KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-200)
Key Additions: Tyrann Mathieu (S), Frank Clark (EDGE), Mecole Hardman (WR), Darron Lee (LB)
Key Losses: Kareem Hunt (RB), Dee Ford (EDGE), Justin Houston (EDGE), Eric Berry (S)
Why they could win: The defending champions of the division will look to repeat in the second year of the Mahomes Era. Pat Mahomes will look to solidify himself as a Tier 1 quarterback after a record setting season last year. The group that will help him do so may be the best in the league, with Tyreek Hill and Kelce being borderline unguardable at times. Now, throw Mecole Hardman into the mix, sprinkle a little Sammy Watkins on top…they should be tough to stop. They also can forget about their injury riddled secondary, as Tyrann Mathieu and Bashaud Breeland should add consistency to a group that has shown anything but. The front seven improved as well; Frank Clark was an upgrade over Dee Ford and Justin Houston, and I like Darron Lee in a fresh environment to come into his own and grab the starting job at some point in the season.
Why they could lose: Because a Pat Mahomes regression, no matter how talented he may be, is more likely than not. Because of their depth at corner.
FOG FORECAST: A lot of people are expecting a lot out of this team. They can and will live up to these expectations because;
- Their defense got better and healthier (Honey Badger, Clark)
- Their coaching staff will seldom be outcoached
- Mecole Hardman makes them even more dynamic
- Damien Williams will pick up where he left off
- Denver may be able to win the game in Mile High if Flacco plays great
- LAC should be a shootout, KC pass rush may be too much for LAC O line
- Oakland defense will get shredded by KC speed and athleticism outside the numbers
- KC will win division
12 wins, 4 losses (12-4)
LA CHARGERS (+200)
Key Additions: Thomas Davis (LB), Hunter Henry (TE)
Key Losses: Derwin James (S), Tyrell Williams (WR), Joe Barksdale (T)
Why they could win: Philip Rivers had a great year last year, and looks to build on it with his young and talented receiving corps. Keenan Allen has always been slept on as an elite receiver in the NFL. Henry is finally healthy, and he was great in limited time as a rookie. Mike Williams flashed a few times last year, and his consistency should improve with more maturity and chemistry with his QB. He should also get more targets now that Tyrell Williams is gone, and deservingly so. On the other side of the ball, maybe the best pass rush in the league is led by Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Both are healthy and ready to meet at the QB. Their linebackers (Perryman, Nwosu, Brown) are young and fast and will benefit under the tutelage of veteran Thomas Davis. Nwosu is a guy that I have always loved since his days at USC for his motor and drive to get into the backfield and wreak havoc.
Why they won’t win: Derwin James is a massive blow to this team’s defense. With Derwin, this defense is complete, with versatile playmakers at every level. Now, the secondary looks to lack that alpha male that James was set up to be, and though Hayward and King are talented, it looks worrisome. This will put even more pressure on Ingram and Bosa to get to the quarterback. Offensively, they could be one dimensional. A bad offensive line did not get any better over the offseason. Russell Okung is their best player on the line and his medical status is curiously up in the air. Still no sign of Melvin Gordon anytime soon. Phillip Rivers isn’t getting any younger either.
FOG FORECAST: When Derwin James suffered a stress fracture in his foot during the preseason, their hopes of competing deep into the playoffs were fractured as well. Still, people are expecting a playoff team in LA, and I am not talking about the Rams;
- Mike Williams will take the next step in his game with increased volume
- Justin Jackson will play well in Melvin’s absence, better than Ekeler
- They should beat Oakland twice, they matchup well against them
- Denver pass rush will be tough for them, home teams will win those
- KC games will be great games, neither in LA (Mexico, KC), lose both
- Two holes hold them back; O-line, Derwin James
9 wins, 7 losses (9-7)
DENVER BRONCOS (+1500)
Key Additions: Joe Flacco (QB), Dalton Risner (OG), Kareem Jackson (S), Noah Fant (TE), Drew Lock (QB)
Key Losses: Bradley Roby (CB), Case Keenum (haha), Demaryius Thomas (WR)
Why they could win: They have an elite combination of pass rushers in Chubb and Von Miller. Chubb will take Khalil Mack’s spot in Fangio’s defense. Flacco should be able to find some success downfield, mostly to Courtland Sutton. Sutton, out of SMU, is in for a breakout season. He flashed last year with Keenum at the helm, and I think a year of maturity and an arm like Flacco’s should bring out the best in him, especially if Emmanuel Sanders misses more time. Phillip Lindsay should look to build on his inspiring underdog and undrafted story. Their safeties are yet again solid with Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons. Their defense will give them a chance to win almost every game.
