This is a topic of discussion that can change several times over the coming months, being that we are in early June, which is why I use the word "currently" in the headline.
After the huge signing of Peyton Manning, the Broncos have been one of the most talked-about teams this offseason. Many Bronco fans feel the playoffs are a given, and we all know they intend to hoist the Lombardi Trophy eventually with the addition of Manning.
But one thing at a time. The Broncos will need to conquer the AFC West division before they can talk Super Bowl or even the playoffs. Here we will look at the three other teams in the division and see how the Broncos match up with them going into the 2012 season.
2011 Record: 8-8
Key offseason additions: Roscoe Parrish, Jarrett Johnson, Dante Rosario, Eddie Royal, Le'Ron McClain, Demorrio Williams, Charlie Whitehurst, Atari Bigby, Robert Meachem, Rex Hadnot
Key losses: Vincent Jackson, Mike Tolbert, Steve Gregory
Key 2012 draft picks: Melvin Ingram, Kendall Reyes, Brandon Taylor
The Chargers have seemed to be a very underachieving team the last two seasons after winning the division four consecutive years from 2006-2009. Now many people feel their window has closed.
Antonio Gates doesn't seem to be all that durable anymore and with the departure of Mike Tolbert, there will be serious questions about whether Ryan Mathews can carry the load. To replace Jackson, the Chargers brought in Robert Meachem from the Saints as well as former Bronco Eddie Royal.
I don't see Denver having too many issues with this team this season, as I see the Chargers as a team on the decline. The Broncos should beat them twice in 2012.
2011 Record: 8-8
Key offseason additions: Mike Brisiel, Matt Leinart, Philip Wheeler, Shawntae Spencer, Ron Bartell, Dave Tollefson
Key losses: Michael Bush, Jason Campbell, Kevin Boss, Stanford Routt, Samson Satele, Chaz Schilens, Trevor Scott, Kamerion Wimbley
Key 2012 draft picks: Tony Bergstrom, Miles Burris, Juron Criner
The Raiders actually had a chance to win the division in 2011, after seeing the Broncos lose to Kansas City. But they blew it themselves, dropping the finale to San Diego, 38-26.
With the Al Davis era over in Oakland, the Raiders seem to be a team ready to make a lot of changes. New general manager Reggie McKenzie came to the team in January and promptly fired Hue Jackson in a somewhat surprising move. To replace him, McKenzie hired former Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.
After trading away a first-round pick and what could become another first-rounder, the Raiders gave up a lot to bring in former Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer. Because of that, the Raiders didn't make a single draft pick until the third round. Palmer, who said he would retire if the Bengals didn't move him, was not worth those first-round picks in his first half season in silver and black. He threw more interceptions than he did touchdowns and the 2012 season will be key for him.
They also lost Michael Bush, who proved he was more than capable in the absence of Darren McFadden. Run DMC's durability seems to be becoming an issue and without a proven running back behind him, he'll be a key player for this team going forward.
On the defensive side of the ball, the team lost Stanford Routt and Kamerion Wimbley to free agency and may be without former first-round pick Rolando McClain due to disciplinary reasons.
Although it's a fierce rivalry, I don't see the Broncos having any trouble taking two games from the Raiders this coming season.
2011 Record: 7-9
Key offseason additions: Peyton Hillis, Brady Quinn, Kevin Boss, Stanford Routt
Key losses: Brandon Carr, Kyle Orton, Leonard Pope, Le'Ron McClain, Demorrio Williams
Key 2012 draft picks: Dontari Poe, Jeff Allen, Devon Wylie
Many people feel that the Chiefs will be the Broncos' main competition in the division this coming season.
They finished last in the division in 2011, but Romeo Crennel, who took over for a fired Todd Haley, was brought back after winning two out of three games to close the season. They will also get Jamaal Charles back, who was lost for the season in Week 2 with a torn ACL.They also signed Peyton Hillis to back him up.
The quarterback position should be especially interesting as Matt Cassel has Brady Quinn behind him now. Another unimpressive campaign from Cassel could lead to a new Chiefs quarterback.
Brandon Carr will be a sufficient loss to the secondary and facing a Peyton Manning-led team, that could be a problem.
But the Chiefs have been tough against the Broncos in recent years and are historically hard to beat in Arrowhead. Due to that, I say the teams split the season series.
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