AFC West Preview: Off-season Recap and Predictions

AFC West Preview

The AFC West made some major changes this off-season making it the toughest division in football. Every team believes they are super bowl contenders, and rightfully so. This division has superstar quarterbacks, dynamic play-makers, elite pass rushers, and just about anything else you can think of. So who will come out on top? Will every AFC West team make the playoffs? Let’s take a look at what each team lost and gained, and how their season will unfold in this AFC West preview.

AFC West Preview

4. Denver Broncos

Key loses – WR DaesSean Hamilton, QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, DE Shelby Harris, P Sam Martin

Key additions – HC Nathaniel Hackett, QB Russell Wilson, NT DJ Jones, OLB Randy Gregory, CB K’Waun Williams, OLB Nik Bonitto, P Corliss Waitman, TE Greg Dulcich

Re-signed – LB Jonas Griffith (1-year), OLB Malik Reed (1-year), RT Calvin Anderson (1-year), ILB Josey Jewell (2-years), DE DeShawn Williams (1-year), RB Melvin Gordon (1-year), SS Kareem Jackson (1-year)

Extensions – QB Russell Wilson (5-year, $245 million)

The 2021-22 season for the Denver Broncos saw the departure of longtime pass rusher Von Miller. While Miller went to LA and won another ring, the Broncos struggled. They went 7-10 after starting the year 3-0.

It was the last year quarterback Drew Lock had to impress Broncos fans and the organization, as they made a major trade for Russell Wilson. Adding Wilson wasn’t enough, as they brought in outside linebacker Randy Gregory to replace Miller as primary pass rusher. However, in this division, Denver could still miss the playoffs.

The offense struggled last year, finishing 19th in total offense. That should change drastically this year with Wilson under center. Going from Lock to Wilson is the biggest QB upgrade by any team this off-season.

First year head coach Nathaniel Hackett will have some fun working with this offense. Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon are back to be the double-headed monster in the backfield. They rank in the middle of the league with offensive line, but if center Lloyd Cushenberry III can improve again, they can be a borderline top-10.

Wideout Jerry Juedy will look to make a jump with Wilson running the offense. We will have to wait and see if he can stay healthy. Overall, this offense should be ranked in the top 10 with Wilson, at worst top 15.

The defense ranked eighth last year in total defense, and I believe it got better. With pass rushers Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb, they should have no issue getting to the quarterback. Safeties Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons lead the secondary with sophomore CB Pat Surtain III looking to make a leap in 2022.

The linebacker corps is the concerning part of this defense. Josey Jewell showed signs of being a run-stuffer, but coming back from an injury is never easy. Jonas Griffith and Alex Singleton have not proven to be reliable linebackers. This makes it interesting to see if Hackett can maximize the corps talents. This defense should finish around the top 10 again.

Prediction

I have the Broncos going 10-7, tied for last in the division with the Raiders. They will go 3-3 in the division, splitting with each team. If this team was in any other division, they would probably be the favorite, but with the stacked AFC West, finishing at the top will be a tough mission.

3. Las Vegas Raiders

Key loses – 2022 first and second round picks, DE Yannick Ngakoue, WR Bryan Edwards, OG Richie Incognito, WR Zay Jones, CB Casey Hayward, QB Marcus Mariota, CB Trayvon Mullen Jr.

Key additions – HC Josh McDaniels, WR Davante Adams, CB Rock Ya-Sin, OLB Chandler Jones, DT Bilal Nichols, LB Jayon Brown, RB Zamir White, OG Dylan Parham

Re-signed – DT Johnathan Hankins (1-year)

Extensions – QB Derek Carr (3-years, $121 million), DE Maxx Crosby (4-years, $98 million), WR Hunter Renfrow (2-years, $31.7 million), Devante Adams (5-years, $141 million)

Raiders fans had an interesting year last year. Even with Henry Ruggs and Jon Gruden leaving the team for off-the-field issues, they still made the playoffs. Interim head coach Rich Bisaccia was able to get the team to rally and win their last four games to finish 10-7.