Why they won’t win: Denver ideally wants to win by running after the quarterback and getting stops on defense, which will allow Flacco to take shots down the field and score. However, the ‘No Fly Zone’ is no more, as Talib and Roby are long gone. This puts more pressure on Flacco to go out and manufacture offense for a team that lacks playmakers on the outside, and I don’t love that as a recipe for taking care of the ball and scoring. What happens if Flacco struggles early? Will the fans get restless and call for Drew Lock?
FOG FORECAST: I think this team will surprise a lot of people because it will have a chance to win most of their games due to their defense. It isn’t the same dominant Denver defense, though, which is probably what they would need to carry a Flacco offense into the playoffs, especially in this division. I think Flacco is fine to start, but if he begins to struggle, it’s not a Lock that he keeps his job (;
- Denver will beat KC in Denver
- Courtland Sutton will be a stud
- Phillip Lindsay regression
- Royce Freeman still isn’t that good
6 Wins, 10 Losses (6-10)
OAKLAND RAIDERS (+1600)
Key Additions: Antonio Brown (WR), Tyrell Williams (WR), Josh Jacobs (RB), Lamarcus Joyner (S), Jonathan Abram (S), Clelin Ferrel (EDGE), Vontaze Burfict (LB), Daryl Worley (CB), Brandon Marshall (LB)
Key Losses: Jordy Nelson (WR), Amari Cooper (WR), Kelechi Osemele (OG), Marshawn Lynch (RB), Jared Cook (TE), Bruce Irvin (LB)
Why they could win: Derek Carr has the goods to be a great QB in this league, and Mike Mayock gave him a gift in AB. That combination could go a long way, maybe even longer than Ben and AB ever had. They had the opportunity to go out and draft premium defensive talent, and though I would not have taken Ferrel at 4, they definitely improved on that side of the ball. Joyner and Abram both bring an aggressive presence to a secondary that couldn’t stop anything last year. Last year, their defense eliminated them from games early, even if Carr wasn’t playing well. This year that should not be the case, they are now much more physical and fast on that side of the ball.
Why they won’t win: Derek Carr can’t carry a team on his back. He needs weapons to help him out, and his biggest weapon is all about himself. AB is ruining the team’s focus and chemistry all over the type of helmet he puts on his head. Instead of growing his relationship with DC, as they will need time to get on the same page, he is talking to his agent about how to walk on eggshells around the NFL. Frankly, it is selfish and it sets the team up for failure. Additionally, while the defense has gotten better, it still lacks the cover corners on the outside to stop guys like Mahomes and Rivers. Their pass rush is subpar at best, and their corners are not good enough to cover for a long duration. That’s a recipe for points in a hurry, and not for the Raiders.
FOG FORECAST: This team definitely got better over the offseason on both sides of the ball. However, they need AB to stop being a diva and just play football. He needs reps with Derek Carr if they are going to be effective, and that is on him. If they are able to get AB playing again, I think they win some games they aren’t supposed to win;
- Derek Carr will return to his 2017 form, people forget who or what that is
- Arden Key needs to become a factor in their pass rush
- Gareon Conley needs to prove his worth, or they will get shredded
- Gruden is going to pound Josh Jacobs early and often with success
5 wins, 11 losses (5-11)