AFC West preview:
We begin our division-by-division NFL Previews in the AFC West, one that ranges from one of the best teams (the Denver Broncos) to potentially one of the worst teams (your Oakland Raiders). So let’s take a look:
Denver Broncos finished last year 13-3 and were a Rahim Moore brain-fart away from the AFC Championship Game. This offseason they poached Wes Welker from the Pats to add to Peyton’s toy box on offense.
San Diego Chargers went 7-9 last year and finally ditched head coach Norv Turner and their GM too. They brought in Denver OC as head coach Mike McCoy to help get Phillip Rivers back on track.
Oakland Raiders, still reeling from the last days of Al Davis, were 4-12 last season and continued their Salary Cap Purge. Gone is old man Carson Palmer and in is under-whelming Matt Flynn at QB.
The Kansas City Chiefs pooped the bed at 2-14 and administered an enema throughout the organization. A new coach in Andy Reid and new QB Alex Smith has Chiefs fans optimistic.
Peyton Manning returned from a year off after 4 neck surgeries to lead the Broncos to a 13-3 season. Denver had the #4 Offense and # 2 Defense last year, but a disappointing finish to their 2012 campaign had them looking for more. On Offense they added All-Pro slot receiverWes Welker to combine with two 1000 yard receivers from last year in Demaryus Thomas and Eric Decker. The Broncos cut leading rusher Willis McGahee and drafted Montee Ball from Wisconsin in the 2nd Round to be a 3 down back. They also bolstered their O-Line, adding Guard Robert Garza in free agency.
On Defense, the biggest question is how the Broncos will overcome the "Faxgate" loss of Elvis Dumervil. Robert Ayers will have to step up to replace the loss of 11 sacks that Elvis had last year. Ayers only had 2 sacks as a part time player a season ago. Of course they have the great Von Miller who led the team with 18.5 sacks last year. The secondary is also a question mark with the aging Champ Bailey on the downside of his career. The Broncos did add Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Quintin Jammer in Free Agency & used a 3rd round pick on CB Kayvon Webster out of South Florida.
They are the AFC Vegas Favorites with an 11.5 Over/under for total wins and 6-1 odds of getting to the Super Bowl. This team has many players that will go high in Fantasy Football Drafts, but I would stay away from using a high pick on Eric Decker as his numbers will likely come down from 85 catches & 13 TDs due to the addition of Wes Welker.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs had a dreadful season last year going 2-14 which made ownership wipe the slate clean. They hired Andy Reid and his moustache out of Philadelphia to right the ship and wear Hawaiian shirts. His first move was to trade for Alex Smith from San Francisco to hopefully solve their QB problem. The Chiefs organization has not drafted a first round quarterback since Todd Blackledge in 1983, and Alex Smith continues their streak. They were dead last in the NFL in passing yds and TDs last season behind the dynamic duo of Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. You won’t win very many games with those kind of stats. They resigned Dwayne Bowe to a long term deal and are hoping to finally get something out of knucklehead former1st Round pick Jon Baldwin. They placed the Franchise Tag on Brandon Albert and tried to trade him all offseason and did not find a deal they liked. In a head scratching move they used the 1st overall pick on Tackle Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan, who will play Right Tackle this year but should slide to the left side if Albert departs after this season. If they extend Albert to a long term deal, the Fisher pick is awful. A 2-14 team needs playmakers not a right tackle with the #1 overall pick. Of course they do have one of the best running backs in the game in Jamal Charles to carry the load, if he can stay healthy.
On the Defensive side of the ball they should play the pass well. They added former Dolphin CB Sean Smith, who has the size but seldom gets INTs, and Dunta Robinson to pair with Brandon Flowers at corner. Bookend pass-rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston should also continue to wreck shop in the backfield. However, they were awful against the rush last year and did little to improve that this offseason, signing Mike DeVito to replace draft bust Glenn Dorsey. I also gave them one of the worst draft grades as I feel they did not add any walk in starters outside of Eric Fisher.
Vegas does like them to have a solid turn around with 7 wins on the over/under but at 60-1 no shot at the Super Bowl odds. If one needs a late round Tight End for fantasy football take a chance on newly acquired Anthony Fassano, who had 5 TDs last year with Miami. I think the Chiefs will be intriguing, but are still likely a year or two away from real contention.
San Diego Chargers
After another lackluster season of 7-9, San Diego cleaned house, about 2 years too late in my book. They brought in 41 year old Mike McCoy from Denver as the new head coach and 40 year old Tom Telesco from Indianapolis as GM. The biggest question going into the season is what to make of Phillip Rivers. Is he a player in rapid decline or was his performance the last 2 years a product of playing behind the worst offensive line in the NFL? The Chargers are banking on that it was the O-Line that was awful. They spent the 11 overall pick on Right Tackle D.J Fluker and brought in Free Agent King Dunlap at Left Tackle. The Chargers Offense ranked 31st last seasons. Gone are the days of future Hall of Famer LT, the Chargers running game is dreadful. Ryan Mathews can’t stay healthy. They did add the scrappy RB Danny Woodhead in Free Agency, worth a late round flier in Fantasy leagues. The strength of this team is their Top 10 defense. They were very stout against the run, 6th overall last year. They added CB Derek Cox and let Q Jammer go in their secondary. Melvin Ingram, last year’s 1st round pick as the answer to their pass rushing problems, blew out his ACL in the spring however. The Chargers had a very solid draft in getting Fluker, controversial LB Manti Teo as the ghost of Junior Seau and WR Keenan Allen, who if his knee is healthy could be a steal in the 3rd Round.
Vegas has the over/under at 7.5 wins and a 50-1 long shot to reach the Super Bowl. To quote the great Emmit Smith, the Chargers are a team with a lot of diamonds and a lot of cow poo-poo around it. We will see if it just “all look like poo-poo” by the end of the year.
Raider Nation continues to wait for their team to become relevant again. The wait will likely continue. On paper this might be one of the worst teams in the NFL. GM Reggie McKinzie has spent 2 years to right the wrongs of the late Al Davis decision's that put the Raiders in salary cap hell. The Raiders traded for Seattle back up Matt Flynn to be their starting QB this season. Running Back Darren McFadden is their only offensive weapon, but struggles to stay healthy. Starting wide outs Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore have the same problem. And their starting tight end is some guy named Richard Gordon! Yikes!
On defense they do not have anyone who can get after the QB. In a very Al Davis move, they did resign aged Charles Woodson to relive some glory days and added free agent corners Tracy Porter and former Cowboy Mike Jenkins. Then they spent their #12 overall pick on CB D.J Hayden, who almost died last year! The rest of their draft was also unusual, taking tweener LB Sio Moore and QB Tyler Wilson, who has real chance to start games for the Silver and Black this year.
My advice to Raider Nation, enjoy any wins you might get this year, they will be few and far between. Start to focus on the 1st overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, JaDaveon Clowney! Vegas agrees with me as they have 4.5 over under for wins and a 200-1 Super Bowl odds.