Nothing seems to for sure in the AFC West accept for the fact that this division will be seen as the worse in all of the NFL. With four rivals from the original AFL days, the competition for the division is heats in less than a week's time for the 50th anniversary of the rebel football league.
The Oakland Raiders have many challenges in this division because nothing is ever for certain when the AFC West is in mind. With the first three games of the schedule against division opponents, Oakland will be hard pressed to not get off to a fast start to reclaim the division crown for the first time since 2002.
There is no doubt Phillip Rivers will is the best QB in the division. Since starting the 2006 season, SD has reeled off three straight division titles and Rivers play has given the silver and black issues. To get the tide turning the other way the Raider defensive line will have to and harass him all game long or Rivers will take advantage of the weapons he has on offense.
Matt Cassel's play in New England netted him a hefty contract that financially secured his future. Sad thing is Kansas City doesn't have a lot of weapons around him as the Patriots did.
It will be interesting to see if he was a product of a good system or he is nothing more than a waste like former Chiefs QBs Steve Bono and Elvis Grbac. Week two in KC should be fun for Oakland...again.
Kyle Orton will never be viewed as a pro bowl QB. So far in Denver he has had a rough start and it doesn't seem like anything will change in the foreseeable future. Orton has a dead arm and lacks mobility.
As much as Denver fans enjoyed hounding Jay Cutler, they are going to miss him big time. Pressure makes diamonds and if the Raiders are in Orton's face expect many turnovers.
LaDanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles give many defenses fits. Last season the combo danced and laughed against the porous Raider run defense. Via trade and free agent signing along the d-line, Oakland is poised to stop this trend from continuing. That is easier said than done.
Larry Johnson seems to be on board with the new regime's scheme in Kansas City. The big bruising back will have to carry much of the load for a offense with limited ability. The revamped Oakland defense stops LJ and you may see a blowout in both games
Denver use use a running back by committee attack this season since they don't have a real starting back. Correll Buckhalter is merely a backup and we found out in Oakland a few years ago that Lamont Jordan carries the same trait.
Knowshon Moreno is a rookie and I wonder when he will start. I don't expect the same success for the running game they had when Mike Shannahan manned the sidelines.
San Diego sports a pass attack with big play receivers such as Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers, and Malcolm Floyd. That trio respectively averaged 19, 14, and 17 yards a catch in 2008. It will be up to Nnamdi Asmougha, Chris Johnson, and Stanford Routt to limit those big plays so the Charger offense doesn't get going.
Kansas City has wide receivers? Ok Dwayne Bowe but then who? They are in trouble trust that
Denver has a very talented but troubled player in Brandon Marshall. Who knows what will happen with that guy. Denver sure as hell doesn't know. Eddie Royal had a very productive rookie year and Brandon Stokely is a veteran who has super bowl hardware to boast. Thing is...who is passing them the ball?
Antonio Gates is a problem for any defense and Oakland has a hell of a time figuring how to not let this guy get big third down receptions. Gates is a versatile player and will move all over the field so it isn't just one man who will be responsible for holding him in check.
Chiefs tight ends are more like loose ends. Tony Gonzalez bailed them out so much and Raider people are glad to see that guy in the other conference.
Daniel Graham will be an outlet for Kyle Orton in Denver as he tries to establish himself in the AFC west. Graham has always been a rather productive player through his career and I suspect more of the same in 2009.
As of right now San Diego is has the best line in the division but has had troubles protecting Phillip Rivers this preseason. Marcus McNeil does a very good job of protecting Rivers' blindside and Kris Deilman is a nasty left guard that makes the left side tough to deal with.
Nick Hardwick is a consistent center and has been a big part of the recent success of San Diego. Bottom line, the Raiders front seven have a difficult task to disrupt the big uglies that the Chargers have.
Kansas City's front line use to be the model for all NFL offenses just a few years ago. But with retirements and unhappy players this unit will struggle. KC fans should pray for Matt Cassel's safety this season against Oakland.
Ryan Clady is the anchor of Denver's line. His rookie year was spectacular and nothing suggests a sophomore slump. Outside of him, who is really scaring you? Casey Wiegmann is old as Al Davis.
Chris Kuper is the guy who will have to block Tommy Kelly one on one. Good luck with that now that Richard Seymour is in town. While this unit isn't as awful as Kansas City's they aren't anything special.
Defensive Front Sevens
All Raider fans are sick of watching the Chargers getting constant pressure against the offensive line. Shawn Merriman and Shaun Phillips cause nightmares for QBs. Mario Henderson and Cornell Green better be ready. Jamal Williams seems to gives us the most trouble at Nose Tackle. Chris Morris is the new starter and will need to prove immediately that he can handle the 350 pound beast September 14.
Kansas City is implementing a 3-4 scheme so it will take some time to adjust. Tyson Jackson is a talented 3-4 defensive end and should have a pretty decent rookie campaign.
The team will be hard pressed to see Glenn Dorsey thrive as a 3-4 DE. Tamba Hali must make the difficult transition from DE to OLB. Mike Vrabel is a well known player but is old and can't stay on top of his game for long.
Denver also is going with a 3-4 look but I see them having more problems than Kansas City. Who will play Nose Tackle? I hope Bronco fans aren't relying on Ron Fields to constantly be a space eater.
Will Jarvis Moss not look like a tragic bust? Better pray for Robert Ayers to be the defensive rookie of the year is my suggestion. Denver couldn't stop the Raiders run game in the 4-3 and won't stop them in the 3-4.
San Diego has a very talented unit. There is no doubt that Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie are a fantastic corner back combo. But nickel back Antoine Cason makes many in San Diego believe the hype in the team's pass coverage. Eric Weddle and Clinton Hart are a very steady as the last line of defense and seem to tackle very well. The Raiders will have to challenge this team as they are susceptible to giving up big plays.
Kansas City fans does Mike Brown have anything left? How long will it be until he gets injured? Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr are very young corners that I suspect will get picked on by Oakland's big WRs.
Champ Bailey is a great corner back and will rely on Andre Goodman to show the same ball-hawking skills he showed in Miami last season. Brian Dawkins is a hall of famer for sure but is older by the second. Renaldo Hill is a former Raider who plays tough and should help the defense. I can see Denver at times giving the Raider WRs some fits if the line isn't protecting Jamarcus Russell.
Not much to really say about the four head coaches in the division. I just know Norv Turner is a spineless wimp who at anytime can lose the locker room. Josh McDaniels better shape up quickly or he will be back to OC in 2010. Todd Haley had great success last year as an OC but being a head coach is much different
Tom Cable will have to show the ability to outcoach these guys in the first three weeks of the season. If the Raiders start off 3-0 they will no doubt run away with the division.