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Free NFL Pick Sunday

#124 San Francisco 49ers +3 over Denver Broncos 3:05 PM CT

Denver has faced a difficult schedule this season while looking the part against some of the league’s top teams including wins over the Chargers and Steelers. Denver also lost to the Jets however and is is a challenging scheduling spot this week facing a third road game in four weeks and a second straight road contest after winning in Cincinnati last week. The Broncos caught a break on the schedule last week vs. the sinking Bengals drawing the first start from Jeff Driskel.

Denver won 24-10 but Cincinnati had three turnovers and 12 penalties. The Broncos had a solid edge on the ground but fewer first downs while losing the time of possession battle as well. 10 Denver points came on drives of just 33 and 7 yards as there was good fortune for the Broncos. This could be a dangerous game in San Francisco with the Broncos back in the playoff race and now a healthy road favorite for the second straight week. 2-10 San Francisco has a top 10 run defense and the 49ers have had some misleading results this season thanks to a NFL worst -20 turnover margin juggling three different quarterbacks and numerous injuries on offense.

The 49ers are also a top 10 rushing team as Denver isn’t likely to enjoy a big rushing edge in this matchup. San Francisco has out-rushed six of the past eight foes while out-gaining three of the last four foes by at least 97 yards. The 49ers are the more productive passing team with Denver posting only 6.8 yards per attempt and Denver actually allows a higher completion rate and more yards per attempt on defense than San Francisco despite the perception of these defenses. Emmanuel Sanders is also out of action to greatly limit Denver’s passing potential. Denver is on a 5-11 ATS run in road games and this could be the biggest road favorite spread since 2015 for the Broncos.

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AFC West Staff Changes

AFC WEST 2018 STAFF CHANGES

DENVER BRONCOS

Over/Under Win Total: 7

Odds to win Super Bowl: 33/1

Staff Change: Six assistants were fired after the 2017 season but both coordinators remain for the Broncos with Joe Woods OC and Bill Musgrave DC under Vance Joseph. Woods took over for Mike McCoy last November.

Probable QB Rotation:

Case Keenum

Paxton Lynch

Chad Kelly

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KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Over/Under Win Total: 8½

Odds to win Super Bowl: 25/1

Staff Change: Matt Nagy and Brad Childress depart the offensive staff and long-time assistant Eric Bieniemy will be the new OC for the Chiefs, last serving in that role at Colorado in 2011-12 and tasked with leading the offense under 2017 draft pick Patrick Mahomes III.

Probable QB Rotation:

Patrick Mahomes III

Chad Henne

Matt McGloin

Chase Litton (rookie – via Marshall)

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LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Over/Under Win Total: 9½

Odds to win Super Bowl: 20/1

Staff Change: The Chargers retain both former head coaches Ken Whisenhunt and Gus Bradley as the 2018 coordinators under head coach Anthony Lynn. This team has perhaps the least staff turnover in the league following last season’s 9-7 debut for Lynn and the move to the greater Los Angeles area.

Probable QB Rotation:

Philip Rivers

Cardale Jones

Geno Smith

OAKLAND RAIDERS

Over/Under Win Total: 8

Odds to win Super Bowl: 33/1

Staff Change: Jack Del Rio was fired after a disappointing second season with the Raiders with former Raiders and Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden taking over. Paul Guenther is the defensive coordinator after serving in that capacity for the Bengals the past four seasons. Well traveled assistant Greg Olson will be the OC, previously in role in Oakland in 2013-14 as well as in stops in Detroit, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Jacksonville before working with the Rams as QB coach last season and bringing the arrival of Jared Goff. The Raiders are one of the few teams with the same projected QB rotation as last season.

Probable QB Rotation:

Derek Carr

Connor Cook

E.J. Manuel

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AFC West Preseason Preview

 

AFC West Preseason Preview

07/26/2016

The AFC West will be one of the 2016 season’s most interesting and most competitive divisions. Here is a look at some of the summer storylines as the preseason approaches for the defending Super Bowl champions and three other West squads aiming for the playoffs.

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DENVER BRONCOS

Over/Under Win Total: 9 (-125 OVER, -105 UNDER)

Odds to win the AFC West: 2/1

Odds to win the AFC: 8/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 18/1

STAFF CHANGES: After a Super Bowl championship season the Denver Broncos don’t have any major staff changes to report as Gary Kubiak’s staff will be led by Rick Dennison as the offensive coordinator for the second straight season and his 26th (non-consecutive) season with the team. Veteran coach Wade Phillips is back to lead the defense as well as a coaching staff that won it all in year one will try to do it again.

