Here is the AFC West installment of an eight-part series sharing five predictions for each division in the NFL.
A quarterback controversy in Sin City
The Raiders signed former Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota this offseason. There have been rumblings as to whether or not Derek Carr is head coach Jon Gruden’s “guy” and Mariota could be on the opposite end of controversy than he was a season ago in Tennessee. In 2020, the mobile Mariota could be replacing a guy who has essentially been the face of the Raiders franchise.
Austin Ekeler will have better numbers than his former backfield companion
The Chargers’ running back has split backfield snaps with Melvin Gordon for several years. Although last season Ekeler was the featured back during Gordon’s holdout, the offense struggled when the holdout ended and the team was working Gordon back into the unit. Now that Gordon is in Denver, Ekeler will build on his numbers in rushing yards and touchdowns. Gordon will get the majority of snaps in Denver but Phillip Lindsay has earned his share of snaps over the last couple of seasons, and that’s not likely to change. The end result will have Austin Ekeler with better numbers than Gordon at season’s end.
A Super Bowl hangover for Kansas City
While the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs will once again be an explosive team week in and week out, the defending champs will suffer from opposing teams spending their time at home studying Kansas City’s game film more than any other team’s. Meanwhile, three other franchises in this division have made many roster moves as they make slowing down Andy Reid’s team their top priority.
Flirting with 4K
John Elway and the Broncos spent their first two draft picks on wide receivers by selecting Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy in Round 1 and K.J. Hamler from Penn State in the second round. These moves provide Drew Lock with additional weapons in his sophomore season. Lock will be under center in Week 1 after playing well in his handful of starts in the second half of last season. This will lead Lock to right around the 4,000 yards passing mark.
A pair of playoff teams
This division is the Chiefs’ to lose. While it is unlikely that will happen, the Broncos and Raiders should be in the Wild Card hunt throughout the season. The Chargers will have a rebuilding season and it will show in their record.