COMMENTARY | The AFC West will be one of the most interesting divisions once again, but it’s not because of quarterback Tim Tebow, who is now a New York Jet. Peyton Manning is going to be making headlines in Denver this season and with an impressive defense and an offense that has tons of potential. Don’t be surprised if the Broncos are back in the playoffs. As for the other teams, consistency issues and quarterback troubles will make it hard for them to compete.
Denver Broncos– Last season this team just barely made the playoffs, but they knocked the Steelers out in the first round in an impressive overtime victory. This Broncos defense is very good and D.J. Williams and Von Miller are superb run stoppers and Elvis Dumervil anchors a fairly good line. The only hole they have is at defensive tackle since Bunkley signed with the Saints. Although the secondary is aging Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins are experienced veterans who are tough and reliable. The addition of Peyton Manning really separates this team from the other teams in the division. Although Denver doesn’t have any elite receivers Manning will make them look much better than they actually are, provided he’s healthy. The running game is also solid but don’t expect another season of over 2,000 rushing yards, a league high, because Tim Tebow accounted for nearly 700 of those yards and he’s no longer on this team. In the draft look for the Broncos to try and get some more targets for Peyton Manning. Stephen Hill looks to be a promising option and the Broncos would love to add him.
San Diego Chargers– This team continues to baffle me. Every year they have more than enough talent to get to the playoffs and every year they end up having an average season, they lose games they should win, and they miss the playoffs. Philip Rivers will need to step up big time to get this team to the playoffs. Ryan Matthews leads a good running game, however the loss of Vincent Jackson will be felt. Eddie Royal is not even close to being as good as Jackson was and just isn’t the same kind of deep threat. Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates need to be productive in order for this passing attack to be successful and Rivers can’t throw twenty picks again. You turn the ball over that much and your going to lose games. Defensively this team has talent everywhere, players just need to step up when it counts. This team had nice wins over the Ravens and the Broncos at the end of the season, but consistency is going to be the key here. In the draft the Chargers will probably address the defensive line since only Cam Thomas had over three sacks. I think Philip Rivers will have a much better season than last year, but the Broncos are still the top team in this division.
Oakland Raiders– The fate of this team rests in the hands of Carson Palmer. That’s a pretty big responsibility to have, but I think Palmer will have a much better season than last year. He got rushed into the starting position and he looked exactly like a guy that went from sitting on the couch to playing NFL football. He will be in much better shape this season and provided that Darren McFadden is healthy this offense is going to be good. Heyward-Bey looked legit last season and Denarius Moore is another solid target. Adding some depth at the receiver position would be a huge help for Palmer. The defense is this team’s biggest weakness by far. It’s hard to win games when your allowing nearly 30 points a game. The Raiders ranked almost dead last in nearly every defensive category last season and since they don’t have many draft picks they will have to rely heavily on free agents to strengthen this unit. The signing of former Colts player Philip Wheeler gives the team a solid linebacker, but there are issues at nearly every other position and the team really needs help on the defensive line. Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly are strong players, but they can’t be the only guys in the rotation. Cornerback Ron Bartell should provide some help to Branch in the secondary. I think the team has some young guys with a lot of potential, but that potential needs to be realized if this team wants to have a chance at making the playoffs.
Kansas City Chiefs– The Chiefs’ biggest problem is that they can’t score and that’s why they will have a hard time winning games, let alone their division. This team averaged just 13.2 (NFL.com) points per game last season. That’s not even two touchdowns. Why can’t they score you ask? Well this offense just doesn’t have many weapons. This year the offense will be relying on Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles to carry the offense. It doesn’t really matter if Cassel or Orton starts their both about the same. Free agents Kevin Boss and Peyton Hillis add some depth to the offense and should help to improve the passing and running game. The offensive line needs some help as well so adding Eric Winston was an excellent move. He’s a tough and reliable player and adding another lineman through the draft like David DeCastro out of Stanford could really make a big impact on this team. The defense is much better than the offense. The secondary was excellent last year and Brandon Flowers has really emerged as one of the leagues best cornerbacks. Cornerback Stanford Routt was also a nice free agency pickup and with the return of Eric Berry this secondary should be just as good if not better than last season. If this team can avoid injuries they might actually be pretty decent, but they still have to add more talent on offense and start scoring more if they hope to contend. With a schedule as tough as the one the Chiefs have it’s unlikely though that they will even get to 8-8.