2012 AFC West Predictions: Peyton Manning's Broncos Won't Win a Division Crown
The AFC West dealt with plenty of change this season, most notably the addition of Peyton Manning to the Denver Broncos. Each team had an opportunity to win the division last year within the final two weeks of the season. However, the Broncos were led by Tim Tebow to a playoff birth and eventually a playoff win.
The San Diego Chargers were focused on providing Philip Rivers with new receivers after the departure of Vincent Jackson. The Kansas City Chiefs are excited to have Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry return after the missing the majority of the year due to injuries.
Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders began a new era by hiring both a new general manager and head coach.
In 2012, there won't be much change from a competitive standpoint. All four teams could potentially win the division this upcoming season. Who will emerge as this year's division winner?
Here are my predictions for the AFC West this season.
4. Oakland Raiders
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Oakland Raiders begin a new stage in the historical franchise after hiring Reggie McKenzie as general manager and Dennis Allen as the new head coach.
This is clearly a young roster that will only look to improve in 2012. Dennis Allen will surely improve a defense that struggled mightily last season, especially against the run. There will be significant improvement, but the problems for this unit won't be fixed in one offseason.
Will the young receivers find consistency this upcoming year? It has been an issue for Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford during their first few seasons in the league. Denarius Moore is an easy candidate to have a breakout season and make this offense more explosive.
However, the Raiders will learn the hard way that Carson Palmer is no where near the same quarterback he was earlier in his career. Injuries have led to his erratic play over the course of his career. At age 32, Palmer is not the answer at the quarterback for the Raiders going forward.
3. San Diego Chargers
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Can the San Diego Chargers still compete at a championship level? As of now, it's tough to be convinced by the way this roster is constructed.
This team has taken a step back each year since their last appearance in the AFC championship game. Offensively, Vincent Jackson is no longer on the roster and there is no legitimate threat at receiver in place.
Robert Meachem was an average receiver who benefited from playing in Sean Payton's offense, and was low on the depth chart to begin with. Eddie Royal appears to be nothing more than a threat in special teams.
Vincent Jackson should be quite a surprise for Chargers fans and will be the most feared threat in the passing attack. Ryan Matthews will also improve as a quality starting running back.
However, the Chargers offense no longer is capable of being a top five threat in the league and covering up the weaknesses in a struggling defense. It's a big question mark when the defense is relying on rookies to immediately make a significant improvement in the pass rush from day one.
With an unfavorable schedule early on, the Norv Turner era may come to an end during mid-season.
2. Denver Broncos
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The Denver Broncos made a major acquisition by signing Peyton Manning and ultimately trading Tim Tebow to the New York Jets.
Clearly, the Broncos are better off with the future Hall Of Famer running the offense. He is already fond of Eric Decker after working with him in the offseason, and will have the opportunity to work with Demaryius Thomas.
There are a few questions pertaining to the Broncos. Manning's health will be a concern once live game action begins. However, the biggest question is how good Manning can be this season.
It's a tough call to make on Manning, who is 36 and will be playing behind a questionable offensive line aside from Ryan Clady.
Despite the questions for the Broncos, the addition of Manning will make the Broncos, at worst, a 10-win team that will be in great shape for at least a playoff birth.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Two years ago, the Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC West and appeared to be a team on the rise. In 2011, the Chiefs fell short of a division crown despite losing their two most valuable players and their starting quarterback.
With a favorable schedule, the Chiefs will rebound and take control of the division in 2012. The team enters training camp with Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry returning after the missing the majority of the season due to season ending injuries.
Matt Cassel also returns after missing seven games last season. He is already starting in the right direction with second year receiver Jon Baldwin, who was plagued by injuries early on and was never effective. Dwayne Bowe wants to be paid as one of the elite receivers in the game, and he will eventually sign the franchise tender and play out this season.
Romeo Crenell's defense played very well late in the season, and this young unit should only improve with the return of Berry.
This division will eventually be a two team race, with the Chiefs edging out the Broncos in a tiebreaker scenario.
Matt Miselis is an NFL Featured Columnist for BleacherReport.com. Follow him on twitter.