Raiders

Raiders

The AFC West promises to be chock-full of excitement and intrigue during the upcoming 2019 season.

Reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs look to repeat as division champs, while the Chargers hope to knock them off and give Philip Rivers a home game or two come playoff time.

You can't forget about Jon Gruden's Raiders, who have the offensive firepower to be a threat on any given Sunday. The Denver Broncos brought in Joe Flacco, so that's ... something?

None of AFC West hopefuls are without their warts, though, so let's take a look at the biggest question facing each team as we head toward September.

Oakland Raiders

With all the talk surrounding the offense, can the defense be decent?
Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Josh Jacobs, Hunter Renfrow. You've heard all the names.

On paper, the Raiders should put up a lot of points this season. Unfortunately, the Raiders' defense was abysmal in 2018, and if it doesn't improve this season the Raiders won't be able to leave Oakland on a high note. 

The Raiders haven't finished better than 20th in points allowed since 2006, and they gave up an NFL-worst 29.2 per game last season.

In comes a host of new names, from Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abram to Vontaze Burfict and Lamarcus Joyner, looking to help Paul Guenther do what he did in Cincinnati and build a top-10 defense.

If the Silver and Black can get good contributions from the rookies, improved health in the secondary and some semblance of a pass rush, they just might make 2019 interesting.

 

Kansas City Chiefs

What will Patrick Mahomes do for an encore, especially if Tyreek Hill isn't around?

We still have no idea if the NFL will punish Tyreek Hill for the child abuse scandal that has dragged on throughout the offseason. With the NFL, it's impossible to tell when a decision will be made. But if Hill is suspended or if the Chiefs decide he should no longer represent their organization, that would be a massive loss for Kansas City and the reigning NFL MVP. Yes, the Chiefs drafted Mecole Hardman out of Georgia and still have Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins, but the loss of Kareem Hunt -- who was released toward the end of last season -- and Hill would be hard for Andy Reid and Co. to regroup from.

If Hill enters the season on the team, there's every reason to expect Mahomes and KC to put up massive offensive numbers yet again.

Los Angeles Chargers

Can the Chargers maximize final years of Philip Rivers?

We're going to ignore Melvin Gordon's holdout because, unlike Le'Veon Bell a year ago, Gordon gains nothing by sitting out for an entire season. If the Wisconsin product chose to sit for the entire season, he would just have to play the fifth and final year of his rookie contract next season. So, I'm going to bet he's going to play.

On to the more pressing issue for the Chargers: time. Philip Rivers now is 37 years old and has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL over the past 10 seasons. But not everyone is Tom Brady, and eventually, Father Time will come for Rivers.

The Chargers have put a solid team around him, but were thoroughly steamrolled by Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round last year.

Heading into 2019, the Chargers once again are loaded with talent, especially if Gordon comes around. But they will need to figure out who will fill Tyrell Williams's role after he left for the Raiders in free agency, and they'll have to hope their linebacking corps can stay healthier than it was a season ago. There's also a question surrounding their offensive line, which fell off toward the end of 2018. Can 2017 first-round pick Forrest Lamp win a starting spot and live up to his promise?

The Bolts are loaded with talent but have some questions to answer, and are running out of years with Rivers playing at a high level to answer them.

[RELATED: Which AFC West rookie will have biggest impact in 2019-20?]

Denver Broncos

Is Joe Flacco still elite a starter?

Other than falling headfirst into Peyton Manning and a Super Bowl title, John Elway has been abysmal at finding quality signal-callers in the Mile High City.

 

Case Keenum wasn't the answer, so Elway decided to deal for the once-elite, always-elite Super Bowl champion Joe Flacco.

Flacco looked washed a season ago when he threw for just 2,496 yards and 12 touchdowns before going down with a right hip injury and subsequently losing his job to rookie Lamar Jackson.

The 34-year-old Flacco now will have to look over at second-round draft pick Drew Lock. While the Missouri product doesn't figure to overtake the veteran this season, if the Broncos struggle and fall out of the playoff discussion early, it wouldn't be surprising to see Lock take over.