As the fifth seed, they lost in the first round to the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-19. With a new head coach and plenty of new talent, the Raiders are looking to make a bigger splash and finish first in the AFC West.

Derek Carr loved this offseason. He signed an extension, and they brought in superstar wideout and former college teammate Davante Adams. Adams may be the best receiver in the league, and he is now next to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller.

The NFL’s 11th ranked offense last season got even better, so I would expect Derek Carr to have his best season yet. The only question on offense is the run game. They finished 28th in rushing last season, and the new regime doesn’t seem confident in Josh Jacobs. Combine that with one of the worst offensive lines in the league, it’ll make Raiders fans yell at their TV anytime they see a hand-off.

The defense of the Raiders is an interesting one. They finished 14th in total defense last season, but didn’t excel against either the pass or run. Adding Chandler Jones across from Maxx Crosby makes for a ferocious pass rush.

A major concern is the linebacker corps. Bringing in Jayon Brown to work next to Denzel Perryman is an upgrade, but I would still put this group of linebackers in the bottom 10 of the league.

The linebackers are bad, but the secondary might be even worse. Losing Hayward and Mullen leaves the Raiders with Ya-Sin and Nate Hobbs as their best corners. Their safety duo is above average, but with weak corners, they could get exposed a lot. This should be a middle of the road defense, with the chance of being one of the worst in the league.

Prediction

I believe the Raiders will go 10-7, 3-3 in the AFC West. This team has the offense to contend, but the defense will hold them back. They are a dark-horse team to make a run, but I do believe they will make the playoffs.

2. Los Angeles Chargers

Key loses – 2022 second round pick, OG Oday Aboushi, OT Bryan Bulaga, TE Jared Cook, CB Chris Harris, RB Justin Jackson, DT Linval Joseph, OLB Uchenna Nwosu

Key additionsOLB Khalil Mack, CB J.C. Jackson, DL Sebastian Joseph-Day, DL Austin Johnson, TE Gerald Everett, LB Kyle Van Noy, CB Bryce Callahan, P J.K. Scott, OG Zion Johnson, S J.T. Woods, RB Isaiah Spiller, LB Troy Reeder

Re-signed – WR Mike Williams (3-years), K Dustin Hopkins (4-years)

Extended – SS Derwin James (4-years, $76.5 million)

The 2021-22 season did not go as anticipated for the Chargers, as they finished 9-8, good for third in the AFC West. A crushing loss in OT against the Raiders in Week 18 ended their season while simultaneously sending Las Vegas to Cincy for the playoffs.

Justin Herbert is back though, and the expectations for this Chargers team are through the roof. Adding studs on the defensive side is giving them hope that maybe this is their year. However, in a tough AFC West, it will be easier said than done.

The offense finished fourth in total yards last year, and it is expected to be just as good. Wide receiver Mike Williams is back to help out Herbert, but I don’t see him as the x-factor on this offense. The major concern for the Chargers last season on offense was the run game. They were 21st in the league even with superstar Austin Ekeler.

While Ekeler is dual-threat back in a pass heavy offense, they may need more production on the ground. They have a borderline top 10 offensive line, and head coach Brandon Staley will need to scheme up how to utilize the ground game better. It should be another big year for Herbert and company as they look to be elite again.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers struggled last year. The pass rush will be elite with Mack and Joey Bosa, but that is not the worry. They finished 30th against the run last year and they are hoping Sebastian Joseph-Day can help plug up the middle.

The secondary has some elite play-makers in Derwin James and JC Jackson. Funny enough, Jackson might not be the biggest piece they added in the secondary. Bryce Callahan is the new slot corner and is elite in that spot. With Asante Samuel Jr. now being a sophomore, this secondary is looking like it could be top 5.

