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NFL preview 2017: AFC West outlook

Raiders QB Derek Carr missed 2016 playoffs

Raiders QB Derek Carr missed 2016 playoffs with fractured fibula. Credit: EPA / Larry W. Smith


COACH: Jack Del Rio, 3rd season (19-13, .594)

LAST SEASON: 12-4, tied for 1st place

PLAYOFFS: lost to Houston, 27-14, in wild card

OUTLOOK: Derek Carr was nearing the end of a brilliant season when, in the next-to-last game of the season, with a 12-3 record, he suffered a fractured fibula and missed the playoffs. The Raiders were a one-and-done in a playoff loss to the Texans. But Carr is healthy, signed a five-year, $125 million contract and has his sights set on getting his team to its first Super Bowl in more than 30 years. Former Seahawks TB Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement to give his hometown Raiders a huge boost, and 2016 first-round receiver Amari Cooper comes off a terrific rookie season. Khalil Mack leads a defense that needs depth.


COACH: Andy Reid, 5th season (43-21, .672)

LAST SEASON: 12-4-0, tie for 1st place

PLAYOFFS: lost to Pittsburgh, 18-16, in division playoff.

OUTLOOK: Reid weathered a 1-3 start to get back to the playoffs last season. The guts of this team remains intact, with veteran QB Alex Smith still in charge despite the drafting of Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes in the first round. RB Spencer Ware’s preseason knee injury puts third-round rookie Kareem Hunt on the spot. The defensive front is led by pass rushing LB Justin Houston and emerging DT Chris Jones. In the secondary are All-Pro S Eric Berry and ball-hawking CB Marcus Peters. Along with the Raiders, the Chiefs are one of the few teams that can challenge the Patriots for AFC supremacy.


COACH: Vance Joseph, 1st season

LAST SEASON: 9-7-0, 3rd place

OUTLOOK: Trevor Siemian again beat out 2016 first-round QB Paxton Lynch for the starting job, which says as much about Lynch’s shortcomings as Siemian’s ability. The Broncos added former Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles in the offseason, and he’ll offer help for starter C.J. Anderson. The receiving group is excellent and features Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The Broncos’ biggest strength remains the defense, led by Von Miller, the best outside linebacker in football. He’ll miss veteran pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, who retired. The Broncos’ secondary, featuring CBs Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, is terrific and gives rookie head coach Joseph a fighting chance.


COACH: Anthony Lynn, 1st season

LAST SEASON: 5-11, 4th place

OUTLOOK: After more than half a century in San Diego, the Chargers pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles, where they’ll play in the cozy confines of the StubHub Center before the palatial new stadium they’ll share with the Rams is ready. It will be a major transition, particularly for QB Philip Rivers, who did not hide his feelings about being against the move. Rivers is the team’s best hope, though, and is still near the top of his game in his 14th NFL season. Ageless TE Antonio Gates is back, and former first-round RB back Melvin Gordon appears poised for a big season. First-round DE Joey Bosa was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2016, and that was after a long contract holdout. Otherwise, it’s a mostly average defense that will struggle, particularly against the pass.

New York Sports