NFL Predictions: 4 AFC West Studs That Will Take a Step Back in 2012

Michael Guadalupe@The_GuadaFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2012

NFL Predictions: 4 AFC West Studs That Will Take a Step Back in 2012

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    As we get set for the 2012 season, we should all expect the AFC West to heat up next season.  Some stud players from last season, though, will take a step back. 

    New additions like Peyton Manning to the Broncos, the Chiefs adding new offensive weapons, the Chargers with Phillip Rivers out to prove they were better than their record last season, and the Raiders who have an experienced quarterback in Carson Palmer and a young receiving core with a lot to prove, all add up to make the AFC West a division to watch.

    Other issues, though, will end up making some major players take a step backward.  Contract issues, injuries, trouble outside of the NFL, and even a weak supporting cast will lead to a disappointing season for some.

    Here are four studs from last season in the AFC West who will take a step back in 2012.

Elvis Dumervil

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    Elvis Dumervil starts this list because without a doubt he is a stud player on the Denver Broncos.  His situation moving into next season is also extremely different than the others on this list.

    Could Dumervil have the same year or better than he did last season?  Of course he can.  Dumervil's biggest problem though, is he how he recently made the headlines in a negative way.

    Dumervil was arrested on July 17 for apparently flashing a gun in public.  The end result of this charge could see Dumervil face a sentence of up to three to five years of jail time. 

    Dumervil was quoted by Mike Klis over at the Denver Post as saying, "The truth will come out"

    Will this incident effect Dumervil even if he isn't found not guilty?  Who knows?  Maybe Commissioner Goodell will hand out suspensions anyway.

    Regardless, with still an unclear future it's hard to see Dumervil not being affected by this incident next season.

    In a worst case scenario he ends up in jail, and the Denver Broncos lose a huge part of their defense.  He could see a suspension which would hinder his performance as well.

    Still, there is always the chance this whole incident will blow over and Dumervil won't suffer any penalties.

    With how strict the NFL can be though, it's hard to imagine Dumervil won't suffer from this incident in some way next season.

Ryan Mathews

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    Ryan Mathews has played backup to Mike Tolbert for two years now.  Even with that, Mathews still managed to log 1,091 yards last season.

    With Tolbert gone now, we can expect Mathews to start at running back, with a possible backup in newly acquired running back Jackie Battle.

    Mathews was a stud last year who got a lot of people excited, and believing that he was ready for the shift from backup to starter.

    Coach Norv Turner for example, was quoted back in May by Josh Alper over as as saying:

    “I personally think he’s ready to take that next step. That means, to me, the production goes way up, and he’s more of the guy that is on the field most of the time. I think he’s grown a lot in terms of understanding his responsibility when the ball is in his hand."

    There are two big problems with Mathews that people seem to be overlooking.  The first is that he is inconsistent.  While he has managed to score 13 touchdowns in his two years so far, he also has nine fumbles, five of which came from last season.

    Maybe we should be waiting to see how well he plays as a starter before calling him the next big thing. 

    The second issue with Mathews is how he has gotten injured both years of his career.  He isn't even the starter and he still managed to get injured?  Of course it could have simply been bad luck, but if managed to get injured as a backup, his chances for injury as a starter will increase.

    Will Mathews be able to handle the full-time workload?  We will have to wait until next season to find out.

    With the way everyone is talking him up, don't be surprised if you see Mathews take a step backwards.

Carson Palmer

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    Palmer must have been a stud last year for the Raiders to trade so much for him.  He managed to put up solid yards last season for only playing 10 games, and also finished the season with an 80.5 QB rating.

    He also threw 16 interceptions in those 10 games.

    Now we can say that Palmer performed poorly interception wise because he had no time to learn the Raider's offense.  This is, of course, a solid argument, but don't expect Palmer to be the quarterback answer for Oakland.

    Don't expect him to do much better next season either.

    Looking at Palmer's stats we can see a dip in QB rating as each season progressed (only counting season where Palmer played for more than half the games).

    Going back to the high interception issue, in 2010 Palmer threw 20 interceptions while on the Bengals.

    His supporting cast is also questionable.  While the Raiders have young receivers who are all trying to make their names known, they lack an experienced go-to receiver.

    Then there is Darren McFadden who is an amazing running back when not sitting on the sideline with an injury.

    So with young inexperienced receivers and an injury prone running back, how well will an aging Carson Palmer really going to perform?

    In a division where Palmer will be up against Phillip Rivers and Peyton Manning it's hard to see how Palmer won't sink in 2012.

Dwayne Bowe

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    Dwayne Bowe had a solid year last season.  While he may have only had five touchdowns when compared to 15 in 2010, Matt Cassel going down with an injury affected the amount of touchdowns Bowe had.

    Bowe lead the Chiefs in receiving yards with 1,159 yards last season.

    He could have easily performed the same way in the 2012 season, or even outperformed his 2010 season.

    The problem though, is that the Chiefs and Bowe failed to agree to a new contract and Bowe has yet to sign his franchise tender.

    While he could still end up at training camp on July 27th, we have to wonder what type of shape Bowe is in.  This might be his last year with the Chiefs after all, and while he could try and play the best football of his life to actually justify earning the money he wants, Bowe not signing his franchise tender is a little unsettling.

    Will he take the heavy fines and avoid the contract?  Or will he sign his franchise tender?  Then, will he actually give it a 100 percent, or will he sand bag his performance?

    Another issue that Bowe has also fallen in is the opinion of the fans.  Other players on this list could still be regarded as great players, but what do Chiefs fans think about Bowe now, and the amount of money he wants?  Is he worth it?  Should the Chiefs have given in?  Or can he be replaced by Jon Baldwin is he manages to step up next season?

    In the end, Bowe will end up taking a big step backward next season, at least in the eyes of Chiefs fans.