AFC West: Answering Six Burning Questions in the AFC West
The AFC West is a very interesting division. It is known to be a weak division, but it can get very interesting as well.
For example, who would've predicted the 4-12 Chiefs would win the AFC West over the Super Bowl-predicted Chargers? Who would've predicted the Raiders, who lost 13 straight to San Diego before 2010, would sweep them?
Now, as we enter the 2011 season, many questions float around pertaining to this division, and this slideshow provides the answers.
Are the Chargers Still an Elite Team?
Last season was the first year since 2005 the Chargers didn't make the playoffs. It was an "upset" because they were heavy favorites to win the AFC West, and some even predicted they'd be Super Bowl Champions.
They did go 9-7 but had their fair share of problems. The special teams was downright terrible, Ryan Matthews was injured a great portion of the season, Vincent Jackson missed 11 games, Antonio Gates got hurt, etc.
The Chargers are a great team, and still are a threat to win the AFC West, but I wouldn't say they're elite. Only way I'll call them an elite team is if they can AT LEAST go to the AFC Championship game and put up a good fight.
Are the Chiefs for Real, or Are They a Fluke?
Some may call the Chiefs a fluke, since they won a division at 10-6, and got owned in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens, but the Chiefs have a great team.
Their running game is excellent, they could do better than Cassel, but he isn't terrible, and their defense has really improved. Eric Berry will have an excellent career in KC, etc.
If you ask me, their team is NOT a fluke and should still compete for the division.
How Will the Division Pan Out?
As I said, the two main contenders in the division are the Chargers and Chiefs. They will battle it out (like last season) and only one will win the division. Maybe the other will win the wild card, but, who knows?
Expect the records to be something like this:
1. Chargers 9-7 - 10-6
2. Chiefs 9-7 - 10-6
3. Broncos 6-10 - 7-9
4. Raiders 5-11 - 6-10
Why do the Chargers win? Well, they can usually beat the Chiefs, and I like their chances better, due to head-head matchups
Who Will Be the Starting QB for the Broncos?
Finally, I get to talk about my favorite team. Denver.
Well, this season will be an interesting one for the Broncos. New head coach, new defense, another running back to complement Moreno (DeAngelo Williams?), And of course, the biggest question of all. Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow?
Well, as a Broncos fan, I would prefer Tebow, as he's a game winner, WAY better on third down than Orton was, a lot harder to sack than Orton was, and he's fun to watch. If I were head coach, Tebow would easily be my starter. But since I'm not head coach of the Broncos, and John Fox is, he decides.
Fox has recently said “I prefer a gamer to a good practice player. . . . I want someone who will execute under pressure in a game.” Since Orton sucked at comebacks last season, this could be a hunt Tebow will be the starter, but nobody knows what they really think.
I believe Orton will probably start, and then he will lose his starting job to Tebow a couple weeks into the season. And I'm not buying any of that "Brady Quinn could start" stuff.
If Fox wants the best QB for the Broncos to start and win games, Tebow's the guy. If he wants one who can get lots of fantasy points, but lose games, Orton's the man.
What's Gonna Happen to the Raiders?
Well, so far, I see that their offseason is going to be very tough when free agency starts up. They'll very likely lose Nnamdi Asomugha to free agency, and Zach Miller, Michael Huff and Michael Bush could leave with him. Those are four key players on your team. That doesn't sound good.
Plus, they fired Tom Cable and hired Hue Jackson. Cable was a great head coach, and the Raiders were actually headed in the right direction. Despite his problems with hitting people, he was a great fit for the organization. Now, they're headed down again.
Unless Demarcus Van Dyke can pull of a Devin McCourty and have a huge year replacing Asomugha, their defense is gonna suffer without Nnamdi and Huff.
Which First/Second Round Pick Will Make the Biggest Impact?
Broncos - Von Miller
Chiefs - Jonathan Baldwin
Chargers - Corey Liuget
* Raiders - Stefen Wisniewski
(Oakland did not have a first round pick. Wisniewski was drafted in the second round by the Raiders)
All four of these guys will make good impacts on their teams. But, who will make the biggest?
Von Miller was drafted to help out the Broncos terrible pass rush. Wisniewski was drafted to be a force on the Raiders offensive line and give Campbell more time to throw.
Baldwin was drafted to give Cassel another guy to throw to, but he'll be the Chiefs No. 2 WR (behind Dwayne Bowe, of course) and the Chargers did fine at DT last season, but I think they wanted to draft BPA (defensive wise) and they believed Liuget was the best available.
I believe Von Miller will make the biggest impact and help out the Broncos in a big way. Getting Elvis Dumervil back from injury will improve the pass rush, but it'll also help Miller out.
He'll also get the most recognition out of the 4 players, since Baldwin will be a #2 WR to Bowe, Luiget wasn't really drafted to fill a big need, and Wisniewski was a second-rounder. He's a fantastic player, and I believe in him. He'll be a force for years to come.