KEY POSITON BATTLE: Quarterback

The Broncos didn’t need spectacular quarterback play last season but they will be a rare example of a Super Bowl champion not returning with their quarterback, the first since Trent Dilfer wasn’t re-signed by the Ravens for the 2001 season. It is assumed that Mark Sanchez will be leading the Broncos but Trevor Siemian could be a wild card and the Broncos also drafted Paxton Lynch late in the 1st round. Siemian impressed the team last season as a 7th round pick and his arm strength and athleticism could keep him in the mix if Sanchez fails to take a firm hold of the spot.

OTHER POSITIONS TO WATCH: The success of the defense last season led to some departures and while the starting secondary looks locked in there will be some battles for depth, particularly at cornerback with a casualty likely among Keyvon Webster, Tarurean Nixon, and Lorenzo Doss. Keeping Von Miller grabbed the headlines this summer for the Broncos but the team lost Danny Trevathan to the Bears to open up a linebacker spot. Nose tackle also should feature a battle between Sylvester Williams and Darius Kilgo who both contributed last season.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Denver has some risk to be a Super Bowl champion that fails to make the playoffs the next season. Denver was the AFC’s top seed but they weren’t far from missing the playoffs entirely heading into the final weeks last season. Five AFC teams had a superior point differential to the Broncos last season and while Peyton Manning didn’t have a great statistical season his leadership proved pivotal in the many narrow wins the team had. Add that the competition in the West looks steep with the Raiders and Chargers likely to improve and the Chiefs still formidable, a fall for the Broncos looks possible if the defense is unable to carry the team again.

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Over/Under Win Total: 9.5 (-115 OVER, -115 UNDER)

Odds to win the AFC West: 2/1

Odds to win the AFC: 12/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 28/1

STAFF CHANGES: The Chiefs made 10 coaching changes this off-season although few were headline-grabbing moves. Primary among those moves for Andy Reid’s staff was Britt Reid promoted to defensive line coach and Al Harris taking over coaching the secondary. A handful of college coaches have also been added to the staff including two former UCLA assistants.

KEY POSITON BATTLE: Cornerback

The Chiefs would not pay Sean Smith a big contract and he left for division rival Oakland to open up a starting cornerback spot. It will be a young group led by Marcus Peters who had a great rookie season but the replacement options for Smith include less proven options like Phillip Gaines and Steven Nelson. Marcus Cooper is also an option with some experience and the Chiefs addressed the position heavily in the draft picking three corners, led by KeiVarae Russell in the 3rd round out of Notre Dame.

OTHER POSITIONS TO WATCH: Alex Smith is certainly entrenched as the starter for the Chiefs but they lost back-up Chase Daniel who went to Philadelphia with hopes of competing for a starting role. Daniel impressed in the preseason in three years behind Smith but never got a significant opportunity. Three young quarterbacks are on the roster with no clear leader in the battle between Tyler Bray, Aaron Murray, and rookie Kevin Hogan. Bray has the most experience and the strongest arm but this will be a key battle that will be given time to work out in the preseason. The Chiefs also may have a battle at right guard as well as some competition with wide receiver depth.

SEASON OUTLOOK:The Chiefs went 11-5 last season while posting twice the point differential of the Broncos but the slow start to the season left Denver with the division title and favorable playoff seed. Kansas City won a playoff game last season and the Chiefs have the pieces to be a viable AFC contender, although the AFC West looks like a difficult division. No team did better in the AFC last season with a 10-2 record in conference games and with the years continuing to add up for Alex Smith and Andy Reid this figures to be a critical season in Kansas City to take the next step.

 

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OAKLAND RAIDERS

Over/Under Win Total: 8.5 (-130 OVER, EVEN UNDER)

Odds to win the AFC West: 5/2

Odds to win the AFC: 12/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 25/1

STAFF CHANGES: It was a competitive first season for Jack Del Rio’s staff with the Raiders going 7-9, the best finish for the franchise since 2011. Oakland has not made the playoffs since losing the Super Bowl after the 2002 season and the staff has mostly been held together for the 2016 season. The offense under Bill Musgrave had a great start to the season before slipping late in the year while Ken Norton’s defense struggled early and came on late. This season the team will look for more complete and consistent performances while also facing elevated expectations.

