Monday, August 11, 2008

2008 NFL Preview - AFC West

1. San Diego Chargers (11-5 in 2007)
The last we left the Norv Turner led San Diego Chargers, they were flailing away haplessly against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. The game was best remembered for the heroic actions of QB Phillip Rivers playing on one leg and Superstar RB LaDanian Tomlinson on the bench and not heroically playing on one leg.
A look at this year's team shows very little has changed from last year. They are still a strong contender with a douchey QB and a bad coach. A lot of this teams success depends on the health of their stars. Everything I've read says Rivers is doing well but I have my doubts that he'll be able to be as effective as he was at the end of last season. LDT also has questions hanging over his head. How is his knee with all the mileage he put on it and is he tough enough to carry the load when it counts? Maybe trading Turner was a bad idea! Antonio Gates foot issues were also a big loss for them at the end of last season. If he is healthy, he changes the dynamic of the offense. If he is hurt forget it. A full season with Chris Chambers along with a healthy Gates give the Chargers a legit passing game. With all that said this team is head and shoulders above the rest of the division and possibly the most all-around talented team in the NFL....the 2nd easiest schedule in the league doesn't hurt either!

They started 1-3 last year and still managed to win the division by 4 games. In any other division I'd have more concerns but I think the Bolts are fine in the AFC West this year.

Predicted Finish: 12-4

2. Denver Broncos (7-9 in 2007)
The Bronco's were retooling last year and have a good young nucleus back for this season. Cutler knows that he's diabetic now, and knows how to deal with it. You would think he would have a better year. Psychotic WR Brandon Marshall is suspended 3 games but I think should still put up good numbers this season, but obviously the team would fair better with him for the whole year. The problem is that the run defense collapsed overnight. Denver went from 12th against the run in 2006 to 30th in 2007. The Broncos really haven’t done anything to fix that problem. In a division with Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, and Darren McFadden, that is a risky proposition. All the teams in this division would love nothing more than to stay committed to the running game.

I think the Broncos will compete with the Browns and Titans for the final playoff spot. I think Cutler, Marshall, and Young will all have nice years. I also think the Broncos have too many issues with their running game. I look for the Broncos to better their 2007 record, but miss the playoffs by a game to the Browns. The Browns’ defense is nothing to write home about, but their offense is a lot more explosive.

Predicted Finish: 8-8

3. Oakland Raiders (4-12 in 2007)
Things are getting better for Oakland. They are getting a young nucleus of players on offense and are starting to bring some talent in on defense. The Raiders and Jets were the most active teams in free agency and fans are going to be excited that a winning season is near.
They still have a few problems. San Diego has a young nucleus in place and is not ready to surrender the division to Oakland. Denver also has a young nucleus on offense and while they have their own troubles on defense, they have better receivers, offensive line, and secondary. It is going to be hard for the Raiders to break through that in 2008.

The Raiders have a few pieces to the puzzle on both offense and defense and I think you can expect to see it take shape a little more. The hardest thing to find is the quarterback. The Chiefs don’t look like they have found their quarterback, which is worse than the Raiders who are still determining if they have found theirs. As it stands right now, though, they will play teams competitively, probably win some games against the likes of Baltimore, Kansas City, Miami, NY Jets, Buffalo, Atlanta. They're on the upswing!

Predicted Finish: 6-10

4. Kansas City Chiefs (4-12 in 2007)
I thought the Chiefs had a great draft. In my opinion, it was the best in the NFL. That said, I also maintain the Colts and Patriots could have had the best draft in the NFL had they traded Brady or Manning. The only reason the Chiefs had the best draft is they traded their best player in Jared Allen. While that may turn out to be a great move for the future, it doesn’t necessarily translate into winning a lot of games the following year.

The Chiefs just don’t have a lot of good things going for them now. They used to have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. They don’t anymore! Johnson used to be the second best back in football. He is barely a top 10 back right now. Croyle and Huard are below average quarterbacks. The defense is rebuilding. This is a team in transition.

I look for Gonzalez and Bowe to have good seasons. I think Johnson will have a rebound year (1,000 to 1,100 yards and 7-9 touchdowns). However, what gains they make on offense are going to be offset by a rebuilding defense that lost its best player. This is a 3-win team in my opinion. However, the lack of strength in their division and their relatively easy schedule should get them to five wins.

Predicted Finish: 5-11

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