Best case: 11-5
This best case scenario could easily happen – in part assuming Trevor Siemian wins the QB job again and has an even better follow-up year. It helps when you have two stud WR’s like Thomas and Sanders to throw to, and a running game that’s probably better than last year’s lineup as well with the addition of Jamaal Charles (even if he’s just a change-of-pace back now). But it helps most of all when you have one of the best defenses in the league, and that’s exactly what the Broncos have. If those things go right for them and the offensive line doesn’t fall apart down the stretch, this is still easily a playoff team.
Worst case: 6-10
One argument that could be made against the QB situation is the loss of head coach Gary Kubiak, who’s made QB’s look pretty good over the course of his career. But probably the bigger worry is the offensive line. If the QB situation is affected by either of those – or if Siemian just flames out in his sophomore starting year – then they could be in trouble, because the defense can only do so much. Also it’s worth wondering if Vance Joseph will be a worthy successor to the Broncos’ last two coaches (John Fox and Gary Kubiak). Regardless, if the offensive line plays the way it did at the end of last year, this team is going nowhere.
Kansas City Chiefs
Best case: 10-6
Don’t overlook the loss of Jeremy Maclin. Now Alex Smith’s top two wideouts are Chris Conley and Albert Wilson. There is TE Travis Kelce, RB Spencer Ware and x-factor Tyreek Hill, but there’s also Alex Smith in general – who’s become kind of infamous for constantly settling for a short pass. This is still a team very capable of getting into the playoffs, due in part to their defense, but I just don’t see them winning the division again after cutting their best receiver.
Worst case: 7-9
Here’s something else to consider that some people are already predicting: the possibility of Alex Smith getting benched during the season for rookie QB Patrick Mahomes, who actually can throw deep unlike Smith. But even that probably wouldn’t work too well, because Mahomes would find out pretty quick Conley and Wilson aren’t exactly top-tier WR’s and then all he would have is Kelce. That said, they still have an offensive line that’s done a good enough job over the years and just enough skill players on offense and defense that even with QB and WR struggles they could still pick up a handful of wins.
Los Angeles Chargers
Best case: 11-5
This is actually a much stronger roster than people realize when healthy. Heck, even when unhealthy, the Chargers played well enough to win most of their games last year – until the fourth quarter when everyone kept falling apart. But the Chargers have a pretty strong offense with Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Tyrell Williams, Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry around, among others. And if Keenan Allen actually stays healthy for once, bye-bye defenses. Speaking of defenses, theirs isn’t too shabby either with guys like Casey Hayward and Joey Bosa. If you’ve been watching, you’ll know the Chargers are very capable of being a playoff team right now. Right now, their greatest obstacle (besides injuries) is themselves.
Worst case: 5-11
Indeed, the Chargers’ worst enemy is themselves. But injuries don’t help. When you have guys like Keenan Allen and Jason Verett and the entire offensive line getting injured, you might have problems. If such things happen, the road will be tougher for them. Also – especially with the 50/50 chance of Allen getting injured again – first round pick Mike Williams will need to step up, and if he ends up being a bust, that could hurt them down the road. And if new HC Anthony Lynn is unable to fix the fourth quarter struggles the Bolts had last year, they could very well have a repeat of last year.
Best case: 13-3
This team was 12-4 last year with one of the best offenses in the league – even with a questionable secondary. This was due in part to Jack Del Rio’s gutsy late calls that always seemed to work out for him. Heck, the team probably actually would’ve gone 13-3 last year if Derek Carr hadn’t gotten hurt in the next-to-last game of the season. As long as that doesn’t happen again, the Raiders have a very good chance of taking the AFC West and maybe even the #1 seed.
Worst case: 8-8
I think the biggest concern here is whether Marshawn Lynch can still do well or not at 31. It’s possible that he can, but if he can’t, Oakland will be left with guys like Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. I don’t think those guys are much more than change-of-pace or third-down RB’s right now. And when your offense is one-dimensional, that’s when the questionable secondary might actually start to hurt you a little more. The pass offense is still too good to not get wins, but if the pass offense ends up being all the Raiders have, it’s within the realm of possibility they could sit home in January.