KEY POSITON BATTLE: Right Tackle

After a great battle last season Austin Howard won the spot last season as Menelik Watson was injured before the season opener. Howard was passable in 13 starts last season but Watson figures to make a push for the starting spot again this season. The Raiders did not address the position in the draft of free agency as they fell they feel they have what they need on the roster.

OTHER POSITIONS TO WATCH: Connor Cook was picked up in the draft and he may push Matt McGloin in a battle for the backup spot at quarterback behind Derek Carr. At safety Karl Joseph will be under a close watch as he is recovering from a knee injury but still was deemed worthy of the team’s first round pick. Running back depth will also be of interest behind Latavius Murray with a complementary back needed to step up. Rookie DeAndre Washington out of Texas Tech will get looks while speedster Taiwan Jones is still on the roster.

SEASON OUTLOOK: The competitive 7-9 season was a step-forward for the Raiders last season but the team was once 4-3 before the offense started to struggle late in the season. Oakland did win at Denver last December but it was an ugly 15-12 win with Brock Osweiler starting for the Broncos and Denver had nearly a 3:1 yardage edge. That was the only win vs. a playoff team for the Raiders last season and the schedule is loaded with long travel miles and few easy games in a very competitive division. The expectations are elevated and handling the added pressure of the first significant meaningful games for the franchise in a long time will be a challenge.

 

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Over/Under Win Total: 7 (-115 OVER, -115 UNDER)

Odds to win the AFC West: 13/2

Odds to win the AFC: 33/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 66/1

STAFF CHANGES: Mike McCoy’s spot leading the Chargers was certainly a question mark after a very disappointing 2015 season. McCoy was retained and the big move is bringing back Ken Whisenhunt as the offensive coordinator. Whisenhunt had a great 2013 season with the Chargers in that role before taking the Tennessee head coaching position. John McNulty is following Whisenhunt from Tennessee as the new tight ends coach while former Patriots offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo was also added to the staff although Jeff Davidson will be the new offensive line coach. Craig Aukerman was promoted to special teams coordinator and former All-Pro Chris Harris will be an assistant with the defensive backs. Former Jacksonville defensive coordinator Bob Babich was also added to coach the linebackers as there were many changes to piece together a staff in what will be a critical year for McCoy though his contract does now run through 2017.

KEY POSITON BATTLE: Center

After going through five different starting centers last season this spot is the most important of the summer for San Diego. Trevor Robinson ended the season as the team’s center but they added former Bears center Matt Slauson and drafted Max Tuerk in the 3rd round out of USC. Former starter Chris Watt is also still on the roster and while Slauson is the presumed starter the team added four lineman and two new offensive line coaches since last season as there is a lot to be sorted out.

OTHER POSITIONS TO WATCH: With Joey Bosa still unsigned the defensive line has some question marks. Locked into spots should be Corey Liuget and free agent addition Brandon Mebane but after that there will be battles in August with eight other defensive lineman on the roster, not counting Bosa. Safety is another area on defense with reasonable depth but lacking standout proven starters. Rookie Adrian McDonald has shown a lot of promise in camp and Darrel Stuckey will likely keep a spot for his excellent special teams abilities. Depth at wide receiver and tight end should also feature some competition on offense while backup quarterback could be a true one-on-one battle between Zach Mettenberger and Kellen Clemens.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Last season the Los Angeles cloud hung over the Chargers all season and while that prospect isn’t going away the team should enter 2016 with a bit more stability with McCoy extended and with a team that lost nine games by eight or fewer points. Getting a few of those games to go the other way could dramatically change the season for San Diego with the Chargers featuring a defense that was formidable down the stretch last season. The offensive line should be much more stable this season and that should lead to improvement throughout the offense and a worst-to-first scenario isn’t all that unrealistic even though it is a difficult division with three other teams that expect to be playoff teams. The Chargers still look like the #4 team in the West to most but they are a team that could surprise.

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NFL Schedule Review: AFC West

NFL Schedule Review:  AFC West

05/13/2016

The recent NFL Draft dominates the conversation in the spring but the release of the NFL schedule can often have a bigger impact on the success or failure of the season for most teams. Here is brief breakdown of the schedules for the four AFC West teams.

Toughest Opposition – BRONCOS: The 2015 win percentages for the schedules of the four AFC West teams all rate similarly. Technically the Broncos have an easier schedule than the Chargers by one game based on last season’s record, thanks in part to the Chargers facing the Broncos twice. Outside of the division games the Broncos have a tougher draw as the only West team to face the Patriots and Bengals. The Broncos will draw a very difficult home schedule this season as they face four 2015 playoff teams in Denver and they don’t face a losing team from 2015 outside of the division at home.

