AFC West Preview: Are Amari Cooper and the Raiders ready to wrestle the crown from Denver?

Amari cooper, Derek Carr, Alex Smith, the returning Super Bowl champions - this division has plenty to keep an eye on

BY Robbie Dunne 18:20 Friday 26 August 2016, 18:20 26 Aug 2016

With the NFL pre-season well underway and the real action about to begin, we break down each division in the NFL to highlight what to what to watch out for, who to avoid in your Fantasy Football draft, and make one bold prediction which will surely come back to bite us.

AFC West in five words:

Three teams CAN win it.

Team under the most pressure:

Nobody expects anything from the San Diego Chargers, so this is a split between the Oakland (or Las Vegas) Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs for a couple of reasons.

  1. They're all Expecting plenty from their quarterbacks after good seasons in 2015
  2. They're tired of playing second fiddle to the Denver Broncos
  3. The lack of expectation in recent years means the emergence of even a smidgen of hope increases the pressure

This will probably be one of the most competitive divisions in football, with three of the teams capable of coming out at the other end of the season with a winning record. It's this kind of expectation that means, inevitably, a lot of fans will be disappointed and all eyes will be on Andy Reid and Jack del Rio.

Storyline to keep an eye on:

One of the main things to keep an eye on here is just how wrong the San Diego Chargers can get it. As if the disastrous PR following the Eric Weddle situation (in which he said the organization was dead to him after he was disrespected) wasn't bad enough, the team also released a statement denigrating their number one pick in the 2016 Draft, Joey Bosa.

Image: Charles Rex Arbogast / AP/Press Association Images

In an unprecedented move, they called him out for asking for too much from them, and this looks like it could get worse before it gets any better.

Bold prediction:

Mark Sanchez shocks the world and leads the Denver Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl wins. We are getting a little outrageous at this point, but he won't necessarily have to lead them all the way, he just needs to manage the game and make sure he does what Brock Osweiler did in Peyton Manning's absence last season. He went 5-2 with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions, and the outstanding defence can carry the rest of the team on their back.

Best rookie in the division:

Hunter Henry in San Diego. The only saving grace for the Chargers is Philip Rivers and what he is capable of on a consistent basis, despite not being regarded as highly as some of his contemporaries. Antonio Gates has had phenomenal success with Rivers under centre, and as he turned 36 in June, it is wise to have selected Henry; someone who can contribute straight away in the passing game...and he's not a bad blocker either.

Fantasy do's and don'ts:

Don't draft Mark Sanchez - You didn't need to be told this possibly but he will be managing games and remains an unknown in this offense.

Do draft Jermy Maclin - Maclin was a sensation in his last year in Philadelphia and while it took some time for him to get used to the Chiefs' offense and Alex Smith, he went for eight scores and over 1,000 yards. Expect him to add another 300 yards to that this year and another couple of touchdowns.

Don't draft Jamaal Charles - Coming off a nasty ACL tear, let someone else take the risk on Charles. Alex Smith believes the offense grew without him and he might be more of a compliment this year opposed to a focal point.

Do Draft Amari Cooper (or Derek Carr) - Both will benefit from Michael Crabtree in this offense as they did last season. Carr made a monumental step forward with 32 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions while Cooper, as a rookie, had over 1,000 yards receiving with six touchdowns. This has all the makings of an excellent partnership for years to come. 

You can read the rest of our other divisional previews below: 

AFC North

AFC South

AFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC East

NFC West

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