NFL Divisional Predictions: AFC West
It’s time for TheSportsWatchers.com’s 2008 NFL Divisional Predictions. In this edition, we tackle the AFC West, a division that, for all intensive purposes, was quite lackluster last season, and it will probably see very little, if any, growth this year.
In predicting what is going to happen in the AFC West, or in any division, you always have to start with what these teams have proven to be in the past. The San Diego Chargers have proven to be a great team that can win in the playoffs. The Oakland Raiders have proven that they have some defensive talent, but that none of that matters when they step on the field. The Kansas City Chiefs are a team that is one-year removed from the playoffs, but also may be experiencing the downside of the player that carried them to that playoff berth in 2006. And the Denver Broncos continue to run the ball well, but the quarterback position remains an issue.
That’s the AFC West’s track record, now here’s their future…My 2008 NFL Projections for the AFC West are:
1. San Diego Chargers (13-3) – The San Diego Chargers are definitely going to finish in first place this season. They are that good. They are a great team that has balance up and down their roster. They have the best non-quarterback player in the NFL on offense, and yet their defense can outshine them on any given Sunday. LaDainian Tomlinson will have to shoulder more of the running back load than usual, with Michael Turner leaving for the Atlanta Falcons and Lorenzo Neal no longer in the picture as his lead blocking full back. But it shouldn’t matter. With the addition of Chris Chambers at the wide receiver, and the emergence of Vincent Jackson as a big time receiving threat, teams are going to have to respect the passing game, led by their continually improving quarterback, Philip Rivers.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9) – I don’t think that it is that bad for the Chiefs. Many people have their doubts about young quarterback Brodie Croyle, as do I, but he showed me enough last year to allow me to predict that the Chiefs will finish in second-place in the AFC West with him at the helm. Croyle looked really good throwing the ball to his two best targets in Tony Gonzalez and Dwyane Bowe; as he should, because those two can make life very easy on quarterbacks. But what that tells me is that he just needs a full pre-season as the Chiefs starter and time to get used to his other weapons, and he’ll be just fine. Speaking of his other weapons, how about that Larry Johnson guy? He had a horrible season last year that was capped off by injury; however, he did show flashes of greatness at times, so perhaps his poor season can be attributed to fatigue from 2006 where he rushed the ball over 400 times. As for the Chiefs’ defense, believe it or not, they aren’t that bad of the first time in a while, and they should at least allow this team to stay in the majority of their contests.
3. Denver Broncos (6-10) – Sorry Broncos fans, but this is not your time yet. Before I really looked at this team’s prospects for the 2008 NFL season, I really did think that they had playoff potential. Upon further review, that thought must have occurred in my dreams. This team’s schedule is ridiculously hard, so even if I thought they had the talent to compete and that quarterback Jay Cutler was ready to be a Pro-Bowl caliber quarterback, the schedule would bring me back to reality real quickly. It’s just too tough, and quite frankly, they don’t have a tough team. Of course, it doesn’t help that their young quarterback will be without a proven running back or his best wide receiver for the first three weeks of the season. So obviously, the Broncos’ offense has some problems to address, and their defense isn’t much better. They finished 19th in overall defense last year, and they finished 30th against the run. That’s not exactly a predictor for success. And it didn’t help that they didn’t draft a single defensive player with their 1st and 2nd round picks. So I apologize Broncos fans, this is not the year your Broncos bounce back.
4. Oakland Raiders (5-11) – This team continues to be in disarray, but at least this off-season lacks the controversy from a season ago with 1st round pick JaMarcus Russell missing the entire pre-season. Now that he is entering the season fully invested in the offensive scheme, Russell will be this team’s quarterback in 2008, and like any QB starting his first full season, he is going to have his ups and downs. Raiders fans, expect more downs than ups. The man has a powerful arm, but in the little action he saw last year, we found out that he struggled with pressure and got a little erratic at times. And having a rookie running back in the backfield with him won’t serve him very well. While Darren McFadden will make a lot of plays running and catching the ball, he won’t be the best blocker this early in his career. As for the defense, it’s going to struggle. They have quality players, they just don’t play with great consistency. But I think they will play well enough for this team to win just a few games. And by the end of the year, Russell and McFadden may be one of the most electrifying backfield combos in the league, and they’ll still another win or two late in the season.