Wednesday, 2 September 2009

AFC West Predictions

In 2009, the AFC West was the worst division in football. The San Diego Chargers were 4-8 after 12 games, but they wound up winning the division, going 8-8 and beating the Denver Broncos in a tiebreaker. After those two, the Oakland Raiders were 5-11 and the Kansas City Chiefs were a woeful 2-14. The prospects for this season don't appear the be a lot better.

It seems clear that the San Diego Chargers are the class of the division. They have the talent on both sides of the ball to run away with things. With Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles, and Antonio Gates, they have plenty of playmakers to score points. Defensively, the return of Shawne Merriman should boost the defense back to being as good as it was 2 years ago. In the worst division in football, the Chargers could win it by 4+ games.

After that, the order is anyone's guess. I like the Kansas City Chiefs to finish 2nd, but there are still a lot of problems. They will be working in a new GM, new head coach, and new quarterback. Todd Haley will try to jumpstart things, but it won't be easy. They will have to hope that Matt Cassel continues to progress after coming over from New England. However, he will have a shortage of playmakers, and will have to find Dwayne Bowe early and often. Defensively, they were terrible last year and don't seem to have made a lot of improvements. They need to get better against the run, and they hope their core of young draft picks along the defensive line will mature.

The Denver Broncos will look to finish 3rd, but they face significant challenges. They have a new head coach in Josh McDaniels, and he has made some roster overhauls. Most significantly is at QB, where Kyle Orton replaces Jay Cutler. He might have to do so without his top receiver, as Brandon Marshall has been suspended for at least the rest of the preseason. The defense also figures to struggle... they were very bad last season and did not make a lot of upgrades.

The Oakland Raiders figure to be a mediocre team once again. Their turmoil starts at the top, as head coach Tom Cable was accused of punching an assistant coach during the preseason. There is also uncertainty at the quarterback position, as JaMarcus Russell has yet to establish himself as a legitimate starter. He should get some help from the running game, as Darren McFadden looks ready to breakout, but they will need him to turn into a franchise QB if they are going to have any success.

So the Chargers look like the class of the AFC West, but it will be a dogfight after that. On paper, the division doesn't appear to be much better than it was in 2008, when it was the worst division in football, but we will just have to see how things play out.