With Philip Rivers leading the offense, the Chargers have typically been able to put up points.
Next season should be no different. The team boasts a rejuvenated offensive line, a budding star at running back, and plenty of receiving weapons on the outside.
Still, the Chargers have plenty of competition in their division. The Oakland Raiders are led by a potential superstar quarterback Derek Carr and the Chiefs have been a winning machine under Andy Reid. Denver is in an odd situation with Paxton Lynch waiting in the wings, but they could score some points with talent at the skill positions.
In a stacked AFC West, let’s take a look at how each Chargers position group stacks up against the rest of the division.
1. Chargers (Philip Rivers)
2. Raiders (Derek Carr)
3. Chiefs (Alex Smith)
4. Broncos (Trevor Siemian)
By the end of the season, Derek Carr could easily be in the top spot, however, his short spurt of success allows Philip Rivers to hold the top spot for now.
Rivers has been a steady hand for the Chargers for over a decade. Although the Chargers are coming off of two bad seasons, Rivers is still mentioned among the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
Although Rivers and Carr are in the upper echelon of quarterbacks, Alex Smith sits right in the middle of the league. He doesn’t do anything special, but he plays within his system and doesn’t make mistakes.
Smith’s style has allowed for the Chiefs to make the playoffs, but they have been unable to make deep playoff runs against the powerhouse offenses in New England and Pittsburgh.
For the Broncos, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch don’t appear to be good options at quarterback. Things could change as both of these players develop, but most agree that the Broncos will take a step back due to their issues at quarterback.
1. Broncos (C.J. Anderson/Jamaal Charles)
2. Chargers (Melvin Gordon)
3. Chiefs (Spencer Ware/Kareem Hunt)
4. Raiders (Marshawn Lynch)
Many may disagree with this order, but from top to bottom, it’s a close call.
Melvin Gordon is arguably the best running back in the division. However, the Bolts don’t have a reliable second option at the position. While the Broncos and Chiefs have second and third options that can produce.
Lastly, it’s hard to predict what Marshawn Lynch will bring to the table. He could shock the world and play like he did in Seattle, but that’s a stretch.
A major key to the Oakland Raiders recent success has been their tremendous offensive line play. Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson have been phenomenal on the inside and Donald Penn has protected Carr’s blindside extremely well.
For the Chiefs, their offensive line has become a strength thanks to their strong tackle play. Eric Fisher seems to have finally figured things out and veteran Mitchell Schwartz has been strong on the right side. It’s a young group but could allow for the Chiefs to continue to run the football successfully.
Although the Chargers offensive line should be much improved in 2017, seeing is believing for Chargers fans. Russell Okung needs to stay healthy and play like he did with Seattle and rookie Forrest Lamp needs to live up to his pre-draft hype.
In Denver, the offensive line will continue to be an issue in 2017. The Broncos drafted Garrett Bolles in the first round, but like most rookie tackles, there is going to be a learning curve. On the inside, Ronald Leary is a good addition, but there are four other question marks along that Broncos line.
1. Chargers (Antonio Gates/Hunter Henry)
2. Chiefs (Travis Kelce)
3. Raiders (Jared Cook/Clive Walford)
4. Broncos (Virgil Green)
There’s no debate that the Chargers have the best tight end group in the division. The duo of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry will be special next season. Expect Henry to get the bulk of the targets, but Gates will still be a weapon on third down and in the red zone.
Kansas City boasts the best tight end in the division. Travis Kelce is an elite talent and quarterback Alex Smith’s favorite weapon. There may not be much talent behind him, but he is easily a top-five tight end.
The Raiders added another target for Derek Carr in free agency with Jared Cook. He isn’t a star by any stretch, but he played well with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball.
Although Jake Butt may be an option down the road, he is coming off of an ACL tear. Virgil Green is now the primary tight end and is a decent option for Denver.
1. Oakland Raiders
2. Denver Broncos
3. Los Angeles Chargers
4. Kansas City Chiefs
This position group is loaded with talent. Some may argue that the Chargers could be higher up on this list, but the injuries that have hit this group of late keep them at three.
Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper are going to be leading the way for the Raiders. Throw in Seth Roberts and the speedy Cordarrelle Paterson behind them, it’s become a good crop of targets for Carr.
The situation in Denver is similar with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders getting the majority of the targets. They do lack the quality depth or steady third option like Oakland does.
For the Bolts, the depth at the position is there. If Keenan Allen is 100 percent healthy, this is a special unit. There is just no way that he can be relied on. Behind him, Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams are going to be big-bodied targets on the outside. While Travis Benjamin will use his speed to get open down the field.
The Chargers can propel up to the top of this list if they can remain healthy, but it’s not something to bet on.
After cutting Jeremy Maclin, the Chiefs are left with Tyreek Hill as their top receiving threat. That probably won’t cut it.
1. Oakland Raiders
2. Los Angeles Chargers
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. Denver Broncos
The Chargers are strong competition to the Oakland Raiders but are not quite at that level yet. The offensive line is what separates these two teams. Oakland boasts one of the best units while the Chargers line is full of unknowns and question marks.
As for the Chiefs and Broncos, neither offense is going to do much damage. Alex Smith, for all his flaws, is a better option than either Broncos quarterback. Plus, the Chiefs offensive line is far better than Denver’s. That’s what gives them the edge.