AFC West 2012 Schedule: Predictions for Raiders, Chargers, Broncos and Chiefs
The AFC West is wide open this year, and with the addition of Peyton Manning to the Denver Broncos and a Kansas City Chiefs team looking to rebound with a clean bill of health this year, an 8-8 record probably won't be enough to win the West this year.
But life in the AFC West is difficult this year. Not only do these teams have to survive each other, they also have the AFC North and NFC South to deal with, divisions that sent a combined five teams to the playoffs last season.
So how will the West be won this year? Let's take a look at each team's schedule and predict how they might fare this season.
The Broncos won the offseason when they signed Peyton Manning. The reward for getting to the postseason?
Oh, only one of the more difficult schedules in recent memory. (Well actually, it's the reward for winning the division last year, but who's counting?)
But hey, why let the fun end there. They still have games against the Ravens, Bengals and Saints to go, along with the rest of the West. While some of the good teams I mentioned won't be as good this year, and some of the teams I didn't mention will be better, the Broncos' schedule looks really, really rough this year.
They should still be the favorites to win the West this year. That's the Manning effect. But the schedule most certainly isn't doing them any favors this year.
Prediction: At best, I think this team finishes 10-6. At worse, the Manning adjustment takes time and the tough schedule takes its toll, leaving Denver with a 7-9 mark. Realistically, I think you're looking at a 9-7 team this year.
Kansas City Chiefs
For the Chiefs this year, it's all about staying healthy. Injuries to key players Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki and Eric Berry doomed them last year. If they can keep them healthy, this Chiefs squad could be poised to steal the West.
The loss of Brandon Carr would have hurt had the team not snagged Stanford Routt from the Raiders. Adding Peyton Hillis to pair with the speedy Charles and Dexter McCluster should give the team a formidable rushing attack.
Adding Kevin Boss to pair with Moeaki at tight end and Eric Winston to the offensive line were underrated moves that will serve the team well. And with the 11th pick in the draft, the team can look to plug a need on defense at either the nose tackle or linebacker spots.
Two years ago, this team won the division. If they can stay healthy this season, I think they'll do it again. They face the same tests coming out of the AFC North and NFC South as the rest of the division, but the schedule in general is more favorable than what the Broncos face.
Prediction: They win the division at 10-6.
We'll learn a lot about this Oakland team before the Week 5 bye, with games against the Chargers, Steelers and Broncos. If they make it out 3-1 or 4-0, you could be looking at a team poised for a playoff run.
I wouldn't get your hopes up too much though, Oakland fans. Though the schedule doesn't have any brutal stretches after that, I'm not convinced that Carson Palmer has much quality football left in him, Darren McFadden can stay healthy, and that this team has enough playmakers on either side of the ball for a playoff run.
Oakland has the potential to sneak into the playoffs. I just don't see it happening.
San Diego Chargers
Honestly, why is Norv Turner back as the coach of this team? Why can't people recognize he just isn't that good of a head coach?
Who will win the AFC West?
All that aside, this is a Chargers team that just doesn't have the talent they used to have. The offense has slowly seen its playmakers trickle away in free agency, the defense has lost its bite, and the Chargers no longer look like contenders in the AFC.
No matter how tough or easy the schedule ends up being, I don't think the Chargers are set up to be very good this year. They won't be horrible, but this should be the end of the line for Mr. Turner.
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