With the regular season quickly approaching, here are the biggest question marks for the teams in the AFC West.
Is Antonio Brown worth the headache? Sure, he is one of the best receivers in the game. If you didn’t know that for yourself, he will gladly tell you. First, it was frostbitten feet, then helmet issues — that has been the headline for this team entering its final year in Oakland. What surprises me is that head coach, Jon Gruden, seems to be putting up with it all. None of it matters come gameday if Brown plays lights out like he has. We’ll have to wait and see.
Is Derek Carr Gruden’s guy? While Gruden’s return to coaching last season did not lack fireworks, the one piece some thought for sure was next survived. Having just signed a multi-year extension, Derek Carr will be spared any drama surrounding his future with the Raiders, at least for the near future. And if Brown is the Brown of old alongside former Chargers wide receiver, Tyrell Williams, Carr will be able to take that next step.
Will Jacobs run wild? Defenses know about the playmaking receivers already mentioned. But first-round pick running back Josh Jacobs could be that one-of-a-kind talent. Defenses should take notice; this guy has the potential to be a game-changing back.
Los Angeles Chargers
Will Gordon’s hold out end? For this team’s sake, one should hope this isn’t Le’Veon Bell part two. Workhorse Melvin Gordon’s holdout continues with presumably no end in sight. Last season, Austin Ekeler, the top guy without Gordon, showed promise but Gordon is definitely a different beast. Without their guy, this team is in for a long year.
Is it time for Rivers to set sail? There’s no denying Philip Rivers’s heart and desire, which may be second to none. But to keep bringing that fire year after year, that’s what makes him so great. While he may be another year older, we can never count Rivers out. He has the weapons at his disposal.
Could this defense be unwavering? This defense was solid last year for as long as Joey Bosa was on the field. Now they added linebacker Thomas Davis and cornerback Casey Hayward to that stacked side of the ball, making this defensive unit arguably the best in the division.
Is Flacco the answer? General manager John Elway has been unsuccessful at finding a quarterback. This year, he traded for a proven veteran in Joe Flacco. Flacco comes in after pretty much being given the boot before last season’s benching in favor of Lamar Jackson in Baltimore. A proven winner who knows what it takes to win the Super Bowl, Flacco maybe be the savior for Elway and the Broncos.
Will the running game pick up where it left off? Rookie running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman each had successful seasons a year ago. They could very well be a tandem for the Broncos for years to come. I don’t see either of these guys having any sort of a sophomore slump.
How will the secondary hold up? This division features a crop of wide receivers at a premium. Corners Chris Harris and company will have their hands full for sure. The signing of former Houston Texans safety Kareem Jackson should definitely help this secondary.
Kansas City Chiefs
What will Mahomes do for an encore? Patrick Mahomes was the best player in the league last season. Most plays seemed to always go his way, including a non-throwing-arm shuffle pass for a first down under distress. The only thing that got in his way was that team up in New England. If he is even a fraction of what he was last year, that’s enough to dominate not only this division but the conference.
How will this defense look? The Chiefs defense has been almost completely revamped. Staples of this defense from recent years are no longer here. Most notably, Eric Berry, Dee Ford, and Justin Houston have been replaced with names like Frank Clark, Alex Okafor, and Tyrann Mathieu. With the lack of cohesiveness, this defense may be in for some troubling times this year. Good thing their offense can put up points at will.
Super Bowl or Bust? With the success of this season under head coach Andy Reid, gauging this season is tough. Winning division? Did that. Winning a playoff game? Did that. Getting to the AFC Championship game? Did that as well, before falling to Brady and the Boys like many who came before them have. Just making the playoffs this season or losing a division game, while for about 10 teams would be a vast improvement, could be a let-down for the Chiefs. This team learned what it takes to play solid football through January. If they can build off that this season, perhaps K.C. will even have a February game this time around.
While the Raiders and Broncos are much improved, they can’t keep pace with Kansas City if they get hot. And San Diego will have a trying season without Melvin Gordon. But one of the wild card teams could very well come out of this division.