The AFC West appears wide open this season with four teams that all feel they have something to prove. The Chargers remain the best team in the division, but there are three other teams hungry to get past them to the top:
San Diego (10-6) – Last season the Chargers went on a huge run to win the division after a rough start, and seemed poised to play the Colts in the AFC Title game. Then they ran into the Jets, and they bottomed out in the playoffs.
San Diego made some interesting offseason moves, the biggest at the RB spot as they drafted Ryan Mathews in the first round, and he is expected to be the starter this season in front of Darren Sproles. They also are dealing with two holdouts in WR Vincent Jackson and LT Marcus McNeill.
Look for the Chargers to once again be the best in the division, as Philip Rivers is a top 5 QB, and the roster is still talented enough to win 9-11 games. Their test will be in January to see if they can overcome playoff demons of the past.
Denver (7-9) – Last season the Broncos with new coach Josh McDaniels were the talk of the NFL when they won their first 6 games. Then they dropped 7 of their last 9 and missed the playoffs, and plenty of long term questions popped up.
First the team parted ways with unhappy WR Brandon Marshall, who they sent to Miami for a 2nd round pick. Then they drafted not ready QB Tim Tebow in the first round, and he will be a project his first season in the league.
The team needs to be more consistent on offense, and while Kyle Orton is no Tom Brady, he is perfect for leading a young team. On defense the team got a huge year from Elvis Dumervil with 17 sacks, and he is a happy man with a new fat deal.
Bottom line though is this team is not talented enough to make a serious run in the AFC, and while they can win some games against lesser teams, they are not going to be able to push past 7 wins.
Oakland (6-10) – The Raiders finally cut ties with overweight QB JaMarcus Russell, and will give the ball to former Redskin QB Jason Campbell to start the season. They need to figure out the RB spot and if Darren McFadden is the real deal, or should Michael Bush get 15-20 carries a game.
On defense, they are still known to give up big plays and make bad mistakes, and with the same coaching scheme and guys in place, the team will still commit too many penalties and make game-changing errors that usually stop Raider teams from being very good.
Look for them to win 6 games, and be in more games but not have the ability top better teams in the league and still be the same old Raiders.
Kansas City (4-12) – Another team that needs to get more talent on both sides of the ball. They have a solid QB in Matt Cassel, and went out and got a 1400 yard rusher in Thomas Jones to go side-by-side with Jammal Charles, but have a serious void of playmakers on defense.
They got former Browns head coach Romeo Crennel to run the show there, and also drafted Eric Berry to make plays in the secondary. This team still looks like they are about 2 years away from being in any type of shape to make a run at the top spot in the division.