With football season only a few weeks away, it is time to survey the NFL landscape and start throwing out some Nostradamus-like predictions for the upcoming season. A lot has changed in many divisions this year. Some teams are on the rise, while others appear to be on the decline. The AFC West is no exception. So without further ado, let's take a look at what might go down in that division. I know D Billz has been waiting very patiently.
The Chargers have been the class of the AFC West for many years now. The Broncos have challenged but ultimately fallen short for several years, and the Chiefs and Raiders have been nothing to write home about. This year I see the gap narrowing, but I still see that Chargers taking the division. With the departure of Ladainian Tomlinson, the Chargers are now Phil Rivers' team. I see him taking total control of this team and changing their identity for the better.
1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
You would think that a team that lost LT and Antonio Cromartie would take a big step back the next season. I don't see it that way. With LT out, Ryan Matthews in, and Phil Rivers now the undisputed leader of the team, I think the Chargers will be better off. Say what you will about Phil Rivers, but he is one tough SOB. He may be a huge butthead, but his character is a welcome change from the character of the man who recently left for the Jets. LT's lasting image in San Diego will be one of total disinterest when his team needed him the most. You can bet Phil Rivers won't let that happen on his watch.
I don't think the loss of LT or the Vincent Jackson holdout will hurt the Chargers as much as anyone thinks. Ryan Matthews is ready to make a huge impact at running back right away, and the Chargers will get by with Malcolm Floyd as their #1 wide receiver. Moreover, their defense is solid enough to get by without Antonio Cromartie and his mounting child support payments. Look for the Chargers to come back to the pack in the AFC West a little bit, but still go about 10-6 and win this rather weak division.
2. OAKLAND RAIDERS
D Money's die hard support for the Raiders is starting to pay off. They may not win the West this year, but they are moving in the right direction. The JaMarcus Russell experiment is over and the Raiders appear to have found themselves a decent replacement in Jason Campbell. This move improves their offense right away as it gives their passing game some semblance of credibility. The names Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy might not strike fear into the hearts of many, but they might do just enough to take all the defensive focus off the running game. This will help Darren McFadden and Michael Bush immensely.
On defense, the Raiders will continue to be solid. They have a stout line and a solid secondary. Look for the Raiders to creep up to 8-8 or 9-7 this year. Enjoy, D Money.
3. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
The Chefs are moving in the right direction as well. They have loaded up on defensive talent over the past few years, and have found some good offensive players in guys like Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles, Matt Cassel and Chris Chambers. Moreover, the addition of Thomas Jones will help the team in the red zone.
On defense, it appears as if safety Eric Berry is going to be the next great defensive player, and the defensive line is stacked with first round talent. Now they just have to live up to their talents. Look for this team to make good progress this year and maybe finish around 7-9.
4. DENVER BRONCOS
Last year, I was taken aback by the Broncos 6-0 start. I predicted them to be one of the worst teams in the league, and I couldn't understand how they were winning games. My original suspicion was finally confirmed by their 2-8 finish, but clearly Josh McDaniels wasn't as stupid as I thought he was. This year, I expect them to finish worse than they did last year though. The loss of Brandon Marshall totally destroys their offense. Now, Kyle "fuckface" Orton has no one to throw to, and defenses will put more pressure on the running game.
On defense the Broncs still have stud Champ Bailey, but have lost their best pass rusher in Elvis Dumervil for possibly the whole season. Moreover, Brian Dawkins is prone to getting burned on deep routes in his old age. Look for the Broncos to play more like the 2-8 Broncos from 2010 than the 6-0 variety that started the season. I see them going 5-11 and ushering in the Tebow dynasty about halfway through the season.
Though the Chargers lost some key pieces from last year's 13-3 team, I still like them to win the AFC East. Other teams are certainly on their way up, but they just do not have the talent to compete with the Chargers yet. Phil Rivers is now the face of the Chargers franchise, and he is expected to get them to the Super Bowl. If he can't do it soon, there are a few teams in his rear view mirror in the AFC West that might keep him from ever getting that far again in the near future.