The sports analytics website, numberFire, delved into the AFC West this week to attempt to predict the outcome for each team. The entire premise centered around whether or not one of the three other teams could unseat the 4-straight division crown winner Denver Broncos. Here is a breakdown of each of the teams probabilities for the 2015 NFL season.
|Denver Broncos||Kansas City Chiefs||San Diego Chargers||Oakland Raiders|
Unsurprisingly, the Oakland Raiders are predicted to bring up the rear again in 2015. However, they added a caveat that the Raiders may not be as terrible as advertising, saying "However, the division is more loaded top-to-bottom than ever. Oakland has, what appears on paper, to be a much improved offense with the additions of Crabtree and Cooper, and has added useful defensive pieces to plug the leaky run stopping."
Even so, the Raiders have a losing culture that has grown quite impressive over the last dozen years. They are on the verge of a multi-decade cycle of despair unmatched by most franchises. The idea that they could turn the corner flies in the face of the fact that the Raiders barely even try to compete with the 31st spot when it comes to paying their players poorly.
As for the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, the stats website is basically saying its a toss up - giving the edge to the better defensive football team. A few months ago I would have disagreed with this giving the edge to the better quarterbacked team. However, the Chargers organization is a mess right now with the ongoing stadium disputes and that has to be cause for distraction for the team.
Still, I think both clubs are likely going to win somewhere between 8 and 10 games. If one of them can steal a game from the Broncos then they might be the team that sneaks into the playoffs.
Then, of course, there is our Denver Broncos. Even with an aging Peyton Manning, they have the talent to keep a stranglehold on the projections for the 2015 season. Offensively, the Broncos boast some real playmakers, which numberFire noted by saying:
Both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders posted 100-plus receptions and 1,400-plus yards all of the while topping it off with top-six numbers in terms of Reception NEP (Thomas was third and Sanders was sixth) last year. ... Also helping the Broncos cause will be running back C.J. Anderson, who broke out onto the scene last year after injuries from both Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman. Among the 43 backs with 100 or more carries on the season, Anderson boasted the sixth best Success Rate (46.93%), the second-best Rushing NEP per attempt (0.10) and averaged a studly 4.7 yards per carry on his 179 attempts.
Add that to a Broncos defense that might just be the best unit the franchise has seen in decades and you have a perfect storm for the Broncos to win a fifth-straight AFC West title.
Last year, the Broncos finished 7th and 10th, respectively, in schedule-adjusted pass and rush Defensive NEP, and finished ninth in sacks (41) and fourth in passes deflected (90). Loaded with talent like Von Miller and Chris Harris, the Broncos defense looks like a stout group and will get one of the league's best defensive minds in Wade Phillips to coordinate the unit.
I think its safe to say its the Broncos division to lose, which begs the question. Which AFC West team poses the greatest threat to the Broncos fifth consecutive division crown?