No other division is like the AFC West. In no other division could any of the four teams win the division and it would be a “surprise”. The Chiefs have great defense and are looking to build off the success they finished last season with. The Broncos are looking for Peyton Manning to play like his old self and bring them back to the playoffs. The Chargers still have Philip Rivers and that electric offense, thus they will still be in contention, and if Carson Palmer’s play can prove that he’s worth what the Raiders traded for him, then they could win the division as well. But we had to boil it down to two, and the two favorites to win the division are the Chiefs and Chargers. Who will win the division between the two? Read below to find out.
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[one_half] By: Arif Hasan
The Chiefs should be a lock to win, given that their three best players were absent and were only one game away from winning it. They now have the league’s best safety, a top five running back and a top five tight end returning from injury.
The receiving corps consists of All-Pro Dwayne Bowe, sleeper Jonathan Baldwin, reliable possession receiver Steve Breaston, top five tight end Tony Moeaki, and good all-around TE Kevin Boss.
The backfield is one of the best in the NFL: Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis and Dexter McCluster. With the addition of one of the best RTs in the sport, Eric Winston, the running game should be even better than the 4.7 yards per carry and league-leading 164 yards per game they had in 2010.
All-Pro Tamba Hali is still improving and is already one of the better pass rushers in the league. Underrated Derrick Johnson is as good as Patrick Willis, and has played at that level for two years. Stud Dontari Poe will only make the pass rush and run defense better.
In the secondary, safeties Eric Berry and up-and-comer Kendrick Lewis will effectively contain passes alongside excellent corners Brandon Flowers and Stanford Routt. A defense that was average against the pass should jump into the top ten or even five with their new look.
The Chiefs’ biggest detractors will argue that Matt Cassel is a liability, but solid teams don’t need a top-flight quarterback to win the division: the 49ers, Texans, and Ravens proved it last year. The Broncos did it in the AFC West with perhaps history’s worst quarterback.
Cassel is a solid enough quarterback to allow the rest of the team to take over and win, just like they did with the Packers when they had Orton.
I understand why Joey picked the Chargers to win, but they won’t get far. They’re the only team in the AFC West to have gotten worse from an already disappointing season.
Philip Rivers had an awful year as a result of his terrible offensive line, and they’ve only gotten worse after the retirement of LT Marcus McNeill and injuries to three of their five starters. Left guard Tyronne Green was already bad, but his backup—Rex Hadnot—is awful.
Jeromey Clary, RT, is one of the worst overall players starting in the NFL.
Robert Meachem, who has never caught more than 45 passes or had over 750 yards, is a poor replacement for Vincent Jackson. Good all-around receiver Vincent Brown might have been an answer, but a broken ankle will keep him out eight weeks.
Their running game is headed by injury-prone Ryan Mathews. The loss of Tolbert and Sproles is no small problem either; the offense relied on Sproles’ dynamic threat.
Cornerbacks Jammer and Cason are a terrible tandem—together they allowed 11 touchdowns with only two interceptions. More than that, Jammer is clearly regressing.
Atari Bigby is a huge injury risk, and the only saving grace they have is Pro Bowler Eric Weddle.
Their defensive line consists of average tackles, terrible ends and one good outside linebacker, with one average OLB. They were 20th in stopping the run last year, and 23rd in sacks. The addition of Jarret Johnson won’t change this much. With only one good inside linebacker (Butler massively outplayed the overrated Spikes), the Chargers defense relies on unsustainable production from one defensive playmaker.
[one_half_last] By: Joey Rebbe
One thing, for now, that we can safely assume; however, is that the Chargers will win the AFC West. Most NFL analysts consider this the most “wide open” division, since it was won by an 8-8 team last year. Given that, we can predict a Charger title, based on the following items:
Let’s break down and see what talent this team has.
At Quarterback, Philip Rivers is still elite. Yes, he had his worst season in 2011. Keep in mind that he still threw for 4600 yards and made the pro bowl in that season. If that’s Rivers at his worst, than he can only throw for even more impressive numbers this year.
The Running Back position is somewhat of a question mark right now, as Ryan Matthews is clavicly challenged during the preseason. The back himself has stated that he aims to return for Week 1, and medical prognoses seem to agree. Ryan Matthews is incredible when healthy, and once that clavicle heals, healthy he shall be.
Wide Receiver took a hit when Vincent Jackson left, but free agent addition Robert Meacham, deep threat Vincent Brown, and sure handed Malcom Floyd shouldn’t leave fans too disheartened. The receiver core is deep and talented.
At tight end, do I really need to say anything? Antonio Gates is one of the best of all time. A sure fire Hall of Famer.
Defensively, the team has All-Pro Safety Eric Weddle, who led the NFL in interceptions last year, stud rookie linebacker Melvin Ingram, who has been dominant this preseason, and talented Takeo Spikes manning the middle of the field. Matt Cassel is sure going to have fun throwing with those guys in his way.
Ultimately, the Chargers are the most talented team in the AFC West. But let’s look at other key factors as to why their victory is all but assured this year.
Norv Turner’s job is on the line
It’s no secret that Norv Turner is on the hot seat. Many consider this to be his last shot with the Chargers before he gets the boot. Expect this pressure to be good for him. Norv’s position has been safe throughout most of his San Diego tenure, and he hasn’t been forced to perform. Now, facing termination, Norv must take risks offensively, and be defensively aggressive. He must make a name for his team. And when Norv makes a name for his team, that team becomes legitimate.
All mismatches in the division favor the Chargers
Peyton Manning is the big story of the offseason. Some claim that with Manning, the Broncos are immediate AFC West champions and potential Super Bowl contenders. You know what’s funny? Peyton Manning, historically, is worse against the Chargers than any NFL team. Their 3-4 Defense plays against his strengths, and they pick him off multiple times every game. He may be with a new team, but seeing as Manning threw 4 interceptions the last time he played the Chargers, there should be no expectations that he can beat them twice a year.
The Chiefs shouldn’t be a concern either. Their offense has struggled to put up points against anybody besides the Cardinals this preseason, and their defense got demolished by the Rams and the Seahawks. Frankly, the Chiefs have look lost this preseason, while the Chargers have looked sharp.
The Raiders could be worriso…. Aww who am I kidding? Carson Palmer is their quarterback. He’s thrown no touchdowns and four interceptions this preseason, and Darren McFadden is almost guaranteed to get injured this year. He’s not even guaranteed to be fully healed from last year’s injury.
In conclusion, lack of competition, Norv Turner’s inevitable increase in fervor, and lack of legitimate competition will have the Chargers taking the AFC West.