I am SO sick of the main stream pundits making their AFC West projections. They are picking the Chargers to win and pulling names out of a hat after that. It's sickening. I guess I just am sick of reading about how good the Chiefs and the Raiders are going to be. Are they improved teams? SURE, but they are not going to be better than the Broncos. I'm sorry if any Raider of Chiefs fan stumbles upon this, I hate to be the bearer of bad news.
Enough babbling. On to my predictions.
2009 Division Champion: San Diego Chargers
2010 Predicted Record: 9-7/10-6
Let's face it, despite the fact that he is a complete tool, Philip Rivers is a top ten, maybe even a top five NFL quarterback. He is accurate, he always finds open receivers, and he knows how to score the football.
That task just got tougher.
Even if I'm not a Broncos fan, the stunts being pulled by left tackle Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson are flat out disgusting, and quite frankly embarrassing for the Chargers' organization. The Chargers are losing a HEFTY amount with those two players alone. Think about how devastated us Broncos fans were when we thought there was even a chance that Ryan Clady would be out for a quarter of the season. Now, Marcus McNeill is threatening not to play at all.
The Chargers, though they draft well, do not have a Pro Bowl left tackle waiting in the wings. This is a HUGE loss, and people fail to consider it when talking Charger football. McNeill protects Rivers' blind side, and he is simply a good, good player. This is not and will not be the same team without him.
And how about Vincent Jackson? As much credit as was given to Brandon Marshall, the same should be given to Vincent Jackson, who absolutely is a top ten receiver in this league. He's also not the brightest guy, as he is not only in trouble with the league but holding out as well.
Jackson is a great player, and there is no denying it. The Chargers are going to lose him. Put those two together, and you have a big, big problem. The Broncos could afford to lose Brandon Marshall because they did it before the draft, and they drafted accordingly. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are two of the top WR prospects from a deep, deep crop of receivers.
Floyd is a decent player, and both guys are size mismatches, but neither is or will be Vincent Jackson. Nobody seems to take this into account either when projecting the Chargers. Jackson and McNeill are HUGE parts of this offense, and the fact that they are gone seems to be getting ignored. Michael Irvin predicted this team as the Super Bowl champions.
I've seen 12 wins thrown out there. I'm not buying it.
That all said, I really like the Chargers duo of Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates. Those two can hook up all day long, and they probably will so hopefully you drafted Gates in your fantasy league.
Another guy I like is Ryan Matthews. He is a fast runner who is good in the receiving game. He won't be LaDainian Tomlinson, but he will have as good or better of a season as Knowshon Moreno did in 09, when he led all rookies in rushing. Matthews will have to be a big part of this offense this year.
This unit will still have Rivers, but the loss of McNeill is no different than losing Clady, because Rivers is not a mobile quarterback by any means. Very big blow for San Diego.
The strength of this defense is up in the air. I really don't know what it is. The Chargers' defensive line sitll has Luis Castillo, who is a very good NFL player. They no longer have Jamal Williams, though they didn't for much of last season and their defensive line is patchwork at best.
They did not fare well last year against the run, and this year will not be any different.
The redeeming quality for the Chargers is their two inside linebackers, who both are fairly good against the running game. Stephen Cooper and Kevin Burnett man the interior for San Diego, and while neither is an All-Pro, they get the job done.
The pass rush is a different situation. The team has shown no confidence in Shawne Merriman, who is in his second year after major knee surgery. Merriman and Shaun Phillips combined for only 11 sacks last year, when much more was expected of them.
The Chargers also have Larry English, who was a first round pick in 2009, but he's yet to crack the starting lineup. He could be a key reserve off the bench if he can be effective in the pass rush department.
San Diego will absolutely need the pass rush help, because their defensive backfield is atrocious. Quentin Jammer is solid, and has been for years, but there is no depth in this area.
Antoine Cason was a first round pick but was benched last season, and he will start this year. Antonio Cromartie is gone, and the main backups are Donald Strickland and Fred Bennett, who was cut from the Houston Texans (not exactly a team that doesn't need help in the secondary).
Eric Weddle is a good tackler, but questionable in coverage. Steve Gregory was given a vote of confidence when the team released Kevin Ellison, but he is in the same boat as Weddle. As an aside, this might be the only duo of white safeties in the NFL, possibly in the last few decades. That has nothing to do with their play, just interesting.
The secondary is weak in San Diego, and it's not a good position to be in in such a pass heavy league.
This is most definitely a team on the decline, at least for 2010. They have undergone a lot of change this offseason, most notably losing the best player arguably in franchise history in LaDainian Tomlinson. I think even with a generous schedule, this team will falter because of their inability to not only get to the quarterback, but then to defend the pass.
I say a maximum of ten wins for this group, but their schedule could prove to be even more favorable.
Prediction: 5-7 wins
I simply do not get the love the Chiefs are getting. I get that they have made improvements, they hired the big name coordinators, yada, yada, yada.
Matt Cassel is not a good quarterback without a good quarterbacks coach. I believe Charlie Weis can coach him up to what he needs to be, but this is a new offense for him. We thought Brady Quinn would be well-versed coming from the Mangini/Notre Dame playbook, but obviously that's not the case. Cassel is no different, and there will be a learning curve. That's important to take into consideration.
Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones are arguably the best RB duo in the NFL, but what of it in this offense? The Charlie Weis offense has never been RB friendly. Sure, they will run the ball, and they will probably tailor their offense to the best player, but I have never seen an impact running back come from a Charlie Weis offense. Not a guy who is an NFL superstar anyway.
For Charles to be effective, he's going to need to channel his inner Reggie Bush and become a receiver. He will need to get touches in the passing game and finish teams with the run. Can Kansas City's offensive line really dictate that?
The Kansas City offensive line, last I checked, is terrible. They took advantage of a fatigued, weak, no-depth Denver defenive line at the end of last season, and Charles embarrassed us. But what of it? Ryan O'Callaghan? Rudy Niswanger? Ryan Lilja, a castoff?
This unit is going to be inconsistent throughout the year at best. Branden Albert was drafted high, but he was a guard prospect coming out of college, and we'll see if he can start a full season this year, because the Chiefs will need him.
Defensively, I love the backfield. The Chiefs have put together a nice defensive backfield, thanks to Scott Pioli and the rest of the management. They know the importance of a defensive backfield. Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr, Javier Arenas, and Eric Berry are all guys I like. I am not so much sold on Jon McGraw, and the strong safety spot is a clear area of weakness for the Chiefs in that regard, but this is undoubtedly the best unit the Chiefs have other than RB.
The linebackers are a lot of good names, not a lot of sack production. Tamba Hali dominated Tyler Polumbus, for whatever that's worth. Jovan Belcher and Derrick Johnson are nothing to write home about, though Derrick Johnson had two pick sixes against Denver last year.
Johnson was nearly demoted this offseason.
Mike Vrabel is still going strong, but he's not a pure pass rushing outside linebacker, and that is a problem. The Chiefs do not have a pass rush outside of Hali, and who knows where that production will come from?
The defensive line is Tyson Jackson, Ron Edwards, and Glenn Dorsey. Big names--no production. If this unit plays to its potential, they could be dominant. It will be interesting to see if the two LSU guys--Dorsey and Jackson--can become good 3-4 ends. Dorsey was a failed experiement at nose tackle.
The Chiefs are not as good as people are making them out to be. People have to remember, this team is still rebuilding. They JUST hired their two coordinators they want to stick with, and they were a mess a year ago. They will win six, maybe seven games this year.
Prediction: 4-7 wins
Jason Campbell might be the most overrated addition of the offseason. Washington's defense was stellar last season, and neither Campbell nor the rest of the Redskins' offense could capitalize. The Raiders have arguably a worse offensive line.
Not to mention, Campbell was acquired for a fifth round pick for a reason. He's just not that good. He wil throw maybe a touchdown per game, and that's just who he is.
One thing he has going for him is receiver Louis Murphy, who was a fantastic get for the Raiders in the 2009 draft. Murphy is a fantastic talent with speed and toughness. He is also a smart player. He and Zach Miller are probably better than the top two targets Campbell had last year in Washington, so that will help him out.
Miller will be a red zone threat, and he will bug the crap out of us all year long. He will simply make plays, and catch anything thrown his way.
The offensive line is atrocious. They are a penalty machine, and kill the Raiders in games, single handedly. Or two handedly if they get caught holding too much. They are not disciplined, and they are just not good. Robert Gallery is a light in a dark, dark place. Campbell had to tell new center Jared Veldheer to not stand up too high so he could see over him. Talk about a mess.
The Raiders and their fans should be excited about most of their defense. I love the additions they made to the defensive line the last two offseasons, though I wouldn't have given up what should be a top 12 pick for Richard Seymour, who doesn't even want to re-sign with the Raiders.
Seymour leads a line that includes rookie LaMarr Houston (who I really like), Trevor Scott, Tommy Kelley, John Henderson, and Matt Shaughnessy. This is a unit of major strength for them, though I wouldn't equate the turnover quite to the caliber of Detroit's. This line will be stout against the run, or at least much better than last year.
The linebackers got an infusion of youth and talent when Kirk Morrison was traded away and replaced by rookie Rolando McClain. McClain is a gamer, and was a great pick for the Raiders in the draft. Thomas Howard has foolishly been demoted and should be traded away to a different team.
Quentin Groves and Kamerion Wimbley will try to provide a pass rush for a team that desperately need it. Two draft busts looking to resurrect their careers might not be the best remedy there, but we will see. Wimbley did well in the pre-season.
The Raiders' defensive backfield is good. Nnamdi Asomugha leads a group including Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch, who are both extremely fast. Branch is a tackling machine, and was a very nice addition after coming into the NFL as a cornerback.
I think the Raiders' special teams redeems them more often than anyone really thinks, keeping them in games they shouldn't be. Janikowski and Lechler are arguably the best in the business at kicker and punter respectively. The Raiders drafted so many fast people, it doesn't matter who returns kicks. Jacoby Ford, Johnnie Lee Higgins, doesn't matter. Fast, fast, fast.
The Raiders are an improved team, but they will not be an immediate second place team. Still work to be done.
Projected Record: 9-10 wins
We all know the Broncos very well. This is an improved team. The question mark offensively is the health of the line, and the question defensively is whether or not the run defense can hold up throughout the season. This unit is expected to be improved, and it will be interesting to see whether or not they are in a full game of action against Maurice Jones-Drew.
Final Projected Standings
1. Broncos 10-6
2. Chargers 10-6
3. Raiders 7-9
4. Chiefs 6-10