2011 NFL Predictions: Handicapping the AFC West & the San Diego Chargers Winning

Eli NachmanyCorrespondent IIIJune 2, 2011

2011 NFL Predictions: Handicapping the AFC West & the San Diego Chargers Winning

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    The AFC West is a curious division, and the gap between the worst and best team isn't much after the Denver Broncos had a productive draft and now have a renewed focus on winning.

    After the Kansas City Chiefs dethroned the San Diego Chargers in 2010, the AFC West became a murky division with little clear cut.

    The Oakland Raiders also remain competitive, but with a new head coach, it's tough to define who the Raiders are.

    Like the Raiders, it's tough to define what this division is.

    One thing is certain, though. The San Diego Chargers will be on top when all is said and done.

Denver Broncos

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    The Broncos head into the 2011 season under new management, and sometimes a new captain steering the ship is more important than the crew.

    John Elway is working hard to install a winning mindset in Denver, and after a good, successful draft, he seems to be a fit talent evaluator and good football man.

    The Broncos have a multitude of young talent, and will, in time, be a force to be reckoned with.

    Next year, however, the city of Denver will feel the growing pains of all of the youngsters that will start, and their final record won't reflect their talent level.

Oakland Raiders

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    The Raiders may be on the most downward trend of any team in the division after a coaching change and no owner change.

    Tom Cable was in the process of rebuilding the Oakland Raiders, and Al Davis pulled the plug on his efforts for a more agreeable "yes man" in Hue Jackson.

    After a draft in which nothing terribly valuable was added, the Raiders look much weaker than the team that went 6-0 against their division last year.

    Taking Nnamdi Asomugha off of this team only makes Oakland worse, and the Raiders could be in total shambles by 2012.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Kansas City is an interesting joker card in the 52-card deck that is the AFC West.

    Last year, with outstanding play from Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs captured the AFC West divisional crown.

    In the draft, Kansas City may have gotten even stronger offensively, providing Matt Cassel with another weapon in Jonathan Baldwin.

    However, the way Cassel performed is unlikely repeated, and the Chiefs won't be able to keep up with a strong San Diego Chargers team.

San Diego Chargers

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    Some are content to say that San Diego didn't make the playoffs and leave the statement at that, but the good news for Charger fans is that the team didn't miss the postseason by much.

    Philip Rivers and Co. have a real chip on their shoulder for 2011, having their legitimacy as divisional kings called into question.

    Look out for the Chargers, featuring a full year from Vincent Jackson and a better push on the defensive front with Corey Liuget.

    The Chargers, not the Chiefs or Raiders or Broncos, will win the division in 2011 on tough running and very efficient passing.

Conclusion and Predictions

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    The Chargers are the strongest team in this division and weren't able to show it last year because they were without Vincent Jackson.

    The Chiefs, too, are strong, and with a good follow-up season from Matt Cassel, the team could capture the wild card.

    The Broncos and Raiders are both going in different directions, but may meet at the bottom in 2011.

    Predictions: Chargers (10-6), Chiefs (9-7), Raiders (5-11), Broncos (5-11)