The AFC West was the worst division in football by far last year, with the Chargers, Raiders, and Chiefs all finishing below .500. The only bright spot was the Denver Broncos who easily cruised to a division title and went 6-0 in the division. This year the division will be improved as I project two teams will finish above .500.
Denver Broncos 13-3
The Denver Broncos have had quite a roller coaster off season with the bright spot being the addition of Wes Welker from the New England Patriots. This addition will give the Broncos the best receiving core in football to go along with one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history in Peyton Manning. The dark spots were the executives who were arrested for DUI’s and star defender Von Miller being suspended for the first four games of the season. While Von Miller is a vital piece of this defense and the Broncos will need his pass rush if they want to contend for the super bowl, they will more than survive his absence as I have the Broncos going 3-1 without him. For the entire season I have the Broncos matching their record from last year and going 13-3 again and winning the AFC West for a second straight year. The offensive attack will be too much for other teams and the defense will make enough stops. I have the Broncos going 8-0 at home with their only losses being at the New York Giants, at the Indianapolis Colts, and at the Kansas City Chiefs. All in all I have the Broncos penciled in with home field advantage in the AFC title game and going on to play in Super Bowl 48.
Kansas City Chiefs 9-7
The Chiefs will have the biggest turnaround of any team in the NFL this year. That isn’t saying much though as they finished last season 2-14. I have the Chiefs finishing 9-7 battling for a wild card spot. The addition of Alex Smith cannot be understated. While I do not believe he is a top ten quarterback in the league I do have him somewhere in the mid-teens which would put him about twenty spots or so ahead of Matt Cassel. A drastic improvement at the most important position in sports should be enough but the Chiefs also made major upgrades all over the organization. It started with hiring John Dorsey away from the Green Bay Packers and then Dorsey hiring Andy Reid from the Philadelphia Eagles. All either of those two have done is be major parts of organizations that win and win a lot. The Chiefs also drafted Eric Fisher giving them one of the best tackle combos with Brandon Albert. Having two athletic tackles stretch blocking for a speedy Jamaal Charles will be a welcome site and will take a lot of pressure off of Alex Smith and Dwayne Bowe. All in all the Chiefs will have a chance to make the playoffs in week seventeen when they go to San Diego. I have the Chiefs losing but if they can pull off that win the Chiefs will go from worst in the league to the playoffs just like the Colts did last year.
San Diego Chargers 5-11
If Chargers fans though last year was rough then they will not like what they will see this year. Last year we saw Phillip Rivers continually hit the ground as the Chargers offensive line could not stop anyone. This led to frustration with Rivers and poor play. This year will be more of the same. The Chargers made some slight upgrades through the draft at the offensive line but the Chargers still lack the weapons to scare anyone from blitzing them. Malcom Floyd is a nice receiver but the Chargers are thin at that position. Antonio Gates is getting slower on a daily basis and Ryan Matthews struggles to hold onto the ball. I have the Chargers finishing 5-11. I had them finishing 4-12 initially but Rivers is just too good to lose that many games. If Rivers’ body doesn’t hold up through the season then the Chargers could be a last place team.
Oakland Raiders 3-13
It seems like a long time ago when Rich Gannon led the Raiders to super bowl 37. Since then the Raiders have been awful, and that trend will continue this year. The Raiders did well in the draft as I am a big fan of DJ Hayden from Houston but other than that the Raiders big addition is a solid backup quarterback in Matt Flynn. Matt Flynn is the second coming of Matt Cassel. He had a big game for the Packers two years ago and now many teams think he is ready to be an NFL starter. The problem is he doesn’t have a very strong arm and that is a problem since the Raiders have always wanted to run a vertical passing scheme. The only chance the Raider have at mediocrity is if Darren McFadden puts up career numbers and stays healthy enough to start all sixteen games. I don’t see that happening or Matt Flynn making a big difference so I have the Raiders finishing 3-13. Good news though Raiders fans, the Jaguars will still finish lower than you.