new defensive coordinator to shore up the defense and allow the offense to win without scoring 50 points per game. Patrick Mahomes should continue to be the top story for Kansas City as the reigning league MVP hopes to avoid a slump after putting up some of the most impressive numbers the league has seen in it’s 100 years of existence.
The Chief’s record within the division is what gave them the edge over the Chargers and clinch the division title. They finished 5-1, splitting with the Chargers, and sweeping both the Raiders and Broncos. I can easily see this division record being repeated in 2019. Kansas City has won 8 out of the last 9 games against Oakland. They have taken 7 straight games against the Broncos. They have also won 9 out of 10 against the Chargers. If it were not for the Week 15 loss against Los Angeles the streak would be sitting at 10 straight wins. If a loss happens within the division I see it happening against their closest competition in LA. Another repeat 5-1 record within the division sets them up to repeat and get another shot at making a deep playoff push, and hopefully getting over the hump and into the Super Bowl. Outside of the division, their home schedule will be completed by Week 9. They face Baltimore (Week 3), Indianapolis (5), Houston (6), Green Bay (8), and Minnesota (9). Though all 5 teams in this group could definitely qualify for the 2019 playoffs, I don’t see any of them being quite on Kansas City’s level. Kansas City is special and their offense is something to behold. I predict a perfect 5-0 record against these teams, as they continue to dominate opponents who visit Arrowhead Stadium. Heading outside of KC, they will play Jacksonville (Week 1), Detroit (4), Tennessee (10), New England (14), and Chicago (16). The first three opponents in Jacksonville, Detroit, and Tennessee will be outmatched against the Kansas City offense. I don’t believe that any of these teams are built to maintain pace with the Chiefs and even if Kansas City has poor defensive performances, the Chiefs should have enough points on the board to bring home the W. New England in Week 14 is a game that will be marked on Kansas City’s calendar. The defending champs knocked the Chiefs out of the playoffs in the Conference Championship, in overtime. Had Kansas City gotten the ball first in OT, many believe they would have played in the Super Bowl. However, New England doesn’t let opponents win in Foxboro, they just don’t. As hyped and the Chiefs may be, this game might end in a loss to Brady and Belichick once again. Chicago in week 16 will be another tough matchup for the Chiefs. Personally, I can’t wait to see the Chiefs offense matchup with the Bears defense. Home field advantage might be enough to get the Bears past the Chiefs in this one, which could set up a mega matchup against the Chargers in Week 17.
I believe that we will see great things from this Kansas City team in 2019. Patrick Mahomes put on an absolute clinic in 2018, and we all want to see more of that this year. This division may contain two of the best teams in football. The Chargers and Chiefs will be loaded and have the potential to be huge contenders. I predict that the Week 17 matchup may be the game that decides the division between two teams with the best records in football.
My Prediction: 13-3 (OVER 10.5 Wins)