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2007 NFL Preview - AFC West
By Raul Smith, MOP Squad Sports Staff Writer
Aug 11, 2007 - 3:02:35 PM

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Many say that predicting the NFL season is like trying to win the Idaho lottery: it’s pretty much a crapshoot.   In the past, I’ve experienced that for myself.   And it’s easy to see why: there are only sixteen games in a season, teams can get really hot or really cold really fast, players can go down with season-ending injuries, others come from out of nowhere to make a name for themselves, etc.   You can go on and on with any number of reasons why the NFL is so hard to predict.   But yet, we media members are going to go right ahead and predict it anyway.


So, without further ado, I bring to you my annual NFL prediction columns.   As we head out into the preseason, I will take a look at the NFL, division-by-division.   I’ll give you my thoughts on each team in that division, why I think that team will/won’t be any good this season, and give you an estimated order of finish in that division, one through four.


Before I get started today, I wanted to update on my column yesterday.   I said in my Cleveland Browns preview that rookie quarterback Brady Quinn was holding out.   Come to find out now he has agreed to a five-year deal with the Browns, so the holdout is over.   However, my stance is still the same because I believe the damage has already been done.   It’s very difficult to not only catch up during the preseason if you missed out on part of training camp, but it’s also very difficult to garner the respect of your teammates when you hold out for as long as Quinn has.   Browns are still a fourth-place team in my book.


But, besides that, yesterday I looked at what could be the toughest three-team race for a division title in the AFC North.   Today, I look at what could be the most lop-sided division in all of football, the AFC West, where two teams will grind it out for a division title, and two teams will battle it out for a top-five draft pick.


Denver Broncos

Head Coach : the legendary Mike Shanahan

Offense : there is a quarterback change once again in the Mile High City.   Gone is Jake Plummer, who was traded to Tampa Bay and then subsequently retired.   Second-year quarterback Jay Cutler will try to show that he is more than ready to follow not only in the footsteps of Plummer, but of Hall-of-Famer John Elway as well.   He has weapons (Javon Walker, Rod Smith, and Brandon Marshall are back, and they did acquire Colts WR Brandon Stokely), he has a great offensive line, perhaps the best in the division, in front of him, and he has two more than capable running backs to hand the ball off to in Mike Bell and former Titans running back Travis Henry.   And in Denver, that’s more than you’d ask for.

Defense : after the tragic events that ended the life of cornerback Darrent Williams, the Broncos had one objective in mind for the offseason: find a more than suitable replacement, at least in terms of production on the field.   They traded for former Lions cornerback Dre Bly, who is definitely a step up in the secondary, and will now be paired with Champ Bailey, John Lynch, and Nick Ferguson.   They also drafted a defensive lineman with three out of their four total draft picks, which should help make the secondary’s job easier.   The Broncos could be a very feared opponent defensively in the AFC.

Overall : a high-powered offense that can either ram it down your throat through land or air coupled with a very good and improved defense equals the second-best team in the AFC West.   Unfortunately, that means the Broncos will once again miss out on the playoffs.

Prediction : 2nd in AFC West, won’t make the playoffs


Kansas City Chiefs

Head Coach : Herm Edwards

Offense : when Trent Green was traded to Miami, you would at least assume that the Chiefs would go out and acquire another quarterback to replace him with, or at the very least, one that will tutor the guys that are already there, right?   Well, guess not.   The Chiefs seem to believe that they can rely on second-year quarterback Brodie Croyle to lead the way.   Yeah, I didn’t know who he was either, but come to find out, he has played – not started, played – a total of two games his entire career!   He has thrown a total of seven passes his entire career: only three were completions and two were interceptions.   To make matters worse, their star running back, Larry Johnson, is holding out, and Priest Holmes is apparently going to be the starting running back this season.   Yeah, you remember Priest Holmes, right?   I know he hasn’t played in two years, so he may not sound strikingly familiar at the moment.   I know Kansas City has weapons, I know they have a great offensive line, and I know the draft selection of LSU’s Dwayne Bowe will help fill a need at wide receiver, but a lot of good all of that is going to do when there’s nobody to throw Bowe the football.

