The AFC West is never a dull division with something strange always happening. Each team is constantly surrounded by some sort of drama be it a position battle, off field drama, crazy coaching or insane ownership, this division provides fans with something to talk about. This year they are set to play the AFC East and NFC North which will provide every team with 6 tough games to add into their divisional schedule (sorry Bills and Vikings fans).
2010: 4-12, Missed Playoffs
Major Additions: Von Miller (LB)*, Dante Rosario (TE)
Major Losses: Jabar Gaffney (WR)
Biggest Game: Week 1 vs Oakland (MNF)
You really have to feel sorry for Kyle Orton, he produces whenever given an opportunity and most coaches are more than willing to try and replace him. After spending several years in Chicago showing everyone except Lovie Smith he was far more competent than Rex Grossman, he was about to get his chance as full time starter until he was traded to the Denver Broncos. In his time there he was quite good perhaps because he was playing for his job with the second coming Tim Tebow pushing him. After trying to trade him, new coach John Fox seems to have finally realized the truth that Orton is the best quarterback the Broncos have on their roster. Someone will hopefully emerge from the team’s group of running backs to carry the load and John Fox is a big fan of a run first offense. On the defensive side rookie Von Miller has a chance to be a very good player and Elvis Dumervil is back after missing all of last year but there is only so much the two of them can do.
Better or Worse in 2011: I see marginal improvement by the Broncos this year to roughly 6 total wins. Sure Orton is decent but there is not much else available on the rest of the roster.
Kansas City Chiefs
2010: 10-6, AFC West Champions. Playoffs: Lost Wild Card Round
Major Additions: Kelly Gregg (DT), LeRon McLain (RB/FB)
Major Losses: Mike Vrabel (OLB), Shaun Smith (DT)
Biggest Game: Week 11 @ New England (MNF)
Given his latest preseason outburst, I’m becoming more and more convinced the coach Todd Haley is a delusional nut job. From his outburst at Josh McDaniels, to skipping out on camp to attend a Lil’ Wayne concert, to going off at John Harbaugh this preseason and getting into an argument with Anquan Boldin during the NFC Championsip Game as the Cardinals coordinator and even going at it with Terrel Owens while with the Cowboys, Haley has shown he is a fiery coach. Whether or not he is insane, Haley is a highly-functioning maniac who seems to have his team united and playing hard for him.
The Chiefs defense will spearhead their run in 2011 as they enter their second year under the guidance of Romeo Crennell. Tamba Hali is looking to justify his new big-money deal he got for posting 14.5 sacks last season. Hali is going to play a role similar to what Willie McGinest was for the Patriots in that system and early signs says he will do a very good job in that role. Meanwhile safety Eric Berry will look to build on a solid rookie season and spearhead the Chiefs secondary.
The offensive combination of Matt Cassel to Dwayne Bowe came on strongly at the end of last season however teams were able to key on Bowe and the lack of a true second option meant the passing game was stifled. To remedy this two major acquisitions were made at the receiver position, Steve Breaston was signed from the Cardinals and has a background with Haley and Jon Baldwin was drafted in the first round to hopefully take some of the pressure off Bowe, I was not a fan of the Baldwin drafting but as a third or even fourth option he may provide a solid contribution. While the passing game gets the headlines, the key to the offense going well is running back Jamaal Charles who is extremely talented and should be the number one back in this team.
Better or Worse in 2011: 9 or 10 wins seems like a solid target for the Chiefs this year as they aim for back to back winning seasons.
2010: 8-8, Missed Playoffs.
Major Additions: Kevin Boss (TE), Lito Shepherd (CB)
Major Losses: Tom Cable (Coach), Nnamdi Asomugah (CB), Robert Gallery (G),
Biggest Game: Week 4 vs New England
Speaking of insane, how can we forget good old Al Davis and his Oakland Raiders. They massively overachieved in 2010 and managed to finish at 8-8 and post their best record since their 2002 Super Bowl run. They also managed to go undefeated in their division but missed the playoffs because of a 2-8 run outside the West. As a reward for doing so well coach Tom Cable was not offered a new contract with the team and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will take over. Sure Jackson will most likely continue to steer the ship in the same direction but why change something that was working, then again it wouldn’t be an NFL offseason without an odd move by Oakland.
On the field, the Raiders have some talent which shocks me considering how many of their free agency moves and draft choices have been international punchlines in the past. The defense in particular looks quite strong even with losing all-world corner Nnamdi Asomugah. The interior combination of Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly and a rotating cast of pass rushers outside should not be too easy to deal with and the linebacking corps lead by Rolando McClain has a real mean streak. Lito Shepherd will not be able to match the output of Asomugah but he will be decent which is all you can really ask the replacement. The offense still has some questions but last year it appeared that the lightbulb went off for Darren McFadden who might just be a real game breaker yet.
Better or Worse in 2011: The unbelievable feat of going 6-0 within the division will most likely not happen again and a much tougher out of division schedule means the Raiders will go sub .500 this year but they are slowly working their way out of mediocrity.
San Diego Chargers
2010: 9-7, Missed Playoffs
Major Additions: Bob Sanders (S), Kevin Bentley (LB)
Major Losses: Darren Sproles (RB), Kevin Burnett (LB)
Biggest Game: Week 10 vs Oakland (SNF)
Last season the Chargers had a great offense, great defense and rubbish special teams. As a head coach Norv Turner is a fantastic offensive coordinator, he has his defenders but his best work is done in a supporting role, much like John Cryer from Two and a Half Men, neither one seems capable of being the head man. That offense is loaded and since that is Turner’s specialty, he knows what to do with it. The passing game alone should earn the team several wins with Phil Rivers having a plethora of targets including Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates to pass to. While I am not a fan of Rivers and do not think he is in the Brady-Manning-Brees class, he is right below with Rodgers and the man does produce, I can’t argue that. Last year’s top pick Ryan Matthews had a disappointing rookie campaign and will be looking to do better this time round. The Chargers defensive line will be the key to how that unit performs this season with tackle Luis Castillo being the key man.
Better or Worse in 2011: With the talent available on the roster there is no way the Chargers will be worse than 2010, they will post double digit wins and be in the mix come playoff time as much as it pains me to admit.