AFC West Preview: Raiders and Chargers

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By Kim Dunning

The AFC West is going to get a little tighter this year in the push for the division winner.  The Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers are going to try to become spoilers against the Chiefs and the defending Super Bowl Champions, Denver Bronco’s.  As we look to preview the Raiders and Chargers in this blog and become once again immortalized in the internet world, we will also be making before preseason predictions and can revisit them at the end of the season.

The Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are coming off a successful 7-9 season and looking to do a lot better in the 2016 season.  They finished third behind the Bronco’s and Chiefs within the division.  This season, the Raiders will begin with 3 out of their first 4 games on the road and in the same fashion they will end with 3 out of 4 games back on the road.

During the off-season, the Raiders have solidified their offense and defensive lines through the free agency of the NFL.   They also filled some holes in their defense to replace players who decided to move on from Oakland.   Their only main need on defense still remains the safety position, especially with veteran Charles Woodson’s retirement.

This year, the AFC West played the AFC South and NFC South.  Both divisions have teams that are either on a winning streak or they aren’t very good and you never know which team it’s going to be.  Oakland kicks off the season against the New Orleans Saints and with Drew Brees as the quarterback you cannot guarantee anything.  Oakland will set the tone of their season in Game 1, not just if they win, but how they come out to play the Saints.

My prediction is that Oakland will go 9-7 this year and make the playoffs as a wild card team.  The Raiders have been building a core team around Derek Carr and Amari Cooper and it will finally pay off this year.  If the Raiders make the playoffs, it will be the first since 2002.

The San Diego Chargers

Last year was a rough year for the Chargers.  They finished last in their division with a lot of outcry from fans and players alike.   However, don’t expect this upcoming season to be a lot different than their 4-12 last place finish, last season.  Even though last year 15 players were on Injured Reserves, I still don’t see the Chargers being quite yet ready to compete with the rest of the West.

Like the Raiders, the Chargers spent the off-season by stacking both the offensive and defensive lines.  They added coach Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator and this should aid quarterback Philip Rivers.  A majority of the starters from last season should return also.   However, their defense has gotten a lot younger.  Look for rookie mistakes on defense and some blown coverages.   The season will really depend on which Rivers shows up.  Rivers is the type of quarterback that if he is on he’s on, but if he is cold he’s a terribly statistical quarterback.   Plus added to the fact that Rivers is getting up there in age which could hurt the Chargers.

The Chargers will once again finish last in the division but with a better record and with another strong off-season, they should continue to rebuild the team and start being able to compete once again.  The Chargers will go 6-10.

 

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Kim Dunning is host of the radio show Stay Out of My Crease. She also blogs for Sports Elite and Inscriber Magazine. You can follow her on twitter @irish_lassie79 or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kimdunningsportsblogger/

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