Weakest Opposition – CHIEFS: By a slim margin the Chiefs have the weakest schedule in the division in 2016.They will only face five 2015 playoff teams although four of those games will be at home. Facing the Jets and Steelers in the second place draw isn’t ideal but a team that won 11 games last season also isn’t hassled with much unusual scheduling, only playing two primetime night games all season while only once playing consecutive road games.

Toughest Travel – RAIDERS: Oakland has one of the highest mileage logs in the league even without a trip overseas to London. Each of the first six road games of the season is at least 1,500 miles away. Oakland will likely opt to stay in Florida in between consecutive games in Jacksonville and Tampa but there will still be taxing travel throughout the schedule. Only the division game in San Diego is fewer than 500 miles away for the Raiders who are not helped by the AFC South and NFC South draws featuring mainly eastern teams as well as the third place draw road game being across the country in Baltimore.

Lightest Travel – CHIEFS: Being one of the most centrally located teams in the league has a big advantage in the AFC West schedule this season. While the Chiefs aren’t exactly close by to any of its division rivals they will only twice play more than 900 miles away this season. The division trip to Oakland is the longest journey of the season while in contrast the trip to Kansas City is the third closest road game on the schedule for the Raiders. Kansas City does have an early week 5 bye but they have a nice balance of home and road games with only one set of back-to-back road games all season.

Most Exposure – BRONCOS: For a Super Bowl champion the Broncos won’t be captured on national TV as often as you might expect with just four scheduled primetime games. One is the opening week Super Bowl rematch and then the Broncos will play primetime national TV games in three of four weeks starting in Week 6. The Raiders actually have three nationally broadcast games on the schedule, one more than a Chiefs team than won 11 games last season.

Lightest Quarterback Draw – CHIEFS: The Chiefs will only face three games vs. teams with a quarterback that ranked in the top 10 of the 2015 total QBR rankings this season as Alex Smith is the only qualifier in the division. Everyone in the division will play against Drew Brees and Cam Newton barring injuries while a game with Pittsburgh is the only unique matchup for the Chiefs against a top flight signal caller. The Chiefs could also catch a break with the game vs. Houston’s new quarterback Brock Osweiler in Week 2 and a still unsettled Jets quarterback situation as the matchup in Week 3 for potentially more favorable spots to catch those quality teams in adjustments.

Toughest Quarterback Draw – BRONCOS: The defending Super Bowl champions will likely open the season with the least regarded quarterback in the division even though veteran Mark Sanchez has had some success in his career and the tandem of Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler didn’t exactly post great numbers despite the success in 2015. The Broncos have a schedule that features five top 10 Total QBR quarterbacks from last season and that doesn’t include games with Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, or Tom Brady.

Toughest 1st Half Schedule – BRONCOS: Denver won’t have an easy path to get off to a strong start in a new era for the team following last season’s championship. The defense will have tough matchups in the early going with the first three games vs. Carolina, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. Denver also draws three road games in a four week pan in Weeks 3-6. Early season road games in Tampa and San Diego might also prove more difficult than they look as the game with the Buccaneers is a second straight road game with long travel and the game with San Diego comes on a Thursday night for a very short week.

Weakest 1st Half Schedule – RAIDERS: Oakland will be a popular team predicted for a breakthrough season after showing some promise last year and stockpiling young talent in recent years. The Raiders have the early draw they need to get off to a good start as they don’t face a team that had a winning record last season until Week 6 and only have two such games in the first 10 weeks. Both of those games are the division home games with the Chiefs and Broncos as this is a team that could get off to a fast start. The travel mileage is significant on the schedule however and the Raiders have a very difficult seven-game run following the bye week to close the season.

Best Overall Schedule Draw – CHARGERS: San Diego went 4-12 last season including 0-6 in the division. This is a team that could deserve some attention as a sleeper in 2016 however as the schedule looks promising. The Chargers do have some long travel ahead and more of the difficult games are on the road in 2016 but they draw four games vs. teams with new head coaches and six of the eight home games are vs. losing teams from 2015. The Chargers only have one set of consecutive road games and only one primetime game to face short week scheduling for with that being a home game with Denver. Making a charge to the playoffs might be a stretch but San Diego has a schedule that should allow for improvement in 2016.

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