AFC West 2013 preview

AFC West:

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Until Peyton made the Broncos a Super Bowl contender last season, the AFC west had become a forgotten about division, with many casual fans struggling to even name all the teams within it. But with the hiring of Andy Reid in Kansas City, and improvements to their offensive line in San Diego, the Broncos may have to hold off on ordering t-shirts commemorating their undefeated division championship season. As for Raider Nation, the rebuilding continues and the only thing fans can hope for is to not join the 2008 Detroit Lions in NFL infamy.

Denver Broncos:

While the Las Vegas odds makers have made Denver a 6-1 favorite to win the Super Bowl, the NFL season is long and anything can happen, so I wouldn’t suggest the Bronco fans making hotel reservations in New York City just yet. Offensively this team is very dangerous, and Peyton Manning proved there were no lingering effects of the neck injury, passing for 4,659 yards 33 touchdowns, quarterback rating of 91.9 and making receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker household names in the process.

The team still went into the 2013 off-season looking to improve that side of the ball and did so by drafting running back Montee Ball of Wisconsin and signing receiver Wes Welker, formerly of the Patriots. The drafting of Ball will give the team more of a consistent running game, which it lacked with the duo of McGahee and Knowshon Moreno.

The two combined for a modest 1256 yards and 8 touchdowns, but only had three runs of 20+ yards.

Welker will be able to slide into that safety valve slot position and while his numbers will more than likely decline from the gaudy 118 catches and 1354 yards, his touchdowns, six, should increase.

The concern for this team is defensively and with the departure of Elvis Dumervil to Baltimore and the four game suspension of Von Miller– who will step up and lead on that side of the ball? While Miller received all the accolades for his 18.5 sacks last season, it was sixth year linebacker Wesley Woodyard who led the team in tackles (117) and tied for most interceptions (three).

Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will have to lean on the former Kentucky product and future hall of famer Champ Bailey to carry the defense until Miller returns.

To their benefit the first four games of the season: Baltimore, New York Giants, Oakland and Philadelphia are winnable, even without Miller, and should not sidetrack them from their quest for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs– which is key to them making the Super Bowl .

Kansas City Chiefs:

Coming off a season in which you go 2-14, there usually is not a lot of optimism, but after hiring Andy Reid and signing Alex Smith there is hope for a quick turnaround for this year Chiefs team. It is not like the team did not have talent– it sent six players on the roster to Honolulu to play in the Pro Bowl:  safety Eric Berry, defensive end Tamba Hali, running back Jamal Charles, line backers Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson and punter Dustin Colquitt.

Add to that list of all star players: receivers Dewayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster , offensive lineman Brenden Albert and corner back  Brandon Carr and you are left wondering why they did not have more wins at the end of the season.

The issue was at the quarterback… 2012 season saw Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn spend time at the position but neither had much success when in the game.  The two combined to pass for 2,937 yards with 8 touchdowns and 20 interceptions which essentially negated a successful season from Charles in which he ran for 1509 yards and five touchdowns.

By bringing in Alex Smith, the Chiefs have someone leading the team who is steady and efficient… and while he won’t win you many games, he wont lose any for you either.  

Oakland Raiders:

“Commitment to Excellence”

That was a phrase that is the mantra for what used to be a proud organization and is looking for anything to give its loyal fans in “Raider Nation” something to cheer about. Coach Dennis Allen is in for a long season when you consider the only positive thing that came out of the 2013 off-season was the return of defensive back Charles Woodson to the team that drafted him with the fourth pick in the 1998 draft, and while Woodson went on to have a great career after being up and down during his first stint with the Raiders, he is far from the player that was Defensive Player of the Year in 2009.

Hoping they can find their own lightening in a bottle at the quarterback position the team named former Ohio State Buckeye Terrelle Pryor their opening day quarterback; and while he share the ability to be mobile and elusive like fellow Bay Area quarterback Colin Kaepernick, he does not have the same accuracy or position IQ, which could be very detrimental in an offense that has a bunch of unknowns at wide receiver and a fragile running back.

And then to make things worse their leading receiver, tight end Brandon Meyers is now with the New York Giants and whomever the quarterback is, because Pryor will not last the entire season, will have to hope that running back Darren McFadden’s tape and glue job is good enough to keep him off the training table so he can have this “fantastic” season that he says he owes the Raiders Up until this point in his career, the sixth year man out of Arkansas has left fans hoping for more, but he has averaged only 153.8 carries for 666.80 yards in the 11.4 games over the five seasons in the NFL—thus making it hard for anyone to believe that the lofty proclamation will come to pass.

San Diego Chargers:

It really does not seem like its been three years since the Chargers have made the playoffs, and because of that long post-season layoff for a team that was once an annual Super Bowl contender, both General Manager A.J. Smith and Head Coach Norv Turner were relieved of their duties and replaced by Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy.

The shuffling in personnel did not stop there, there is a great roster transition as well — tossing out the old and seeing what the new can offer. Youngsters: Brandon Taylor, Kendell Reyes, Cam Thomas, Shareese Wright, and Manti Te’o  all are expected to take on bigger roles in John Pagano defense, which could cause some short term growing pains but better in the future.

With the transition on the defense, many have to wonder where does this leave quarterback Phillip Rivers who is entering his tenth season in the league. Once considered a top 10  quarterback, he is now regulated to being a fantasy football back up that struggled in 2012 after the departure of his primary weapon Vincent Jackson.There was a 1,018 yard decrease in passing yards from 2011 to 2012 even though he only had 28 less completions.

 With the selection of Keenan Allen of Cal in the third round of the 2013 draft and the return of Vincent Brown from an ankle injury, these receivers should help spark an offense that slid 20th in points scored after being in the top five for eight consecutive seasons.

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