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AFC West Predictions: 2018 NFL Previews
Out of all AFC West teams, the Oakland Raiders have made the biggest headlines during the offseason. First, they lured Jon Gruden back as their head coach. Then, just before the season starts, they traded their biggest star on the defense - pass rusher Khalil Mack - to the Chicago Bears. So, how do these changes impact Oakland’s chances to succeed?
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Accuscore simulations predict that the Los Angeles Charges will be the team to beat in the AFC West. The Chargers moved cities and improved to nine wins a season ago, with many injuries before or during the season. If, and that is big "if" in the case of the Chargers, they stay healthy, they should improve their win total from a season ago. The Chargers have a surprisingly high probability to win the division at 60%, and it will be a disappointment if they miss the playoffs for the fifth year in a row.
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While Chargers’ rookie head coach Anthony Lynn provided a boost for the team last year, the Denver Broncos’ rookie head coach Vance Joseph had a rough start to his head coaching career. The QB carousel in Denver was one of the primary reasons the Broncos got only five wins two years after celebrating their Super Bowl victory. This year, it's Case Keenum's turn, and that projects to be a big improvement on last season. The Broncos are predicted to hit 8 wins and have a 45% chance to reach the playoffs first time since their Super Bowl victory with Peyton Manning.
The Kansas City Chiefs are always in the playoff hunt and a regular postseason participant. They are, again, in the mix for the postseason, but simulations give them less than a 20% chance to reach the playoffs. The main reason for this is that second year QB Patrick Mahomes had limited time on the field in his rookie year. If he is performing on the same level as the previous signal caller, Alex Smith, they would post more than 7 wins, but without any proper historical track record of the QB, it is difficult to give the Chiefs a boost in the projections.
And then, there are the Raiders. Last season, Oakland only recorded six wins, and the performance of QB Derek Carr dropped quite a bit compared to his MVP caliber season a year earlier. Simulations don’t include too much historical coaching records from years back, so it is difficult to predict Jon Gruden’s immediate impact on the team. Many changes in the team combined with key losses in special teams and their best defensive player Khalil Mack pushed AccuScore's predictions down to only six wins and less than a 15% chance at the postseason.