The linebacker group is one of the worst in the league. Kenneth Murray can’t cover, and Drue Tranquill hasn’t shown to be reliable. That will hurt them a little bit, but I still expect them to finish around the top 10.

Prediction

The Chargers are looking to make the playoffs for the first time with Herbert, and I have them doing that. I have them at 11-6 overall, 3-3 against the AFC West. The toughest division in the NFL could hold them out of the playoffs, but I believe they have too much talent to not get there.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

Key losses – WR Tyreek Hill, SS Tyrann Mathieu, DE Melvin Ingram, CB Charvarius Ward, LB Anthony Hitchens, CB Mike Hughes, WR Demarcus Robinson, DT Jarran Reed

Key Additions – WR Juju Smith-Schuster, WR Sky Moore, SS/FS Justin Reid, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, RB Ronald Jones, CB Trent McDuffie, DE George Karlaftis, DE Carlos Dunlap, CB Lonnie Johnson

Re-signed – LT Orlando Brown (franchise tag)

The Chiefs lost in the AFC Championship game last season after beating the Buffalo Bills in one of the best playoff games ever. They went 12-5, finishing first in the AFC West and second in the conference. There’s not much that needs to be said about how good they are and can be, but it will be interesting to see their offense without Tyreek Hill.

They traded Hill to the Dolphins this off-season and replaced him with Juju Smith-Schuster. They still have Patrick Mahomes so it shouldn’t matter too much, and Chiefs fans should be ready for another fantastic season.

We all know what Patrick Mahomes is capable of, and he showed it again last year. He led the Chiefs to the third-ranked offense in the league. Although, as mentioned, they lost Tyreek Hill. The speedster was replaced in the draft by Skyy Moore and Smith-Schuster. While Hill is seen as a generational player, the Chiefs should be just fine.

The rushing attack looks to be a little bit better with Ronald Jones in the mix with Clyde Edwards-Helaire this season. After finishing 16th in rushing, if the run game can improve, we could see Kansas City finish atop the offensive leaders. A great offensive line will help that, and I’m eager to see the Hill-less KC offense.

The defense last year for the Chiefs was embarrassing. Finishing 27th in total defense and having one of the worst passing defenses in the league. Carlos Dunlap and rookie George Karlaftis should see some snaps rotating in to give guys a break. After finishing towards the bottom of the league in sacks, they will need those guys to step up.

While the young linebackers Nick Bolton and Willie Gay struggled early last season, they ended with some promising performances. I expect this group to take another step and become one of the better corps in the league.

The secondary is interesting, as Trent McDuffie comes in now. Adding Reid to take Mathieu’s spot is a great move, but I’m not sold on the secondary as a whole. There are a lot of questions about this defense, but I expect them to finish better than last year as a mid-tier defense.

Prediction

The AFC West champs are looking to win it again, and I believe they will. I have them finishing 12-5 again, with a record of 3-3 against the AFC West. This is the closest this division has been since Mahomes has taken over, but they’ll be perfectly fine — barring an injury.

2022 NFL Hall of Fame Game Preview

The Jaguars and Raiders square off in the 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame game
Image Credit: Sam Greenwood and Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Finally. Finally, football fans can wake up with the realization that it is gameday. The long offseason has come to a close, and NFL fans can watch some live football again. The Hall of Fame Game is notoriously uneventful, but it still brings excitement as the first NFL game in nearly seven months. Here are some things to watch for tonight.

Hall of Fame Game Info:

Teams: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Time: 8PM E.T.

Venue: Tom Henson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton, Ohio

Broadcast: NBC

Live stream options: fuboTV, Sling, Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV

New Signings

Neither of these two teams were afraid to spend money this offseason, so there will be a ton of new faces wearing new colors for the first time on Thursday night. None of these starting-caliber players will see the field much, if at all, but it will be exciting to watch them on their new teams for the first time.

