NFL Preseason Predictions: How the Wild AFC West May Be Won

Jay BrownContributor IAugust 17, 2010

NFL Preseason Predictions: How the Wild AFC West May Be Won

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    With the start of the 2010 NFL regular season just a few weeks away, many fans and analysts begin to speculate on what teams will improve their records from last season, or what teams are going to find themseleves once again dwelling in the cellar.

    Let's take a look at how the teams in what is called the weakest division in NFL, the AFC West, faired last season and how they might do in 2010.

    NFL Futures odds to win the AFC West, AFC Championship and Super Bowl came from Sportsbookslists.com and the Caesar's Palace Sports Book.

Oakland Raiders (5-11 in 2009, Last Place in AFC West)

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    The Oakland Raiders are continuing their rebuilding process.

    In 2009, the Raiders used five different quaterbacks en route to their seventh straight losing season. Since their visit to Super Bowl XXXVII, Oakland has a combined record of 29-83

    Many wonder if head coach Tom Cable can return the Raiders to the dominance they experience during the 80's and 90's.

Oakland Raiders (8-8, 13/2 to win AFC West)

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    The Oakland Raiders look much improved on paper than they did last season.

    Oakland had an amazing NFL draft, finishing with a final grade of A-, using the first out of a total nine draft picks to select Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain with the eighth-overall pick.

    McClain will be looked upon to shore up a Raiders defense that finished the 2009 season 26th in overall defense.

    The Raiders were also busy in the free-agent market adding key offensive players, by trading a fourth-round draft pick in 2012 to the Washington Redskins for quarterback Jason Campbell.

    The Silver and Black will look to Campbell to help rebuild an offense that finished just ahead of the Clevland Browns for worst team offense in 2009.

    Odds to win AFC Championship: 50/1

    Odds to win Super Bowl: 100/1 

Kansas City Chiefs (4-12 in 2009, Third Place in AFC West)

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    Kansas City looked to former Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley to help jumpstart a Chiefs offense that had lost its luster. Haley was coming off an impressive run to the Super Bowl with the Arizona Cardnials

    The Chiefs also hired former New England Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel, Scott Pioli, as their new general manager in the hopes that Pioli could bring the same success to Kansas City as he did in New England.

    Pioli, lurred away quarterback Matt Cassel from New England to fill the vacant starting quarterback job for the Chiefs, and while it did pay divdends for the Chiefs, it didn't come in the form of wins. Something Kansas City fans are very accustomed to.

Kansas City Chiefs (5-11, 6/1 to win AFC West)

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    Chiefs head coach Todd Haley is looking to improve on the five wins his team recorded in 2009 with the help of someone his starting quarterback is all too familiar with.

    Former Nortre Dame head coach and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, has joined the Kansas City Chiefs as their new offensive coordinator. While, Weis didn't have much success with the Fighting Irish, he is very familar with the Chiefs starting quarterback.

    The Chiefs hope that re-uniting Weis with Matt Cassel will help produce the same offensive spark as it did when Weis was with the Patriots and had Tom Brady as his quaterback.

    Kansas City also hopes to improve a defense that was 30th overall last season.

    With the fifth-overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft the Kansas City Chiefs selected Tennesse defensive back Eric Berry.

    Odds to win AFC Championshp: 50-1

    Odds to win Super Bowl: 100-1

Denver Broncos (8-8 in 2009, Second Place in AFC West)

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    The Denver Broncos jumped out to an amazing 6-0 record to start the 2009 season under new head coach Josh McDaniels, however just like during the 2008 season the Broncos had a melt down during the second half of the season ending McDaniels inaugural season at .500

    McDaniels tenure has head coach didn't start out as easy as he would have liked. There was some tension between quarterback Jay Cutler and McDaniels.

    That tension ended when Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, had Cutler shipped off to Chicago in a trade that brought Chicago Bears quaterback Kyle Orton to Denver.

    Orton had his ups and downs in Chicago, put quickly proved his detractors wrong, once he had a solid offensive line to keep him from getting knocked on the ground.

    The Broncos run game improved with the addition of 2009 first-round draft pick Knowshon Moreno.

    Denver's defense was also given a huge lift from the breakout performance of linebacker Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil was selected to the Pro Bowl in his first year playing linebacker and lead the league in sacks with a club-record 17.

Denver Broncos (6-10, 5/1 to win AFC West)

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    Denver's preseason hasn't been exactly what they anticipated. Early in training camp the Broncos lost their breakout defensive star Elvis Dumervil to a torn pectoral muscle.

    Current reports put Dumervil out for the entire 2010 season. A huge blow to a Broncos defense that was rated 7th overall last season.

    The injury bug didn't just stop there. The Broncos lost running backs Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter, and LenDale White for at least part or all of training camp and possibly the start of the regular season.

    The Broncos second first-round selection may give fans something to cheer about down the road. Under Josh McDaniels teachings, Heimsan Trophy winner Tim Tebow may have the makings of a potential Super Bowl champion.

    Odds to win AFC Championship: 25-1

    Odds to win Super Bowl: 50-1

San Diego Chargers (13-3 in 2009, First Place in AFC West)

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    The San Diego Chargers quest for a Super Bowl in 2009 was cut short, when the New York Jets came to town for the AFC Divisional playoff game, and left the Chargers scratching their heads.

    Now, 2008 NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson is wearing green and white. Joining him on the Jets is his former teammate in San Diego, defensive back Antonio Cromartie.

    The Chargers are also without the services of Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson and offensive left tackle Marcus McNeill. Both players are holding out for long-term contracts that they aren't going to receive, especially with the possibilty of a lockout looming next year.

    What does this do for San Diego's chances of a team record fifth-straight AFC West crown?

San Diego Chargers (14-2, 2/5 to win AFC West)

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    The San Diego Chargers are once again the heavy favorites to win their fifth-straight AFC West crown, however it may not rest solely on the arm of Philip Rivers, but on the legs and sure hands of first-round draft pick Ryan Mathews.

    Mathews who is the heir-apparent to departed running back LaDainian Tomlinson was impressive in his first preseason game Saturday against the Bears where on nine carries he gained 50 yards. In one instance, bouncing off defenders and then powering up field for a large gain.

    The underlying question will remain if the holdouts of wide receiver Vincent Jackson and offensive tacklet Marcus McNeill effect the Chargers hopes of a playoff or Super Bowl run.

    In Jackson's absence wide receivers Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee are looking to have breakout seasons.

    Don't count out the Chargers defense.

    Shawne Merriman has returned after missing a majority of training camp, but in his absence, linebacker Larry English was playing with the intensity that we saw from Merriman in his first two seasons.

    The Chargers have the tools to make a run to the postseason, and to the Super Bowl, they just need to keep playing with intensity and believe they can win it all.

    Odds to win AFC Championship: 9/2

    Odds to win Super Bowl: 17/2