Coming into the 2017 season, there seems to be two teams in the AFC that are “locks” for a championship run. Watching NFL football shows and reading numerous NFL blogs, the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders seem like the teams to beat in the AFC. The Patriots are always in the mix, while the Raiders are coming off of their first winning season since 2002.
Most with short memories would think that the Raiders won their division last year. Just a refresher, they did not win the AFC West. The bruised and battered Kansas City Chiefs limped their way to the division title. The Chiefs went 6-0 in divisional games in 2016. The Raiders went 3-3 in the division, losing twice to the Chiefs and once to the Broncos. The Raiders only scored a combined 29 points in their three division losses.
The biggest addition to the Raiders in the offseason was running back Marshawn Lynch. In his career, Lynch has rushed for 9,112 yards with 4.2 YPC average. During his last season with the Seahawks in 2015, he finished the year with 417 rushing yards and an average of 3.8 YPC. He was limited to 7 games played due to a sports-hernia surgery.
The biggest addition of the offseason also comes with the biggest questions. Does Marshawn Lynch have anything left in the tank? Which Lynch will we see? The Beast Mode we have come to love over the years, or the slower injury riddled, older-looking running back we saw in 2015… the Raiders are hoping for the Beat Mode of old!
Personally, I think Lynch will not reach 1,000 rushing yards, but will reach double digits touchdowns for the Raiders in 2017. Similar to what Latavius Murray produced in 2016 for the Raiders (195 rushes, 788 rushing yards and 12 rushing TDs). Lynch should split carries with speedsters Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, but the focal point in the red zone should be Lynch.
The biggest question mark for the Oakland Raiders entering this season is their defense. In 2016, the Raiders defense on average gave up 24.1 points per game to opponents. For the Raiders to make a legitimate playoff run and a chance at a championship, the defense needs to step-up their play. With a long list of additions to the Raiders defense in the offseason, the Raiders are trying their best to put the key pieces around their All-Pro defensive player Khalil Mack. Only time will tell.
The Raiders are overhyped, until they take care of their own division (which may be the toughest division in the NFL). Oakland fans were convinced last season would have ended with a championship game appearance had it not been for Derek Carr’s leg injury. I cannot anoint them the AFC Champions, moreover world champs until they can beat the Kansas City Chiefs.
Checkout my article on the 2017 AFC West Breakdown at Fantasy Fumble. There is a complete breakdown of the entire division with record predictions. Do you agree or disagree? Let me know with a comment.
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