On the Raiders side of the ball, the most notable new guy is obviously Devante Adams. The Raiders traded for Adams this offseason, in exchange for their first and second round picks. Adams is arguably the best receiver in the league, and it will be interesting to watch him take the field with his old college teammate, Derek Carr. Chandler Jones will also be making his Raider debut on Thursday, and we’ll get to see him attack the passer opposite Maxx Crosby for the first time as well.

Jacksonville was far from shy on the free agent market themselves. The Jaguars made a ton of signings early in free agency, and were one of the most active teams in the league. Their receiving core was completely revamped, and Jaguars’ fans will get to watch Zay Jones, Christian Kirk and Evan Engram take the field for the first time. Their new star guard Brandon Sherff will be on display as well.

New Draft Picks

This is exactly what preseason games are meant for. The starters don’t get much action, if at all, yet the rookies are thrown straight into the fire. Jacksonville obviously had the better draft class, but both teams have some exciting rookies ready to take an NFL field for the first time.

Starting with Jacksonville, they’ve got a handful of new draft picks to be excited about. First, we have the first overall draft pick, Travon Walker. The edge rusher out of Georgia has a boatload of potential, and he should get some extended time Thursday night. Next is Devin Lloyd. The Jaguars traded up to the 20th overall pick to nab Lloyd, who is one of the most intelligent players in the entire class. Luke Fortner and Chad Muma are two more exciting young players to watch for.

As for Las Vegas, their draft class wasn’t as impressive, yet there’s still some guys to watch for. Their top pick, Dylan Parham should get a good amount of reps on the offensive line. Vegas also picked up a new running back, Zamir White out of Georgia. White was one of the better running backs in college last year, and it should be interesting to see how Josh McDaniels utilizes him.

Ultimately, it’s just good to have football back. NFL fans can finally kick back, relax and watch two exciting young teams play. With this just being a preseason game, there shouldn’t be much stock taken with how good these players do, especially the young guys. Here’s to a fun game, and most importantly, welcome back football!

Where does Lynn Bowden Jr. fit on the Dolphins roster?

Last year, Lynn Bowden Jr. did not play a single snap in Miami. Now, he can. The question is, what is his fit on the Dolphins roster?

With a new coaching regime in Miami, Lynn Bowden has a shot to make the roster, The question is, what is Lynn Bowden’s fit on the Dolphins roster?

Last year I wrote about how Lynn Bowden Jr, would be an X factor in Miami. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, Bowden was placed on season ending IR.

Fit as a wide receiver

Currently listed as a wide receiver in Miami, Lynn Bowden Jr. played only 10 games his rookie season. Of those 10 games, Bowden started in four games for Miami.

Bowden played a big role for the Dolphins offense down the stretch in the 2020 season, catching 27 passes for 212 yards (7.9 avg.) in the final five games.

In the Dolphins offense, Lynn Bowden Jr. is a rare talent. He can line up out wide, in the slot, as a running back, or a wildcat quarterback.

Within this new Dolphins offense; however, Lynn Bowden Jr. is not the rarity. Receivers like Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Erik Ezukanma can do everything Bowden does.

Frankly, the Miami Dolphins wide receiver roster is loaded with versatile talent:

  • Tyreek Hill
  • Jaylen Waddle
  • Cedrick Wilson
  • Erik Ezukanma
  • Preston Williams
  • Lynn Bowden Jr.
  • Cody Core
  • River Cracraft
  • DeVonte Dedmon
  • Braylon Sanders

While Bowden Jr. will see some snaps at receiver if he is kept on the roster, will it be enough to make a sizable impact?

In 2020, Bowden logged 9.6% target percentage when he was on the field. Player profile loggs it as the 99th best in 2020.

Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Cedrick Wilson are locked as the Dolphins first three receivers. Battling for the fourth receiver spot will come down to rookie Erik Ezukanma, Bowden, and Preston Williams.

