Rounding out the AFC is none other than the AFC West division. Lot of storylines entering 2012 arise in this division, as for one the arrival of Peyton Manning to the Denver Broncos. Can Peyton Manning’s neck stay strong, can his blindside pass protect? Is this the year the great Darren McFadden puts it together and starts all 16 games (imagine the stats)? How will Jamaal Charles perform coming off an ACL injury and what does Peyton Hillis bring to the table? Lastly, was 2011 just a bad season from Philip Rivers or have we seen the best of him already? Let’s see who I have winning the AFC West.
|SAN DIEGO CHARGERS||11||5|
|KANSAS CITY CHIEFS||8||8|
CHARGERS : This could be the last year Norv Turner and AJ Smith have anything to do with San Diego so they went all in this off-season to try and bring home a Super Bowl. AJ went ahead and acquired some new toys for Rivers such as speedy WR’s Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. Meachem takes over Vincent Jackson’s spot and will add more speed to the offense. Royal and Parrish are already an upgrade in the return game and Royal can become a solid slot WR for Rivers. Add in a healthy Gates, a focused Ryan Mathews with a savvy vet behind him named, Ronnie Brown. The defense needs to attack the QB, drafting Ingram will help in that department and Butler is as solid of a LB as you’ll see in the league. The question marks arise in the secondary, Jammer was a good shut-down corner, Cason is inconsistent and Weddle has been one of the best Safeties in the league. Normally, the Chargers like to start off their season slow and pick it up in Nov/Dec and it’ll be more of the same in 2012. Big game at New Orleans in week 5 will help test this squad and they play @PIT @NYJ and at home against OAK to finish the season, it’ll get them ready for the playoffs. Rivers bounces back as Gates remains healthy and both have phenomenal seasons.
CHIEFS : The Chiefs remind me of the 49ers, a lot of talent everywhere but at the QB position. A stellar 1-2 punch at RB with Charles and Hillis, a young WR corps led by Dwyane Bowe and up and coming Jon Baldwin, and Moeaki is slated to be back at the TE spot. Questionable defensive front, but strong LB’s led by All-Pro Derrick Johnson and rising sophomore sensation Justin Houston provides help against the run and pass. The secondary is the teams strongest point, Flowers and Routt with Arenas and Brown continued development, the Chiefs will also welcome back Eric Berry who is one of the best safeties in the league and was missed big time in 2011. Chiefs will get tested early and often in 2012 with ATL, NOS, BAL and SDC early on as I too have them starting the season 3-3 before their week 7 bye. I would’ve chalked up more victories for them but I just can’t, not with Cassel or Stanzi at QB.
BRONCOS : Let the Peyton Manning era begin, coming off multiple neck surgeries you have to wonder how much longer, or how many more hits can Peyton take? He has talented WR’s such as Demaryius Thomas to throw too and who is bound to have a career year with Peyton throwing him the ball. A familiar face at TE in Jacob Tamme gives Peyton another target to throw too that’ll make this offense go. On the defensive side of the ball this is arguably the best defense Peyton will have played with his entire career. Don’t have to question the front 7 with players such as Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller, Joe Mays, Woodyard and Williams to name a few, the secondary is where Denver can get beat, Champ is still there and can hold his own, Goodman isnt that bad and then you got the young safeties. They play a rough schedule in the beginning as they’ll face HOU, ATL, NEP, PIT and divisional rivals OAK and SDC. So, the most important focus is Peyton’s blind side, his offensive line has to protect Peyton. It’s going to be a long season in Denver but they won’t miss Tebow.
RAIDERS : Now, I do have them winning just 6 games and high chance they can win more than that but I stand with what I see so far. McFadden has to remain healthy to give this offense a burst, a training camp under his belt in Oakland will help Carson Palmer as he has a lot of speedy WR’s to throw too. The defensive side is the big question mark in my opinion, the lost of Nnamdi has hurt their secondary and now they just lost Routt. All-Pro Tyvon Branch will be the heart and soul of this defense and can Shaughnessy & Houston rebound at the DE spot? Can Aaron Curry ever reach his potential? McClain has to up his game now as Wimbley is no longer there neither, McClain has to become the leader we all expected him to be. I do have them beating the Saints in Oakland but the divisional games will hurt them in the end.