AFC West Q&A: Can Marshawn Lynch tilt the balance of power to the Raiders?

Lynch to potentially make millions on incentives (1:51)

Dan Graziano breaks down Oakland's incentive-heavy contract with RB Marshawn Lynch that satisfies both sides. (1:51)

Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement for an Oakland homecoming, landing the veteran in a new conference and division. While he needs to replicate what Latavius Murray did for Oakland last season -- 877 rushing yards, 4.0 yards per carry, 33 catches for 264 yards, 14 games -- Lynch probably does not have to rack up 12 rushing touchdowns, as Murray did last year.

Derek Carr’s career trajectory suggests another major uptick, two-time Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper figures to be better with another year of experience, and Jared Cook is a major upgrade at tight end. Oh yeah, the offensive line is one of the more dominant units in the game. Just by suiting up, Lynch makes the Raiders' offense more physical, even if he took last year off.

How full does Lynch’s tank have to be to tilt the balance of power in the AFC West toward the Raiders?

Jeff Legwold, Denver Broncos reporter: To live up to the Raiders' expectations, Lynch will have to defy past trends. History has not been all that kind to 30-something running backs, and Lynch turned 31 on April 22. In almost a century of doing business, the number of NFL running backs who've rushed for even 1,000 yards after they turned 30 hasn’t yet reached 50. Running backs peak at 27 years old; on average, their rushing totals drop by 15 percent one year after, 25 percent in year two and almost 40 percent by the time the backs turn 30, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Lynch didn't play in 2016 after suiting up for just seven games in 2015, and hasn’t had a 150-carry season since 2014. At his best, Lynch is a powerful point-of-attack runner. He had four consecutive seasons of at least 1,416 yards from scrimmage from 2011-14. Perhaps he’s healthy enough to have a season like 31-year-old Curtis Martin had in 2004 (1,697 yards rushing) or Tiki Barber in 2006 (1,662 yards). If he does, Lynch could move the Raiders’ offense into elite territory. However, it’s far more likely he'll be a situational player who has his touches monitored to maximize efficiency and impact.

Adam Teicher, Kansas City Chiefs reporter: Oakland’s Beast Mode experiment is a boom-or-bust proposition. If he’s the same back he was during the prime of his career, he will make a difference in the AFC West. Despite sharing the same record, the Raiders wound up losing the division title to the Chiefs last year because Kansas City swept their two-game series. The Raiders, one of the NFL’s highest scoring teams at 26 points per game, didn’t combine for 26 in their games against the Chiefs. For what it’s worth, the Chiefs had trouble slowing down Lynch the last time they played against him. Then a member of the Seattle Seahawks, Lynch rushed for 124 yards on 24 carries. That was three years ago, however, and after one down season and another out of football, Lynch is 31. Lynch has the potential to drag Oakland’s offense down: If he isn’t at least what Murray was as Oakland’s primary featured back last season, the Lynch experiment will be a bust.

Eric Williams, Los Angeles Chargers reporter: Lynch only knows one way to play, and that’s at full throttle. After he announced his retirement from the NFL and sat out for a full season, it will be interesting to see if Lynch can get back to the style of play that made him one of the most feared and hardest-to-tackle running backs in the league. “The mentality that it takes to play this game the way he plays it, he has to really be invested and ready,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said about the 31-year-old Lynch. “He goes deep when he plays. Whether or not that’s still in and burns within him, I couldn’t tell that.” If Lynch returns to Beast Mode, then the Raiders will be tough to contain in the AFC West. If the Cal product is a shell of his former self, then Lynch’s signing could set the Raiders back in the franchise’s quest to return to the Super Bowl. I tend to believe Lynch will regain his Pro Bowl form, but we’ll find out either way during the first four regular-season games.