The AFC-West is an interesting division. The Broncos began as the favorite last year, but an extremely poor finish to the season cost them and the Chargers were able to lock up the championship. The Raiders look like they are going to be the surprise team this year within the division due to the addition of quarterback Jason Campbell. With Elvis Dumervil on the shelf with a torn pectoral during the first week of training camp, the Broncos could be in for a tough start to the season. Let's take a look at the teams in the AFC-West:
1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: (13-3 2009) The Chargers will be using a backfield that does not include LaDanian Tomlinson for the first time in nine seasons. Newly acquired 1st round draft pick Ryan Matthews from Fresno State will be depended on heavily, while sharing the load with Darren Sproles, to bolster up an a potent offense with a much needed between-the-tackles running back. With a running game the Chargers have a very strong and well oiled machine on the offensive side of the football. Phillip Rivers has clearly put himself in the elite company of quarterbacks in the NFL, but without Vincent Jackson (we don't know exactly how long yet) who will Rivers depend on to catch his passes? Antonio Gates is locked up to spend the rest of his career in San Diego, but Rivers needs help outside of Gates. Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee will not be enough for Rivers to have an explosive offense. He will need someone to step up. Defensively the Chargers have questions. Louis Castillo will be anchoring the defensive line, and Larry English will be expected to step up in a major way to help the linebackers. In the secondary, the Chargers no longer have Antonio Cromartie (Jets) and they will now depend a lot more on their 2008 1st round pick Antoine Cason. If Jammer and Cason take their games to higher levels this season, this Chargers defense could be a very big surprise in the AFC.
Looking at the Chargers schedule; KC, Jacksonville, Seattle, Arizona, Oakland, and St. Louis for the first six games sounds awfully easy for Phillip Rivers to get this team off to a very good start.
2. OAKLAND RAIDERS: (5-11 2009) The Raiders have hope for once. The addition of Jason Campbell and draftees Bruce Campbell and Jared Veldheer will significantly help this offense. Defensively, the Raiders were a solid defense last season, but it is hard to play football when you know your offense is not going to score any points for you. This season is different. The offense has a great opportunity to succeed, which will give the defense more life and more intensity to play 100% for the entire sixty minutes of the football game. The departure of JaMarcus Russell will pay dividends on the field and in the locker room. All signs pointed to Russell as being a cancer within the locker room, and as a starting quarterback in the NFL that is unacceptable. Jason Campbell will not take this team to a 12 win season, but what he will do is provide this team with stability behind the center and give them an opportunity to be in the situation to win each and every game. The Raiders will be better this season and a balanced offense and an inspired defense will be the reason why the Raiders could have a winning season.
3. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: (4-12 2009) The Chiefs will be better in 2010. Thomas Jones will bolster the Chiefs running game that already has a talented young back in Jamaal Charles. Split out wide will be Chris Chambers and Dwayne Bowe, Bowe clearly showed signs of a bright future last season catching 47 passes for nearly 600 yards and 4 touchdowns. Look for quarterback Matt Cassel and Bowe to have better chemistry this season. Defensively the Chiefs should improve as they enter their second season playing the 3-4 defense. The addition of 1st round draft pick Eric Berry, who appears to be a Pro Bowl caliber player already, should impact this defense immediately. More pressure from the defense, and stronger play out of the secondary will drastically change this team and keep them in many more games. I like the addition of Charlie Weis as the new Offensive Coordinator. Weis was the coordinator in New England when Matt Cassel first came into the league, so clearly Cassel and Weis know their schemes and should not have issues putting up some points this season.
4. DENVER BRONCOS: (8-8 2009) The Broncos are going to have a tough season. Will Kyle Orton be the quarterback the entire season? Why draft Tim Tebow when a trade for Brady Quinn was already made? Major questions appear for this Denver team, and with many of the questions being behind center, things do not point in good direction for the Broncos. The departure of Brandon Marshall will not be equalized by the addition of Jabar Gaffney. This Denver team had one player with more than 5 sacks (Dumervil) and he is out with a torn pectoral muscle. The Broncos lose the face of their defense right off the bat, and with poor defensive line play the final eight games of last season, this is a hard defense to believe in. Look for Quinn or Tebow to get some starts towards the end of the season as this Broncos team is going to struggle to stay afloat in the division.