Both Williams and Ezukanma are bigger than Bowden and can line up more on the outside. Williams has taken snaps at running back before. Ezukanma at Texas Tech did the same things Bowden did.

Financially, letting go of Bowden earns almost $1.04 million back to sign free agents in the middle of the season due to any injuries.

PlayerCap ChargeDead CapCap Savings
Erik Ezukanma$886,248$724,992$161,256
Lynn Bowden Jr.$1,038,128$0$1,038,128
Preston Williams$1,290,000$275,000$1,015,000

However, depth on the roster is like money, you can never have too much. Carrying more than six receivers on the roster is a necessity, especially in a pass-heavy league.

But…

Lynn Bowden Jr. as a running back?

We all know in 2020, the Las Vegas Raiders botched their plan for Bowden Jr. by slotting him as a running back. It never worked out.

But what if the Miami Dolphins tried it?

When the time comes Lynn Bowden Jr. will be a great case study in the value of versatility.

We’ve seen what Julian Edelman, Taysom Hill, Brian Mitchell, Antwan Randle-El, Hines Ward, and others back to Frank Gifford and Paul Hornung have accomplished, but staff matters.

This is where Lynn Bowden could thrive in an offensive staff and scheme assembled by Mike McDaniel.

Yes, we all have heard Mike McDaniel and his evolution of turning Deebo Samuel into an all-pro wideback.

Just the combination of running the ball and Bowden’s toughness minimizes the offense’s risk in the passing game.

A personnel of Waddle and Hill on opposite sides of the field with Bowden Jr. in the backfield will make defenses scratch their heads. There’s an advantage of lining him up in the backfield and as a running back.

Running Back Financials

PlayerCap ChargeDead CapCap Savings
Chase Edmonds$5,500,000$5,500,000$0
Raheem Mostert$1,936,765$1,000,000$936,765
Myles Gaskin$2,561,777$21,777$2,540,000
Sony Michel$1,750,000$850,000$900,000

Those are the four top guys at running back right now, and Gaskin has the least dead money and offers the most cap savings by far.

The Dolphins are also carrying Alec Ingold whose 2022 salary is fully guaranteed for a cap charge of $2,750,000 at fullback. Chase Edmonds and Alec Ingold are both locks for the roster.

Again, depth is money- but you become smart with money. Unless there’s an injury in camp at the position or Gaskin has a strong training camp, it will be hard justifying his cap charge as a running back.

The Miami Dolphins currently have the fourth-highest positional spending at the running back position. This is where Lynn Bowden Jr. comes into play.

The Dolphins can carry Bowden as the fifth running back on the roster while also stacking the deck at wide receiver on the roster.

Positions are given based on a core scheme. In contrast, the league is moving towards position-less football on offense and defense with players becoming more versatile.

NFL teams make roster and personnel changes each game based on the opponent and matchups dictated. There may be more receivers on a game day roster one week, more running backs another week, and potentially two fullbacks the week after.

This may be the most logical option of getting a talented and versatile player like Lynn Bowden Jr. on the field.

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The biggest story lines from the Raiders schedule in 2022

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times

The 2022 NFL schedule was released this week. With that comes record predictions, ticket-purchasing, and more storylines than anyone can keep track of.  The Raiders schedule is no different. It showcases a matchup against the reigning Super Bowl champions, a revenge game 50 years in the making, and more AFC West matchups than your heart can handle. So, let’s look at three of the biggest storylines to keep track of in 2022.

Week 1: Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers

It’s the game you’ve been waiting all offseason for. The Raiders will head to SoFi Stadium for their first game of the season to try and take down Justin Herbert and a revamped Charger’s defense.

As you may remember, the Raiders beat the Chargers in the last regular season game of the 2021 season, sending the Silver and Black to the playoffs, and ending the Bolts season without a second thought. Los Angeles has spent the duration of the offseason trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Since the two teams last met, they have added numerous Pro-Bowlers to their defense including J.C. Jackson, Kyle Van Noy, and former Raider, Khalil Mack.

