Training Camp Stories: AFC & NFC West

AFC and NFC Football

Training camp is almost underway, and 32 teams are preparing to enter the trenches and set the tone for the year. With new players, new coaches, and a new season underway, each NFL team carries a unique story, seeking questions to be answered in order to give themselves the best opportunity to hoist the Lombardi trophy at the end of the year. To prepare you for the upcoming season DISH will share training camp stories covering both AFC and NFC division, so you know important stories within each organization, plus where to access the latest football news on DISH. We start our series with the AFC and NFC West:

AFC West

Denver – From Craig Morten, to John Elway, to Peyton Manning, the Broncos have had the luxury of not only good, but great quarterback play and leadership. Denver has been one of the most consistent AFC West teams for the past two decades, but Denver has been has had subpar seasons since searching for a quarterback since the retirement of Manning and have had less than desirable results with former 7th round pick Trevor Siemian and former 1st round pick Paxton Lynch. But with a new season comes new hope and the Broncos are as hopeful as any with the signing of journeyman Case Keenum, whose late career resurgence lead Minnesota to one game from the Super Bowl. The Broncos have so much faith in Keenum, that they passed on using a top 5 draft pick on one in this year’s draft. Denver hopes that Keenum can continue his late career ascent as the new Rich Gannon and along with a top ten defense helmed by all world defensive player Miller and the addition of top draft pick Bradley Chubb, the Broncos hope to once again reach the top of AFC West.

Kansas City –This Andy Reid Chiefs lead the AFC West a year ago with dynamic offensive pieces in elite tight-end Travis Kelce and All-Pro Kareem Hunt, veteran quarterback Alex Smith and an Opportunistic defense lead by sack master Lamar Houston and cornerback. All eyes will be on Pat Mahomes as the Chiefs will roll out a new high-octane offense to combat the elite pass rushers in the AFC West. Mahomes is entering his second year in the league, and though inexperienced, will be called upon early to show veteran poise and decision making as the likes of Miller, Mack, Bosa, and others inevitably bear down on him. If he struggles early in the season, the Chiefs will struggle to regain ground in the division, but if Mahomes shows why the Chiefs believe in him enough to trade Alex Smith, then Kansas City could be looking at a repeat of last year’s first place finish.

Oakland – A true wild card in the AFC, the Raiders have the talent to rise to the top of the AFC but come in with a few question marks. Oakland is adjusting to a new coach in John Gruden, who hasn’t coached  since 2008, and new offensive pieces Jordy Nelson and Doug Martin.  Only time will tell if the Raiders completely retooled offense and a new head coach can be the missing parts of the puzzle to put together the top of the division finish many believe Oakland is capable of. Strong quarterback play from a now healthy Derrick Carr and consistency from favorite target Amari Cooper make the Raiders a dangerous team to face on Sundays, and with force of nature Khalil Mack on the defensive side of the ball wreaking havoc for an underrated defense, Oakland cannot be overlooked as a strong candidate to lead the AFC West by season’s end.

L.A. Chargers –The Los Angeles Chargers are a popular underdog pick to win the AFC Title this season. Philip Rivers looks comfortable as a quarterback again with the reemergence of the Chargers’ running game over the last couple of seasons. Melvin Gordon is the real deal and a perfect fit for the Chargers offense. Unfortunately, the past few years have seen the Chargers repeatedly face injuries to its receiving core, never allowing Rivers to play with a full deck for the whole season. The Chargers have already lost starting tight end Hunter Henry to an ACL injury early in the preseason. Luckily, talented receiver Keenan Allen is healthy after missing most of last season, and so is sophomore draft pick Mike Williams If the receiving corps can stay healthy for the season’s entirety, then then Chargers could have the runaway best offense in the AFC West.

NFC West

Seattle –  Coming into the 2018 season, the Seahawks are coming in looking like a different team than in the past couple years with new cast as many familiar faces have moved to new locations via trade or free agency. Still leading the offense and defense are franchise quarterback Russell Wilson and for the moment, all world safety Earl Thomas, though there have been whispers of a potential trade. Seattle has made some interesting offseason moves bringing in big veteran receiver Brandon Marshall and strongest-leg-in-the-game Sebastian Janikowski. Both players come with positives and question marks as additions. If these two players are able to contribute and the Seahawks get production from their young players especially draft picks corner Shaquill Griffin and running back Rashad Penny (replacing former Seattle stalwarts Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch), then Seattle can reestablish themselves as one of the more dangerous teams in the NFC.

San Francisco – There is a lot of buzz surround the bay area as San Francisco made waves last year by “getting their man” in franchise quarterback hopeful Jimmy Garoppolo. If things go the 49ers way, they will have their quarterback of the future and will continue to build around him, giving him offensive weapons like new additions Jerrick McKinnon in the running game and wide receiver Pierre Garcon to help the young QB with a sure handed receiver that excels at route running. With up-and-coming young coach Jay Gruden entering his second year with a good defense and re-tooled offense, San Francisco hopes to take a step forward in the West.

ArizonaArizona is team in transition, losing quarterback Carson Palmer to retirement, corner Tyrann Mathieu to free agency, and hall-of-fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald close to retirement, Arizona must rely on the legs and hands of running back David Johnson. Potentially capable of a 1,000 yard running and 1,000 yard receiving season, the Cardinals will need him to be more dynamic than ever after sitting out most of last year with a hand injury. With draft pick Josh Rosen taking the helm from Palmer, leaning on Johnson will be paramount as he develops. Holding down the defense are reliable corner Patrick Peterson and disrupting pass rusher Chandler Jones. If Arizona is going to compete for a top division spot, quarterback play and a consistent defense will be essential in the desert.

L.A. Ram – The Rams are in win now mode. Last year’s addition of coach Shaw McVay and the growth of Jared Goff help the Rams evolve into a dangerous team for anyone in the NFL. Already one the best defensive teams in the league, the Rams have gone all in as the most active players in off-season moves making moves with the additions of Aqib Talib, Brandon Cooks, Ndamukong Suh, and Marcus Peterson. This makes the Rams on paper one of the most complete teams in the league. But games aren’t won on paper, but on the field and the Rams hope the legs of Todd Gurley and arm of Goff can put the points up to support Wade Phillip’s dynamic defense, if this can be done, the Rams become the team to beat in the West and potentially all the NFC.

With DISH and the NFL, stay up on the latest NFL stories with coverage and news on ESPN and the NFL Network, (DISH channels 140 and 154 respectively) tune in and to get  current NFL info on your favorite team. Take all your training camp new on the road with DISH Anywhere and get access to all your live DISH content on your mobile device. Don’t forget to visit the team pages to get schedule and channel information on your favorite teams.