It’s now during these hard and bitter months with no NFL games, where we see to the full extent that nobody can predict anything in the NFL. But if it’s one thing that fans of a team can agree on, it’s what or who didn’t play well enough. With every team looking to make it into the playoffs and ultimately win the Super Bowl, here are the areas for each AFC West team that are desperately in need of salvation coming into the 2018 season.
Denver Broncos – Quarterback Group
John Elway made a name for himself when he became Broncos General Manager. He did so in 2012 by luring Peyton Manning who was the most coveted free agent since Reggie White to the mile high city. The next four seasons from 2012-2015 were a golden period for Elway and the Broncos who won four division titles, two AFC championships, reached Super Bowl XLVIII with the top offence in history, unfortunately, they were hammed 43-8 by the Seattle Seahawks and beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 24-10. In those seasons Elway could seemingly do no wrong, but since Manning retired after Super Bowl 50, the glow as a general manager has been fading on John Elway. This has been due to the poor decisions regarding the quarterback situation in Denver. He drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft, who has been habitually injured and even when he has played, Lynch has been nothing short of terrible. He randomly traded for Mark Sanchez and forced the Denver faithful to suffer through Trevor Siemien rapid demise as the starting quarterback. With the horrific play of all three of these quarterbacks amongst other things, the Broncos have not reached the playoffs since their Super Bowl 50 win. So going into the 2018 season, the quarterback group consists of Chad Kelly, Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemein if they decide to resign him. That is just plain offensive to quarterbacking, Elway needs to in my eyes use the same charm and persuasion that got Peyton Manning to Denver on Kirk Cousins to sort out this Quarterback situation for Denver. With Cousins as the starter Denver’s chances to get back into the playoffs skyrocket.
Kansas City Chiefs – Defensive Line
The Kansas City Chiefs went 10-6 last season making it to the playoffs with the tremendous play of Alex Smith, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt. However, when they reached the playoffs, they gave up a 21-3 halftime lead to the Tennessee Titans to lose 22-21. This was a terrible loss for the Chiefs who gave up 202 yards of rushing and almost 400 yards of total offence to the Mike Murlarky coached Titans. It ranked as one of the worst playoff loses in Chiefs history, which is saying something. So I think the defensive line needs to dramatically improve for the Chiefs to get back to and make some serious headway in the playoffs in 2018. This has been a trend for them in the playoffs, as they have registered just 3 sacks in their last 3 postseason games. They have just let go of franchise legend Derrick Johnson and I think they need to do the same with Tamba Hali, Bennie Logan and Allen Bailey who have all had their moments as Chiefs players especially Hali. But by purging their defensive line of those players it will free up more than $30 million of cap space. This can then be used to go after a better player in free agency like DeMarcus Lawrence from the Cowboys. With the lack of a first-round pick, it may hamper their ability to get a top-shelf defensive lineman in the draft, but a player like Clelin Ferrell or Sam Hubbard would freshen and liven up the Chiefs defensive line issues.
Oakland Raiders – Linebackers
Age and anonymity are the two overwhelming adjectives that spring into my mind when thinking about the Raiders linebacking core just like looking back at the cast of Friends. The fact that Bruce Irvin is the only player from their group that I can name is worrying for Oakland. This is a group desperately in need of a facelift, in terms of ability to rush the passer and someone to register at least 100 tackles a season. There is no bite or fear when looking at this group, just players you haven’t heard of. Of the players currently on the Raiders roster that aren’t Irvin, One ended up on IR last season, one was a rookie who played just 13 games last season, another started just 5 games and the other only appeared in 2 games. Not a promising outlook for the Raiders, but maybe they need to grow into their defensive system and get some playing time under their belts to really show their worth. Hopefully having fired Ken Norton Jr who was a mediocre coach during his tenure in Oakland and hired former Bengals Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther, he will inject some energy and anger into this Linebacking core. Let’s see if Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie will address this distressing issue come the 2018 NFL Draft; with the 10th overall pick, I’d suggest either Roqaun Smith from Georgia or Tremaine Edwards from Virgina Tech add some star quality needed for Oakland.
Los Angeles Chargers – Special Teams
If death and taxes are the only things guarenteed in life, then as a Chargers fan I think you can add watching your team lose by a special teams mistake. The Chargers last season finished 9-7 but four out of those seven losess came by 3 points of less. If the Chargers had a kicker who could do his job they’d be a shoo in for the playoffs considering the quality of the rest of the team. Last season they had 4 different players kick for them including long time veteran Nick Novak but he got injured, Korean born rookie Younghoe Koo, former Charger Travis Coons and even their punter Drew Kaser. It was a desperate situation not made any better when they signed former Bears and Buccaneers kicker Roberto Agueyo who was a 2nd round pick in 2016. He flamed out of the league with the Bucs due to misses. So it seemed extremly ironic even to the point of laughter that a team famed for abysmal kicking would sign a player with the yips like Agueyo. I think they need to hope Novak recovers well from his injury and that it doesn’t hurt his ability. If he’s healthy then he in my eyes should be their starting kicker. However if it reaches training camp and he’s not back to form then going for a free agent such as Dustin Hopkins or Graham Gano would be ideal. Then draft a kicker late who can sit and learn under one of those afor mentioned players. This is an issue that needs to be adressesed fast like when the McAllistar’s realised they had left Kevin at home if the Chargers want to reach the playoffs in 2018.