2019 Record: 7-9
2019 Points Scored/Rank: 282 (28th)
2019 Points Allowed/Rank: 316 (10th)
Key Additions: Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers; Jerrell Casey, DE, Tennessee Titans; A.J. Bouye, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars; Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama (Drafted Rd. 1, No. 15); KJ Hamier, WR, Penn State (Drafted Rd. 2, No. 46)
Player on the Rise: Drew Lock, QB
The Broncos’ young QB flashed the potential the organization was waiting for after drafting him 42nd overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Lock led them to a 4-1 record after taking over the starting position. With the offensive additions this offseason, Lock should put up improved numbers.
Most Important Player: Von Miller, LB
Miller had a “disappointing” season with only eight sacks, but still made the Pro Bowl and had comparable numbers to the previous season with 46 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and 20 QB hits. If fellow OLB Bradley Chubb can come back healthy, Miller will certainly get back to the normal Miller we all know with less pressure from schemes from the opposing team because Chubb cannot be ignored.
X-Factor: Cornerback Play
The Broncos lost former Pro Bowler and First Team All-Pro, Chris Harris, Jr. in free agency, replacing him with A.J. Bouye. How will Bouye fit in Vic Fangio’s defensive schemes? Is Bryce Callahan healthy enough to take over covering the slot? Can the other young cornerbacks step up?
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
2019 Record: 12-4
2019 Points Scored/Rank: 451 (5th)
2019 Points Allowed/Rank: 308 (7th)
Key Additions: Rickey Seals-Jones, Cleveland Browns; Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU (Drafted Rd. 1, No. 32); Willie Gay, LB, Mississippi State (Drafted Rd. 2, No. 63)
Player on the Rise: Derrick Nnadi, DT
Nnadi heads into his third season ready to breakout. He improved his numbers from his rookie season and started all 16 games in his sophomore season. Posting 48 tackles and three tackles for loss last season, Nnadi is a vital part of the Chiefs interior defense.
Most Important Player: Patrick Mahomes, QB
This doesn’t need any explanation, does it?
X-Factor: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB
The rookie comes in with some relatively high expectations as he joins the Super Bowl champions. Edwards-Helaire is the perfect type of back for Andy Reid, as the first-year player can catch the ball out of the backfield and do some dynamic things in space. Think Kareem Hunt without quite the off-the-field issues. With no LeSean McCoy (Bucs) or Damien Williams (opted out), the path should be clear for Edwards-Helaire to shine.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
2019 Record: 7-9
2019 Points Scored/Rank: 313 (24th)
2019 Points Allowed/Rank: 419 (24th)
Key Additions: Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans; Cory Littleton, LB, Los Angeles Rams; Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys; Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama (Drafted Rd. 1, No. 12); Lynn Bowden, RB, Kentucky (Drafted Rd. 3, No. 80); Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina (Drafted Rd. 3, No. 81)
Player on the Rise: Josh Jacobs, RB
Jacobs had an outstanding rookie season, rushing for 1,150 yards and seven TDs in 13 games. He should continue to do damage with the run with the addition of two excellent wide receivers via the draft. Also, Darren Waller was in consideration here, but with the additions of the aforementioned rookie pass catchers, as well as Jason Witten and Hunter Renfrow’s dependability, how much does he improve/have plays called for him?
Most Important Player: David Carr, QB
Carr probably has the best group of assets that he’s ever had since being anointed as the man for the Raiders when he was drafted. While the Raiders could get the yardage, ranking 11th in total yards, it will now have to put up the points, and Carr will once again be the key driver for that to happen. His ability to do so will determine the team’s success or failure.
X-Factor: Marcus Mariota, QB
If Carr cannot steer the ship, Mariota is more than capable enough to do so. This fact will either push Carr to excel, knowing that Mariota is right behind him, or Mariota will be a blessing as a veteran that can pick the team up and put them on his shoulders.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
2019 Record: 5-11
2019 Points Scored/Rank: 337 (21st)
2019 Points Allowed/Rank: 345 (14th)
Player on the Rise: Austin Ekeler, RB
It might be a bit difficult to swallow Ekeler being a player on the rise since he’s had back-to-back successful seasons. But, what if I say he’s on the rise to becoming a superstar? With Tyrod Taylor being a threat to run, defenses may key in on the box more, which is fine for Ekeler, who is arguably the top receiver out of the backfield in the game today.
Most Important Player: Tyrod Taylor, QB
Sure, Justin Hebert was drafted to become the departed Philip Rivers’ heir apparent, but Taylor may delay those plans should he play well. He rejoins head coach Anthony Lynn, who was his offensive coordinator in Buffalo where they both had a lot of success. Herbert will likely use this year learning.
X-Factor: Offensive Line
It’s a remade offensive line for the Chargers with Bryan Bulaga and Trai Turner, both offseason acquisitions, being known commodities. Can Mike Pouncey come back healthy after neck surgery? Will Forrest Lamp finally live up to his potential? Can Trey Pipkins III repeat another solid performance after a very good rookie campaign?
Division Winner Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs
The defending champs should continue to excel this season and handily take the division. There could be more riches to be had in rookie back Clyde Edwards-Helaire for a team already ridiculously rich.
Team to Watch: Denver Broncos
The team upgraded their offense and have some great pieces around Drew Lock, which should translate to him taking another jump in his development, which will obviously benefit the team. They have one of the tougher strength of schedules, but in today’s instant gratification world, it’s time to produce and for the Broncos to get back into the playoffs. The defense is already there and should be reliable once again.
Best Offensive Player: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
I’m going to save some typewritten words here.
Best Defensive Player: Joey Bosa, DE, Los Angeles Chargers
It’s thisclose when it comes to choosing Bosa over Von Miller of the Broncos, and even Tyrann Mathieu should be mentioned here after showing his impact with the Chiefs during their Super Bowl run. But, going with Bosa because he’s younger than Miller, and played a full 16-game slate for the second time in three seasons, sacking opposing quarterbacks 11.5 times, as well as getting 67 tackles. Hopefully, we can put the “if healthy” tag away when it comes to the oldest Bosa brother in the NFL.
Most Important Storyline to Watch For: Can the Kansas City Chiefs repeat as Super Bowl champions?
We haven’t had a repeat champion since the New England Patriots did it in 2003 and 2004, but don’t be surprised if the Chiefs do it again. They’re the odds-on favorite at the time of this publication and it’s not surprising. They basically return the core players back and should be getting another piece of jewelry when all is said and done.
Kansas City Chiefs: 14-2
Las Vegas Raiders: 9-7
Los Angeles Chargers: 8-8
Denver Broncos: 7-9