1) San Diego Chargers
I never thought I would be saying this about a Norv Turner coached team, but right now the division is for the Chargers taking. Turner stepped up big last year as a head coach facing adversity and turned the team’s season around and brought them within one game of the Superbowl. That being said offensively they still have LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates who are probably (about 95% positive) the best players at their position in the NFL. The defense is still nasty led by two of the most entertaining players to watch in the NFL Shawn Merriman and Antonio Cromartie.
However, similar to the Colts the Chargers season depends on the health of their top four players. Everyone watched the playoffs last season and saw LDT leave the divisional round game against the Indy and did not last long against New England before calling it a season. Antonio Gates was not doing a whole heck of a lot better as he was clearly limping up and down the field before he was taken out. Similar, to his head coach Philip Rivers stepped up and showed a lot of toughness last year hobbling around against the Patriots leading the team down the field several times, but instead of scoring touchdowns they were forced to field goals and they could not over New England. The fourth player is Shawne Merriman who instead of listening to three doctors and getting season ending surgery is playing with two torn ligaments in his knee. If any of them miss extended periods of time they will not make it far in the playoffs, if they stay healthy they can make a run at the Superbowl.
Final Record: 11-5
2) Oakland Raiders
I know this sounds stupid, but if Lane Kiffen could get his players fired up and playing with passion again (which should be easier without Lamont Jordan and Jerry Porter moping around) they could start to turn around the franchise and bring it back to its winning ways. The addition of Javon Walker gives JaMarcus Russell a big play maker that wants to play football. The running back core could be the best in the league, of course Darren McFadden looks like the real deal and every time he touches the ball he could take it to the house, and they have Justin Fargas returning off of a 1,000 yard season, and the third back on the team I think could be the Glen “Big Baby” Davis of the NFL season, Michael Bush. Before Bush had a season ending injury last year at Louisville he was a Heisman candidate and was a threat to Run DMC as the first running back taken in the draft, with his big body I think he will be used mostly in Jerome Bettis situations (short yardage, and goal line) for now, but as the season goes on he will gain more carries and give them one of the best running back cores since the ’72 Dolphins (Jim Kiick, Mercury Morris and Larry Csonka).
With a good defense and lots of potential on offense the Raiders could make a run at one of the final two playoff spots. However they have to remember that the term “The Black Hole” is for other teams coming to play the Raiders at home, and not for their careers.
Final Record: 7-9
3) Denver Broncos
I know many people think the Broncos can return to the playoffs this year, however I just do not see why. They have a lot of players that are good, but I am not sold on any of them (besides Champ Bailey) that can help take this team to the next level. Mike Shanahan is still coaching them so they will have a strong running game and good defense which will make them tough, but are they better than they were last year? I am not so sure about that.
I think the receivers need to step up right now they have rookie Eddie Royal starting opposite Brandon Marshall (besides for week one when Marshall is suspended) after that they have a veteran who looks like he is going to be moving around from team to team before he retires with Darrell Jackson as the third receiver, and then Brandon Stokely who bounced back last year after a couple of injury prone seasons which ended his tenure in Indianapolis. When its all said and done this is just a mediocre football team and why should their record be anything, but mediocre.
Final Record: 7-9
4) Kansas City Chiefs
After looking at the Chiefs roster, I became very excited knowing that in week 16 the Dolphins visit Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs look horrible right now. They don’t have one wide- receiver to get excited about, a quarterback who could barely beat out Damon Huard for the starting job, several aging players on defense, and a kicker who was not in the league last season. That’s not a recipe for success.
This is put up or shut up time for Brodie Croyle. He has to play well enough to keep Huard on the bench the entire season if he does not want to be replaced next April as KC’s QB of the future, and that might not even work. I mean if Jay Fiedler needed one pre-season game to beat out Huard in 2000 for the Dolphins starting job, how good could Huard be? Or maybe the better question is how bad is Croyle?
Final Record: 3-13