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AFC West: 2017 NFL Division Previews
AccuScore previewed every team and division in the NFC last week, and it’s time to move onto the AFC in our trot to the start of the 2017 NFL season. For the NFC, AccuScore is starting out West where the Raiders, Chargers, Chiefs and Broncos offer one of the most intriguing divisions in the NFL.
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Denver back in the Playoffs?
The AFC West is one of the toughest division in the NFL. Denver hopes to return to the playoffs after a Super Bowl hangover that left them out of the postseason last season for the first time since 2010.
Accuscore played out every game of the 2017 NFL season 10,000 times to project out the season, and the Broncos mirrored their 9-7 mark from a season ago. This time, though, that record should be enough for a wild card spot. The probability to win a very tight AFC West is just under 30% for Denver, but their chances of reaching the playoffs are 50%. Not helping the Broncos is that Denver has the toughest schedule for any team in NFL based on last season’s performance.
The biggest change in Denver was the retirement of their Super Bowl winning head coach Gary Kubiak. New HC Vance Joseph with new coordinators Mike McCoy and Joe Woods inherit a team with expectations a Mile High. Denver struggled last season with the running game and made a few notable additions to the offensive line. Also former 1,500+ yards running back Jamaal Charles joined the team to compete with CJ Anderson in the backfield, along with promise two potential revenge games against the Chiefs this season.
Fantasy Analysis: Denver Broncos
On fantasy projections, Anderson is top 30 RB in the league, but the backbone of the team will be the defense. It is ranked the best in the league in Accuscore’s fantasy projections. One of the best WR tandems Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are both ranked into the top 30 among all receivers in the league, too.
Kansas City Chiefs Still Solid
Andy Reid has been the head coach of Kansas City Chiefs for four years. During this time they have reached playoffs three times. While his postseason success has been less than impressive, the Chiefs have turned into a near-perennial playoff team. Before Reid, the Chiefs had reached the playoffs three times in 15 years. So, will it be 4 out of 5 trips to playoffs for the Reid’s Chiefs?
Accuscore’s numbers sure seem to think so. The computer predicts 10 wins for the Chiefs and a first place finish in the AFC West. The probability to win the division is 45%, so it’s technically more likely the Chiefs don’t win the division than do win it, but no other team out West has odds as high as Kansas City. Over all, the Chiefs have a 68% probability of making the postseason either as a Wild Cart team or a division winner.
As the Chiefs have performed at a high level in recent years, there hasn’t been a major roster shakeup. The Chiefs changed Dontari Poe to Bennie Logan at defensive tackle. Also, they traded up and drafted QB Patrick Mahomes, but his contribution during season don’t exactly move the needle for AccuScore. Generally, the Chiefs are counting on essentially the same roster that recorded 12 wins last season.
Fantasy Analysis: Kansas City Chiefs
Accuscore’s fantasy projections show many quality players on Kansas City. Even though they are not the pinnacle of the respective position, they can be considered as a valuable picks from later rounds. The Defense is ranked within top 15, QB Alex Smith is 13th, TE Travis Kelce 12th and WR Tyreek Hill is projected to be among the top receivers after his impressive rookie campaign. If he is not going to play any special teams, it may hurt his fantasy value slightly even if he is set to establish himself as a no. 1 receiver for the Chiefs.
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Chargers - New Coach, New City, Same Result
The San Diego Chargers changed to the Los Angeles Chargers during the offseason. Their head coach for last three season, Mike McCoy was fired and first time head coach Anthony Lynn was hired to begin a new chapter in LA. The Chargers finished last season with five straight losses and only five total wins.
Once again, the Chargers are projected to only win five games, which gives Philip Rivers and company only a remote shot at making the playoffs. The Chargers may be in a new city and a new stadium, but this team expects to look a fair bit like the team struggling to find support in San Diego a season ago.
For a team that underachieved last season, there are remarkably few changes on the roster. Tackle Russell Okung, who won a Super Bowl with Seattle, moved from Denver to LA this summer. The Chargers used an early draft pick on WR Mike Williams, who provides additional tools for 35 years old Philip Rivers. At its roots, a healthy Rivers is the key to the Chargers’ offense.
Fantasy Analysis: Los Angeles Chargers
Accuscore’s fantasy projections highlight TE Antonio Gates among Top 5 TEs in the league. Some other notable players are more second tier options for your fantasy team. QB Philip Rivers and RB Melvin Gordon are around 20th when ranking fantasy players by their respective positions for this season’s fantasy points. There could be some sleepers on the Chargers’ roster, but those are sleeping so deep on the projection list that it is difficult to point out at this moment.
Is Oakland’s sword still pointing up?
Jack Del Rio has been the Oakland Raiders’ head coach for two season, and the team’s record has improved from 3-13 to 12-4 during this time. Last season ended quickly in the wild card game as QB Derek Carr was injured, and team couldn’t come close to filling that hole. Raiders’ fans feel like this is their year—well, at least according to the bets being placed in Las Vegas.
Accuscore predicts the AFC West to be very competitive. In simulations, Oakland averaged nine wins and has a 25% probability of winning the division. Reaching the playoffs won’t be as easy, and AccuScore projects the Raiders’ chances at 47% to return to the postseason.
There were few changes in Raiders’ roster. On the offensive side, RB Latavius Murray moved to Minnesota and Oakland lured Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to plug in his beast mode into Oakland. On defense, one of their leading tackler Malcolm Smith took off to San Francisco and Oakland signed Jelani Jenkins from Miami to fill this gap.
Fantasy Analysis: Oakland Raiders
Fantasy projections show that there should be still something left in RB Marshawn Lynch tank. If he can stay healthy, he would be still Top 20 running back in Oakland’s system. Considering his ability to get into the end zone from close yardage, those fantasy points may rack up in a hurry. QB Derek Carr will also be around the Top 20 at his position when counting all predicted fantasy points during the season. The Raiders have one of the top WR duos in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. However, if the offense continues to be more running heavy, they won’t be collecting top fantasy points compared to WRs in more pass-heavy systems.