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The AFC West is a division many are unsure about heading into this season. After a relatively successful outing by all of its teams last season, critics will be looking to see if their success was due to easy scheduling or if this is really one of the emerging divisions in the league.
Last season, the Oakland Raiders rose from obscurity and for the first time in years did not have a losing record. Much of this can be attributed to the emergence of running back Darren McFadden, who overcame his history of injuries en route to a 1,000+ yard rushing season. Combined with running back Michael Bush, the two proved to be a dynamic duo. The Raiders did lose star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and though his presence will be missed, they have enough talent to make up for his absence.
The jury is still out on the Kansas City Chiefs and whether they are one of the league's premier teams. This is a team has stocked high-level talent on both sides of the ball through draft picks, and last season it seemed to come together. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe recorded a 15 touchdown season, Matt Cassel continued with his efficient game management at the quarterback position, and running back Jamaal Charles had a breakout season averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Their defense has numerous bright spots also and several of its members may crack the Pro Bowl this year, namely safety Eric Berry and cornerback Brandon Flowers.
The San Diego Chargers are one of this league's enigmas. They are the only team to have a top five offense and defense but fail to make the playoffs. Even with their shortcomings, it is easy to see the talent the Chargers possess, especially in quarterback Philip Rivers. Rivers is questionably the most accurate quarterback in the league, but he will have to find a new target to pair with Vincent Jackson after the departure of Malcolm Floyd. Regardless, if the Chargers can build on last season's success and improve their divisional record, they will most likely crack the AFC's top six.
Denver is easily the worst team in this division, but that does not necessarily mean the Broncos lack talent. With the No. 2 overall pick they secured linebacker/defensive end Von Miller to be a staple of their defense for years to come. The main concern of the Broncos is their quarterback situation. Denver has to decide whether it wants to move forward with the reliable Kyle Orton or mortgage their future on the popular Tim Tebow. Despite training camp reports saying Tebow was struggling to provide proper competition for Orton, he performed admirably in his first preseason game. If Tebow can continue to show the type of progress he has shown on game day rather than in practice, he will make this decision much more difficult for Elway & Co.