Denver Broncos' Chance In The AFC (Not So Wild) West

Mark SchaferContributor IMay 28, 2009

10 Sep 2001:  General view of Invesco Field. The Broncos defeated the Giants 31-20 at Invesco Field in Denver, Colorado. DIGITAL IMAGE Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr/ALLSPORT

Not too long ago, the AFC west was viewed by fans and the media as one of the toughest divisions to play in.

All four teams had tremendous home field advantage. The Chargers had Qualcomm stadium while Oakland had the rowdy fans of the much feared Black hole. The Denver Broncos had the altitude advantage of Mile High Stadium and the Chiefs had the noisy fans of Arrowhead Stadium.

Now, some of the media and fans, appear to be content to let one team run (or perhaps Charge) their way to be the AFC Champion.

So what happened?

The stadiums are still the same, even though Mile High has moved a parking lot to the north and is now known as INVESCO field at Mile High.

And since the 21st century, only one team has been weeded out of the division, and that was the Seattle Seahawks, who now play in the NFC West.

Just seven years ago, the winners of the AFC West were four different teams. For the last three years, the same team has sat atop the standings. As preseason predictions are starting to leak out it appears that a fourth straight AFC West Championship banner will be given to the San Diego Chargers.

Last year, the AFC West came down to the final game of the season to decide who the champion would be. Denver seemed to have the division locked up after Week 14. All they needed to do was win a game to get in the playoffs.

However, matchups in the final three weeks against the Panthers, Bills, and Chargers all resulted in losses, handing the Chargers the AFC West.

Soon after the loss to the Chargers, the Broncos fired their coach for the last 13 years, Mike Shanahan.

Going into the 2009 season, the Broncos have some work to do. As a new coaching staff is coming into the Mile High Stadium with a new quarterback, there will be plenty of challenges for the Broncos.

The offense will also have to rebuild as Josh McDaniels will rebuild some positions that were vacated in the offseason. If that doesn't work, he will try polishing some of the holes that allowed Denver to miss the playoffs the previous year.

In addition to offensive changes, the defense will be shifted around. Denver looks to change defensive schemes, as they move into the 3-4 defense.

A new defense means new players will need to be brought in and old players will have to change positions. One player who will most likely change positions is linebacker D.J. Williams.

Special teams will look to try and change as well as kicker Matt Prater will look to improve his kicking game. The returning game of special teams will try and gain more consistency in returning punts and kick offs.

Most importantly, the Broncos will need to improve on winning games, especially at the end of the season in order to avoid another late season crumble.

Focusing on the beginning of the season will be important too because if the team does not have a good chemistry with the new coaching staff, the rest of the season would be a tough ride.

The AFC West is full of teams that are in the middle of rebuilding or trying to find the secret success to win a game. It's not just the Denver Broncos

Kansas City has been plagued with injuries and problems with personnel in coaching since winning the AFC West in 2002.

The Oakland Raiders, since losing the Super Bowl to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, seem to be in the middle of a rebuilding decade, despite drafting several No. 1 picks.

Even the champions of the AFC West in the San Diego Chargers are not without their problems. Star running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who has been affected by injury problems around playoff time, and defenses are slowly matching the lightning speed that LT has.

The AFC West was once very wild and the most unpredictable and competitive divisions in the NFL. Now, it seems that this once wild west has been tamed by the Chargers.

As for Denver’s chances, it seems that unless McDaniels and the Broncos figure each other out, then the Broncos may fit in second or worse in the 2009 AFC not so Wild West.