Weak AFC West Works to Broncos' Advantage

Quibian Salazar-MorenoContributor IMay 28, 2009

DENVER - NOVEMBER 23:  Wide receiver Brandon Marshall #15 of the Denver Broncos leaves the line of scrimmage against cornerback Nnamdi Asomgha #21 of the Oakland Raiders during week 12 NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 23, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 31-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The 2009-10 season will be a rebuilding year for the Denver Broncos, but they may be able to steal a few wins from their division rivals. The AFC West was the weakest division in the league last season, and there doesn’t seem to be much improvement coming this year.

The San Diego Chargers finished the 2008-09 season an average 8-8, but ended it in style winning their last four games to win the division before dispatching the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs.

But the Chargers were in a similar situation as the Broncos—an explosive high-powered offense with a lackluster defense. Ultimately, that was their undoing in the divisional playoffs when the Steelers’ Willie Parker ripped their defense for 146 rushing yards and won the game.

The team has been working on that defense through the draft and will obviously be the best team in the AFC West when the season starts. The Chargers will most likely win the division again.

Both the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders finished last season with sub-.500 records and still look like they’ll be scraping the bottom of the barrel this season. Sure, the Chiefs acquired Matt Cassel in a trade with New England and stocked up on the defensive side during the draft but their rookie coach, Todd Haley, is untested. The team's offensive line is shoddy and their receiver corps is suspect. There's still no word on where running back Larry Johnson will be mentally.

Up in Oakland, things aren’t fairing much better. The Raiders had problems on both sides of the ball last season, ranking at the bottom of the league.

The team surprised fans by passing up accomplished wide receiver Michael Crabtree in the NFL Draft and taking the raw, but fast, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. The team is hoping that along with receiver Javon Walker and running back Darren McFadden, Heyward-Bey will give quarterback JaMarcus Russell an easy target on offense and create some believable play-action calls.

Unfortunately for the team, though, it didn't address their offensive line problems in the draft and are expecting free agent signees Erik Pears and Khalif Barnes to make a difference. It maybe all for naught. And while the Raiders secondary is solid, led by cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the rush defense was one of the worst in the league last season, and the Raiders have done little to improve it.

While the Denver Broncos will most likely get swept by the Chargers this season, they have a fighting chance against the Chiefs and Raiders to win at least a few games.

Playoffs or a division title this year?

Doesn’t look probable in Bronco Nation.