AFC West Predictions
After the embarrassment that Peyton exhibited in the Super Bowl, he intends to seek revenge to the fullest. After breaking records last season, building the most prolific offense of all time, Manning failed to put up double digits in a championship dismantle. San Diego gave the Broncos trouble in both meetings and in the playoffs being one of the only teams to solve the puzzle that is Peyton Manning. Is Philip Rivers capable of leading a team deep in the playoffs? Andy Reid’s KC Chiefs made a huge splash going on a half season winning streak which came to a harsh end by the hands of Andrew Luck in the divisional round of the playoffs. Will Jamaal Charles be enough to carry the load of this team? The Raiders have been a model of atrocity for Oakland fans. Dennis Allen will attempt to manifest some old veterans on both sides of the ball to put out a decent football club on the field. How long will Matt Schaub be the starter for this group?
Denver Broncos (14-2)
Perfection; at this point that is all that Peyton desires, at 16-0 season followed by a second super bowl would be enough for him to hang up the cleats. Despite the success of this roster over the past few seasons, John Fox and Elway performed a major overhaul shipping out Eric Decker, Knowshon Moreno, and adding Emmanuel Sanders, Demarcus Ware, and Aqib Talib. The only aspect of the team that may have declined is special teams. Montee Ball now assumes primary ball carrying responsibilities in the most prolific offense in NFL history. The key to ending up in Arizona in early February will be the team’s defensive grit.
San Diego Chargers (10-6)
Last year, San Diego gave Denver all it could handle--expect no difference this season. Philip River’s two favorite weapons (not named Antonio Gates) continue to get better and add a year of experience. The defense is two deep at every position, and may have one of the fastest defensive fronts, which will be needed to compete in a division with Peyton Manning. Their ability to apply pressure to the QB will foreshadow the length of their Super Bowl run. Brandon Flowers comes over from Kansas City and not only provides depth to the secondary but has an edge on other offenses in the division. They drafted two elite collegiate defensive backs in Jason Verrett and Chris Davis, who expect to contribute this season. It is as simple as this, the Chargers go as far as Philip Rivers takes them.
Oakland Raiders (8-8)
Oakland has the opportunity to finally enter back into relevance. They have announced that they will be starting rookie QB Derek Carr, who has shown much more promise and poise than his brother did with the Houston Texans in his preseason debut. Derek has a lot more around him than his brother did over a decade ago. This Raiders offense for the first time features two legitimate starting running backs in Maurice-Jones Drew and Darren McFadden. Although many claim McFadden to be a bust, he has proven to be effective when healthy and touted over a 5 yards per carry average twice in his career. The defensive unit is old and lethargic and looks like a group you would see playing NFL bingo rather than defense. With Justin Tuck, Lamar Woodley, Charles Woodson, and Antonio Smith if they can somehow get opposing offenses off the field they may have a glimmer of hope this year. But chances are this is just phase two of a rebuilding franchise.
Kansas City Chiefs (5-11)
I can confidently say that despite Alex Smith’s contract extension, I do not imagine the Chiefs winning more than 6 games max in the AFC West this year. The catalyst to the entire team last year was the production from Jamaal Charles. But with the loss of Pro Bowl tackle Brandon Albert (Dolphins) and the make-shift changes that Andy Reid has had to apply to the offensive line do not expect the same amount of success from the run game. Dwayne Bowe has not solidified himself as a clear #1 wideout in the NFL. He has shown flashes of potential, but from a consistency and statistical standpoint his stats mirror the average number two wideout on a team. Defensively, the line remains in tact, but the secondary has seen changes from the departure of veteran Brandon Flowers. The Chiefs winning streak was as durable as it was due to the way they were winning, which was on the ground. By not allowing teams to be successful in their aerial attack, Andy could ground and pound the clock away winning multiple lower scoring games. With questions on the offensive line and the secondary expect the Chiefs to take a small step back and mimic their former Kansas City selves.
Keenan Allen; He immediately rose from the darkness of the San Diego depth chart last year and emerged as not only the most impactful receiver but the most consistent. He was successful in stretching the field, he was successful in the red zone, and his 8 touchdown receptions led all rookies. Not to mention he is only the 5th rookie since 2000 to have over 1,000 yards receiving. If Ladarius Green can pick up where he left off, Keenan will see a number of single, man to man coverages and Philip Rivers will have no choice but to make this guy a pro bowl receiver.
The linebacker from Buffalo has had a decent preseason. He picked off Aaron Rodgers, and that alone is a tall task that many have not been able to accomplish, even the better veterans in the league. The message sent here is Kahlil will be a terror all over the field. He has the potential to be that rare hybrid of pass and run defending linebackers. He will help in the creation of a young, athletic core of linebackers, mixed with a veteran defensive line. If Justin Tuck and Woodley can keep lineman off of the second level, Mack should flourish under Dennis Allen. Depending on how quickly Mack comprehends the NFL game, will determine how fast the Raiders rise to relevance in the thick AFC West.
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