2010 NFL Division Previews: AFC West
by Nick Sero
With the 2010 NFL season fast-approaching, Fantasy Football Sportal is all over the season previews for all eight NFL divisions, while covering all 32 NFL teams.
In our division-by-division breakdown, we took a close look at every team, and give our insight on how 2010 could shape-out for each squad.
The AFC West has not been a competitive division for a long time. The Chargers have been on the Super Bowl bubble for just as long, however. Will 2010 finally be the year for the Chargers and will there be any competition from the three remaining AFC West clubs?
Read on for expert football analysis:
San Diego Chargers (1)
Marty Schottenheimer had his run with the Chargers, taking the AFC West twice but never winning more than one playoff game. Norv Turner is the man in charge and in his first season brought two playoff victories before ultimately falling to the future Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. Last season, however, the Chargers got back to their usual playoff ways, losing a home Divisional Playoff game to the New York Jets. Turner will have to do win a playoff game quickly to make the Chargers’ front office forget about last season.
The Chargers should again be the ]best of the AFC West with Quarterback Philip Rivers at the helm. The Chargers showed their faith in their young gunslinger with a $92 million dollar contract in the off season. The Chargers love to throw the ball and despite likely playing the season without Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson, the Chargers have a very strong receiving corp. Malcolm Floyd had a career high 776 yards, yet only recorded a single touchdown. Second receiver Legedu Naanee will be the second receiver on the depth chart and despite only recording 242 yards, had double the amount of touchdown receptions as Floyd.
Antonio Gates has proved to be one of the best tight ends in the league and had one of his best seasons in 2009, being targeted by Rivers a team high 114 times. Gates’ biggest issue is staying healthy and if he can stay off of the medic table, Gates should be targeted even more in 2010.
The Chargers lost a legend in Ladainian Tomlinson, but traded up in the draft to pick up Ryan Matthews from Fresno State. So far in this preseason Matthews has been helping to make Chargers’ fans forget about the guy who wore #21. The Chargers have a lot invested in Matthews to save a sluggish ground game. Darren Sproles has the athleticism to be a home run threat, but is most dangerous as the receiver in a screen pass.
On defense, the Chargers have some question marks. The Chargers’ 3-4 defense lost massive run stopper Jamal Williams which could be devastating when it comes to stopping the run. The linebacking corp is very good, but the outside will need to get better after disappointing seasons by Shaun Philips and Shawne Merriman.
Oakland Raiders (2)
The Jamarcus Russell experiment has finally come to an end in the Bay Area, and former Washington Redskin Jason Campbell is the man under center. Campbell isn’t exactly walking in to a better situation than he was in Washington either. Campbell will have a very reliable receiver in tight end Zach Miller, who was actually able to make Jamarcus Russell look good ... occasionally.
Chaz Schilens missed the majority of the season in 2009 with a foot injury, if he can stay healthy Schilens could make the 2010 season much easy on his quarterback. There is already grumblings in Oakland that Schilens could miss significant time with a knee injury from over compensating for the bad foot. If Schilens is down, even more pressure will be put on Darrius Heyward-Bey to live up to his high draft position. Heyward-Bey started 11 games in 2009 but only recorded nine catches.
Darren McFadden is just another high draft pick to not live up to expectations in Oakland. New Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson has preferred a power run game during his stints with Atlanta and Washington. This can’t mean good things for McFadden considering Michael Bush is a strong runner that grossly outperformed him in 2009.
The Raiders had a stellar defensive line in 2009. No one could have predicted that Richard Seymour would perform as well as he did last season and Nnamdi Asomougha again was one of the best corners in the game. The issue with the Raiders is, and has been for too long, that they are weak against the run. The addition of Rolando McClain and Kamerion Wimbley will certainly help with that, however, Wimbley has never been especially known for his coverage skills.
Denver Broncos (3)
Quarterback Kyle Orton may be the most underrated passer in the NFL, not to say that he will be able to make the Broncos relevant in 2010, especially without Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall. There is much talk about Tim Tebow and what he will bring to the Broncos offense this season, although it should be noted that Orton signed a one year extension, pretty much solidifying that Tebow will spend this season on the bench and learn with the chance to start next season.
Without Marshall, the Broncos have few skill players worth talking about. Running back Knowshon Moreno suffered a hamstring injury early on in training camp and has missed significant practice time. This really doesn’t bode well for Moreno and the Broncos considering he never eclipsed 100 yards in any game in 2009.
The receiving corp will not have the same look without Marshall. Eddie Royal will have the most experience in the Broncos’ three receiver set and Royal had a terrible year in his first year under head coach Josh McDaniels. Rookie receiver Demaryious Thomas will forever be seen as the Marshall replacement, whether he like sit or not. There is nothing to show that Thomas can fill those shoes as of now, but he is a tough receiver that will be a great short yardage for Orton (who rarely throws deep).
The loss of Elvis Dumervil is heart breaking for Denver fans. Dumervil has elevated his game in the past few seasons that he was a focal point to the Broncos success on defense. Journeyman Akin Ayodele has big shoes to fill now that Elvis has left the building. The addition of Jamal Williams at nose tackle will only improve a rush defense that ranked 26th in 2009.
Kansas City Chiefs (4)
Matt Cassel didn’t exactly continue his winning ways in Kansas City, although not entirely due to his own fault. The Kansas City offensive line will have to get better if the Chiefs want to contend and show that their investment in Cassel was worthwhile. New offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will bring a multiple set offense to Kansas City and had worked with Haley previously so the offensive could actually get better.
Jamaal Charles had a stellar year and showed that the post-Larry Johnson era wouldn’t be as rough of a transition. Charles got stronger as the season progressed and could again be a top back in football. Thomas Jones was added to the lineup, and some expect it is because of distrust in Charles as a feature back. The Chiefs still have Charles listed as #1 on the depth chart, however. Odds are that Jones was added to the lineup to become just another weapon for an anemic offense with a new look.
The hype that was Dwayne Bowe was short lived as a performance enhancing drug suspension cut his season short by four games. Bowe ended the season with only 589 yards receiving. Chris Chambers was added halfway through the season by way of a trade with San Diego. Chambers actually was a great addition to the Chiefs’ offense recording 608 yards while playing on nine games in Kansas City. Dexter McCluster was a running back in college but will play the slot position for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs spent the entire off season working on their offense, but barely added anyone to the defensive side of the ball. The Chiefs were bad against the pass and terrible against the run. Tamba Hali was the only pas rushing threat the Chiefs had in 2009 and it should stay that way in 2010. Eric Berry, a dynamic safety drafted in the first round, should start immediately.