This will be part of a series of eight articles where I briefly go over the team’s offseason moves and their draft (which will not be factored in that heavily unless I feel that two teams were on equal footing prior to the draft). I will also list these teams in the order I predict they will finish and give a range of wins that each team can expect next year.
1. San Diego Chargers:
I know this is not a shocker, as they were by far the best team in the division last year. While they did have more holes than an elite team normally would, their high octane passing game was able to mask many of them. However, their offensive line is poor at run blocking and it did not help that Tomlinson refused to hit the holes hard when they were there. Defensively, they spent last year without a quality nose tackle and their front seven as a whole was underwhelming to say the least. Then there was the issue of Cromartie who seemingly decided not to tackle Shonn Greene in the playoff game. Finally, there is their kicker. While I am hesitant to bash a kicker, Nate Kaeding is a major exception. He can make any kick prior to January, but when the pressure is on, he chokes, plain and simple.
The Chargers had plenty of work to do in the offseason, and they made some moves. They replaced Antonio Cromartie with Nate Vasher, which is neither an upgrade not a downgrade. They cut Tomlinson, and replaced him in the draft with Ryan Matthews, which solves half of their woes in the running game, but did not add any offensive linemen to help open up more holes for Matthews and Sproles. They replaced their injured nose tackle, Jamal Williams, with Cam Thomas in this year’s draft, which should help them shore up their run defense. Other than that and trading Charlie Whitehurst to Seattle (which means little to their team on the field as Whitehurst was a 3rd string quarterback) the Chargers hardly altered their team and improved their team to a small extent.
The Chargers have a pretty easy schedule, playing six cupcake games in their division and another four cupcake games against the NFC West. They also have the unenviable task of facing the AFC South as well as the Bengals and Patriots from their first place schedule. Charger fans should expect: 12-14 wins, a divisional crown, and a likely bye in 2010.
2. Oakland Raiders
Three days ago, a common question was which of the AFC West teams would finish in second place, as every team not called the Chargers looked awful. It is amazing what a draft can do as the Raiders went from awful to mediocre. Their 2009 season was plagued primarily by JaMarcus Russell whose lethargy seemed to rub off on the team as they seemingly felt that most games were lost causes with Russell quarterbacking the team. However, when Bruce Gradkowski took over the team, the team rallied around him and they managed to beat Cincinnati and Pittsburgh who were both over .500 last year. They have some defensive talent, with the notable names being Richard Seymour, who cost the Raiders a 2011 first round pick, and Nnamndi Asomugha one of the league’s shutdown cornerbacks, as well as its highest paid one. The Raiders’ special teams shined last year (minus the returners) as Janikowski and Lechler each had outstanding years.
Prior to the draft, the Raiders made two major moves in free agency, acquiring the salvageable Kamerion Wimbley from the Browns for a third round pick and bust defensive end, Quentin Groves from the Jaguars for a fifth rounder. While those were questionable moves at best, Oakland had an excellent draft, replacing the average Kirk Morrison, who was traded away, for Rolando McClain, as well as providing his team with two decent tackle prospects, as any Raiders quarterback would have revolted if Henderson was starting after his abysmal 2009 season. The best thing the Raiders did was acquire Jason Campbell, a decent starting quarterback for a 2012 4th rounder. This gives the Raiders a starting caliber quarterback and should mean the end of the Russell disaster.
The Raiders have a pretty easy schedule, playing six inter divisional games and another four winnable games against the NFC West. They also have the unenviable task of facing the AFC South as well as the Dolphins and Steelers from their third place schedule. Raiders fans should expect: 5-8 wins in 2010.
3. Denver Broncos
Everyone knows how the Broncos 2009 season went. They started 6-0, as Mike Nolan worked a miracle with poor defensive talent. They then finished 2-8 as a lot of that talent that they had on defense wore down and there is only so much you can expect Nolan to do. There was the Marshall saga, and this season was fresh off the heels of the Cutler trade. Denver’s offense also regressed in 2008 as Eddie Royal virtually disappeared and Clady became miscast in McDaniels’ offensive system.
In the offseason Denver shipped Nolan and Marshall, two of their major contributors to their 2009 team to Miami while they managed to stockpile more Dolphins scrubs, such as Nate Jones and Akin Ayodele. Their biggest offseason move other than Marshall was the acquisition of Jamal Williams, who is a regressing nose tackle, but should be adequate for a few more years until McDaniels finds a suitable replacement in the draft. Denvers’ draft started out miserably. They reached hard for their first round picks of Thomas, who never ran routes in college, and Tim Tebow, who was not projected to go in the first round or possibly the second round. McDaniels drafted a bit better after that, largely gathering cornerbacks and offensive linemen, but will probably have a lackluster offense at best this year and a subpar defense.
The Broncos have a pretty easy schedule, playing six games in their division and another four games against the NFC West. They also have the unenviable task of facing the AFC South as well as the Ravens and Jets from their second place schedule. Broncos fans should expect: 3-6 wins in 2010.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs had a miserable 2009 season, as ridiculously overpaid quarterback Matt Cassel was subpar at best (which is not what you are looking for with the third highest paid quarterback in the league. Their defense was awful as well. However, two bright spots emerged in the electrifying running back Jamaal Charles and Brandon Flowers, who may soon be a shutdown corner. You would think that the Chiefs would majorly upgrade their team in the offseason.
And you would be very wrong. They brought in guard Ryan Lilja and running back Thomas Jones and that is about it, which poorly addresses the offensive needs of this team and entirely neglects the defense. You could then ponder their draft, as teams can be turned around by a good draft class or two. Well, Mel Kiper said in 1989. that “the Jets just do not understand what the draft is all about”, but if he was going to say that for 2010, he might as well say it about the Chiefs who seemed to be more concerned with taking defensive backs and kick returners early than actually building up the lines or the pass rush (which was anemic though not record setting like in 2008). This looks like one of the worst teams in the NFL for 2010.
And their record will reflect it. While they have a few winnable games on their schedule, such as against the Raiders, Broncos, Jaguars, Seahawks, Rams, Browns and Bills, I have a hard time seeing the Chiefs pulling off many wins against those teams as half of them had better drafts and almost all of the them came in with better teams. Chiefs fans can expect 0-3 wins in 2010.