Mack, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Raiders, was traded to Los Angeles this offseason. He is infamously known for being a player Raider Nation saw leading the team to their next Super Bowl win. That is, until the former regime sent him off to Chicago. Since leaving Oakland, Mack’s statistics have declined. However, his game-changing talent and sure-fire want for revenge is still cause for concern in Las Vegas.

On top of being a revenge game for many reasons, the Raiders second home is in Los Angeles. It’s not uncommon for Raider Nation to take over SoFi stadium and make it their own, adding fuel to the fire.

Week 15: New England Patriots @ Las Vegas Raiders

While there are numerous storylines in between Week 1 and Week 15, the Patriots vs. Raiders game is what everyone will be looking forward to. Head coach Josh McDaniels will lead his new team out proudly (we hope), as he takes on the man that taught him everything he knows.

Before being hired as the Raiders head coach in January, McDaniels spent 13 seasons with the Patriots. He served as everything from their offensive assistant to their offensive coordinator, learning the ins and outs of coaching from one of the best in the business, Bill Belichick.

McDaniels was joined in Las Vegas by new general manager, Dave Ziegler, who also spent the previous seasons in New England. McDaniels and Ziegler wasted no time in bringing their favorite former Patriots to Sin City, making Week 15 even more meaningful.

Las Vegas has added six players this offseason who played for the New England Patriots including running back Brandon Bolden, tight end Jacob Hollister, fullback Jakob Johnson, and quarterback Jarett Stidham, among others. Along with players, McDaniels also hired several former New England coaches to his staff.

The sheer volume of Raiders that have played or coached for the Patriots is something that doesn’t go unnoticed, making Week 15 a must win game for the Silver and Black.

Week 16: Las Vegas Raiders @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Fifty years in the making, the Raiders will return to the scene of the “Immaculate Reception” one day after its half-century anniversary. If you’ve been a Raiders fan for a while, or have ever known a Raiders fan, its likely you know exactly what play we’re talking about. If not, you can read up on the controversial play, here.

No matter how much time passes, it will never be clear what happened that day. You’ll get a different story from every player, and every referee working that game. The Raiders are three Lombardi trophies better off than they were that day in Pittsburgh, but they’ll never forget. And they’ll be sure to remind the Steelers of that in December.

The Raiders schedule is tough, with a lot valuable storylines in 2022. If they want to return to the playoffs for a second consecutive year, they’ll have to prove each and every week why they deserve to be there.

Raiders trade Bryan Edwards for late-round pick

Raiders WR Bryan Edwards traded to Atlanta
Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders have traded wide receiver Bryan Edwards and a seventh-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for a 2023 fifth-round pick. In 2021, Edwards caught 34 passes for 571 yards and three touchdowns per Pro Football Reference.

Edwards is entering his third year in the league after being drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft. His big plays have been few and far between, but he is a reliable and hard-working player with a lot of potential. Last season, Raiders coaches even went so far as to say Edwards reminded them of Hall of Fame player, Terrell Owens. While he didn’t live up to those high standards, he did make some game-changing plays for the Raiders.

The 23-year-old receiver’s biggest impact as a Raider came during a must-win game in Week 15. The Silver and Black were visiting the Browns in Cleveland. Las Vegas sat at 6-7 with their playoff hopes on the line. Both teams had been dealing with COVID-19 breakouts, and the Raiders needed everyone to stand out. Edwards took it to heart the most as he made the play of the game in the first quarter, catching a touchdown pass over the head of the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback, Denzel Ward.

For the Raiders, they are now one step closer to finalizing their wide receivers room after a big shakeup this off-season.

Edwards will now join his former teammate, quarterback Marcus Mariota, in Atlanta. A receiving corps including Edwards, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London is sure to turn some heads in 2022.