AFC West Preview
How will the teams finish in the regular season?
1. San Diego Chargers – No more LT completes the shift of the Super Chargers from a run 1st team, to a passing team. This becomes a little more difficult because of an absence of Vincent Jackson, but the size of Malcolm Floyd will provide Phillip Rivers a great target. Now that TE’s are getting record contracts, Antonio Gates will be on a mission to prove he’s still #1. Ryan Matthews looks ready to shoulder the load at running back. The only question is the San Diego defense. A once feared pass rush has been absent as of late, and the DBs are suspect. The past 2 years the Chargers have been very inconsistent in the regular season, even being thought of as out of playoff contention. They can easily win out in this division however. (12-4)
2. Denver Broncos – Josh McDaniels is in his 2nd year as head coach and the questions about his direction of the team are still there. Last year he traded away pro bowl QB, Jay Cutler. This year it’s Brandon Marshall who he punted off the team. In the NFL draft, the Broncos traded up into the 1st round to take project QB Tim Tebow. They also traded for Brady Quinn to push for the starting QB job, but that didn’t pan out well. Injuries are actually the Broncos main crutch with their 3 running backs in the rotation all having missed time this preseason, and their 1st round WR choice Demaryius Thomas not seeing any playing time so far. Through this all Kyle Orton has been a consistant bright spot, so look for his leadership ability to keep Denver in games. (7-9)
3. Oakland Raiders – Is this the time for the Raiders to rise up? Maybe not, but they should be improved. They finally admit the mistake in JaMarcus Russell and bring in Jason Campbell from the Redskins. Campbell gives them more consistent QB play, and hopefully can take advantage of all the speed that owner Al Davis has placed on the outside at WR. Michael Bush looks to emerge as the top runner for them, with the disappointing McFadden being the change of pace back. This year on defense the Raiders plan to move Nnamdi Asomugha more, even using him to play defense on the slot receiver. This should help them eliminate the chance of teams game planning away from Asomugha. Although it’s possible that the Raiders make a real push for the Division title, it’ll be hard defeating teams that are on the cusp of the playoffs, such as Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins. (6-10)
4. Kansas City Chiefs – Still in rebuilding stages, the Chiefs add RB Thomas Jones to a budding run game led my emerging star, Jamaal Charles. They used their top ten pick in the NFL draft, to select Eric Berry. He will be the defensive leader for years to come, and adds a playmaker to the defensive side of the ball, which Chiefs fans of old are familiar with. The success of the Chiefs, however, should be on how well the passing game evolves. QB Matt Cassell has been up and done so far, and WR Dwayne Bowe has not been able to consistently stay out of Coach Todd Haley’s doghouse. These Chiefs should be more interesting to watch with Jamaal Charles and rookie RB/WR/etc Dexter McCluster. (5-11)
Who To Watch For?
San Diego Chargers – Shawne Merriman. They need him to back to his form where he gains Defensive MVP votes. A game changer on defense will be needed to help this high powered offense.
Denver Broncos – Knowshon Moreno. The run game will have to be strong for this offense to work. Moreno showed flashes of greatness last year, but has been hindered by injuries.
Oakland Raiders – Jason Campbell. His success will garner success for these young, speedy wideouts. It should also open up the Raiders run game.
Kansas City Cheifs – Jamaal Charles. He came on strong the end of the season. If he can carry over that success, the Chiefs will be competitive in each game. See Chris Johnson.
Don’t Be Surprised If He Plays Poorly…
San Diego Chargers –Antoine Cason. He has been a starter for this team, but with the departure of Antonio Cromartie, he is now being thrust into the #1 CB spot. The unestablished #1 WRs in his division should make the transition easier, but there is still a chance for him to falter with the extra pressure on him.
Denver Broncos – Tim Tebow. Its hard being a gadget player because each time you are on the field, you are expected to create a big play. Coming on the field for 5 plays and producing 4 yards will not cut it. Look for Tebow to force things, and turn the ball over.
Oakland Raiders – Darius Heyward-Bey. After another string of reports regarding a strong training camp performace, he has been non-existant in the preseason. Look for this disappointment to carry on into the regular season. Al Davis might have to admit another draft mistake.
Kansas City Chiefs – Dwayne Bowe. Last year Matt Cassel seemed to have a better chemistry throwing to Chris Chambers. This, mixed with Head coach Todd Haley’s lack of confidence in Bowe, could mean a bad season for the young WR.
Storyline Of The Year
Tim Tebow. Will he see the field this year? If so, how? It’ll be interesting to see how Josh Mcdaniels uses Tebows skill set and if it creates successful plays for the Broncos offense.