Defense : maybe it’s just me, but there’s really nothing positive to say about any defense if the offense is going three-and-out on almost every possession.   But, being a positive thinker, I will do my best; at least nobody expects the Chiefs to be any good defensively.   Nothing against the acquisition of Napoleon Harris or the long-awaited return of Donnie Edwards, but I just don’t see how they’ll be of much difference on this squad.

Overall : I said earlier this week that the Falcons could land the #1 pick overall in next April’s draft?   Well, the Chiefs could easily get #1 or #2.   They’re that bad.

Prediction : 4th in AFC West, possibly top three in draft


Oakland Raiders

Head Coach : Lane Kiffin is entering his first season as a head coach in the NFL after spending the last five years on the coaching staff at USC, the recent two of those five he spent as the offensive coordinator.   He has no coaching experience on the pro level whatsoever, and, at age 31, is the youngest head coach in Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders history.

Offense : well, at least Jerry Porter, the wide receiver that reportedly was laughing during a Raiders blowout last year, is back.   Yes, the Raiders drafted JaMarcus Russell from LSU with the first overall pick in the draft.   Yes, they brought back Lamont Jordan, and even brought in Dominic Rhodes.   But, the receiver corps is now Jerry Porter and a group of no-namers, now that Randy Moss is no longer around, the offensive line still has nothing to give, Jordan and Rhodes are battling over who should be the starting running back, Russell is holding out, and now, the Raiders are bringing in none other than Daunte Culpepper.   At least Lane Kiffin didn’t walk right into a gauntlet.   Then again, at this point, a gauntlet would probably have been preferable.

Defense : at least they have a solid defense…on paper.   The main guys from last year’s team are back this year; some one year older, some one year wiser.   The interesting thing is there were no major losses or acquisitions this year.

Overall : it’s pretty sad when you think about it, but think about it anyways: Lane Kiffin could wind up with more wins this year than Herm Edwards.   That’s pretty sad.   And so is this football team.

Prediction : 3rd in AFC West, won’t make the playoffs


San Diego Chargers

Head Coach : Norv Turner is entering his tenth season as a head coach in the NFL, his first with the Chargers, after spending the last two seasons working as the offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers.

Offense : this could very well be the scariest-looking offense in the entire NFL.   First, you have to worry about Philip Rivers, along with his group of receivers in Eric Parker, Vincent Jackson, and Antonio Gates, who could very well be the best tight end in the NFL.   If that’s not enough to worry about, then you have the daunting running game, led by NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson.   Oh…there’s a really good offensive line up front, too.

Defense : last year’s defense was one of the best in the league.   However, the Chargers lost Donnie Edwards to division rival Kansas City in the offseason, leaving the linebacker position a little hallow.   Yes, Randall Godfrey is a good linebacker, and “Lights Out” Shawne Merriman could very well be the most intimidating linebacker this side of Ray Lewis, but Merriman is one man and Godfrey is in his thirteenth season.   The Chargers hope that the loss of Donnie Edwards can be offset by young linebackers looking to prove themselves.   For the Chargers’ sake, I hope they’re right.

Overall : not only does this team have what it takes to win the division, I sincerely think they are one of three teams that are easy favorites to not only go to the Super Bowl representing the AFC, but win.

Prediction : AFC West Division Champions


So, looking at everything overall, here’s how the AFC West shapes up:

1.)      Chargers

2.)      Broncos

3.)      Raiders

4.)      Chiefs


Tomorrow, I take a look at a division that is one team deep when you’re talking about playoff chances: the AFC East.   It’s the Patriots and everybody else at this point.

Copyright 2007 - MOP Squad Sports

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