Football Outsiders revealed their early AFC projections yesterday on ESPN Insider, and they project the Chargers to climb out of the cellar in the AFC West. Let's take a look at how their early numbers see the AFC West breaking down:
1. Kansas City Chiefs: 12-4 (11.6 mean wins; SOS: 29)
The Chiefs running away with the division may seem unlikely to some, but you have to remember just how well they finished the regular season in 2015. They may have fallen flat in the playoffs, but you cannot sleep on a team capable of running off 10 consecutive victories.
2. San Diego Chargers: 8-8 (8.4 mean wins; SOS: 31)
The Chargers finishing in front of the Broncos and Raiders probably feels overly optimistic after last year's 4-12 record, but that team was ravaged by injuries, had a terrible offensive coordinator, and was severely lacking in talent and depth on the front seven. We have no idea if the injuries will repeat, but it's fair to expect some regression. Ken Whisenhunt is a far superior OC to Frank Reich. And the talent in the front seven following free agency and the draft this offseason is actually worth getting excited about. Also, you can't ignore how soft the schedule looks right now.
3. Denver Broncos: 7-9 (7.1 mean wins; SOS: 13)
Going from winning it all to finishing third in the division is a pretty crazy drop, but the 2015 Broncos succeeded entirely on the back of a historically good defense. It's incredibly rare for a defense that good to repeat their performance the following year. They also lost a decent amount of talent in free agency. Peyton Manning was awful last year, but Mark Sanchez is awful and Paxton Lynch is unlikely to be any good as a rookie.
4. Oakland Raiders: 6-10 (6.4 mean wins; SOS: 14)
I really don't understand how the Raiders are projected to be the worst team in the division. They seem to have a very strong base of talent on which to build. Their talented young players will have had another offseason to get better. The only argument I've seen is that normally when a team takes a big step forward one year, they tend to take a step back. Will that happen to the Raiders? I hope so.
What do you think? Can the Chargers finish ahead of the Broncos and the Raiders? Is this projection to sunny or do you think this understates the Chargers' potential?