The AFC West should belong to Denver once again

Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos general manager John Elway celebrates with Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak after beating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Von Miller has been signed long-term, and it’s now time to begin dissecting the upcoming season. The AFC West is a good place to begin and the question on the table is whether or not the Oakland Raiders or Kansas City Chiefs can overtake Denver in the division this upcoming season.

If the Broncos remain relatively healthy, the answer is no. Oakland has a solid nucleus with Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Latavius Murray and Khalil Mack. However, it is hard to believe that this team is really ready to make the jump from 7-9 to division champs. Just 3-13 in 2014, Oakland seems to be another year or two away from being a serious contender. The Raiders may want to try and have a .500 season this decade before joining the conversation.

Kansas City will be without the services of Justin Houston for a good chunk, if not all, of the upcoming season. In Denver, fans understand just how important your best pass rusher is to having success. Jamal Charles is coming off the second ACL surgery of his career and is not getting any younger. Alex Smith seems like a quarterback that is just good enough to compete, but never good enough to get you over the top. The Chiefs are talented, but they may have fully peaked a season ago.

The Broncos lost some pieces from a season ago, too, but the defense should be about as good as it was last season, even with the losses of Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan and perhaps Aqib Talib.

Todd Davis should be able to rise to the occasion. Jared Crick is a more than capable body to throw into the mix on the defensive line. And in case of a suspension, Bradley Roby has proven his worth at cornerback.

As for the offense, it should be improved. Denver does not know who their starting quarterback is going to be, but neither did Broncos fans during the last half of 2015. It is hard to imagine the quarterback play being any worse than it was a season ago. The position was a terrible combination of staleness along with non-stop turnovers.

WEEKEND DRIVE LIVE STREAMDenver is deeper at running back with the drafting of Devontae Booker, who should fit perfectly in Gary Kubiak’s offense. The offensive line is stronger with the additions of Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson, along with the return of Ty Sambrailo. Wide receiver production should be improved, too, with more consistency out of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders being in a contract year.

The position that is a bit worrisome on offense is tight end. Owen Daniels and Vernon Davis are long gone and it is up to Virgil Green and Jeff Heuerman to pick up the pieces. That does not seem impossible given the tight end position a season ago.

The bottom line is that it is not really logical to think a team will overtake Denver in the division this season. The Broncos do not have a starting quarterback right now. It is manageable, especially given Denver’s system and the fact that they are different and do not rely heavily on the pass.

It seems a more appropriate discussion in the future will be whether or not the Broncos can compete for the conference, not the division.

To hear more on why the Denver Broncos will win the AFC West in 2016, listen to the podcast below …

Catch the Weekend Drive with Sean Walsh Saturday and Sunday from 2p-4p on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 or stream live any time for the best local coverage of Colorado sports from Denver’s biggest sports talk lineup.

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