The NFL season begins tomorrow night and the Denver Broncos open their 2014 campaign on Sunday night versus the Indianapolis Colts. The Broncos have one goal this season and that’s to win the Super Bowl but before that, they must focus on winning the AFC West.
With the season set to begin, here’s a look at the AFC West: complete with predictions:
Broncos (12-4)- Yes it’s a tough schedule and yes the Broncos are missing some key players for the first month of the season, but they are clearly the best team in the division. They have depth at every position and that depth will help them get off to a 3-1 start while Wes Welker, Danny Trevathan and Matt Prater sit out due to suspensions and injury.
The Broncos, even without, Welker will score 30+ points per contest minus the game in Seattle and the defense is better with the free agent signings of DeMarcus Ware, TJ Ward and Aqib Talib. Throw in all the players returning from injury on that side of the ball, and the Broncos should be at least a top 10 defense. With an offense that will put up 30+ points per game, a top 10 defense is more than enough.
As for where the four losses will come from; it’s tough to say for sure. The game in Seattle will be extremely difficult as well the game versus the New England Patriots. The Broncos always seem to drop an unexpected home game and losing at least one division game is almost expected. In the end, it all adds up to 12-4, a fourth straight division title and no worse than the number two seed in the AFC.
Chargers (9-7)- The Chargers are getting a lot of love as the one team in the division that could give the Broncos a run for their money. On one hand those who believe that are right, the Chargers are the only threat to the Broncos. However that does not mean it will be a race to the finish.
The Chargers are talented offensively and are clearly the second best team in the division, but they are not ready to beat out the Broncos for the division. They played well at the end of 2013 and even beat the Broncos in Denver, but the Chargers will struggle with virtually the same tough schedule that that the Broncos face.
They will beat the teams they are supposed to beat but the Chargers will struggle to beat the better teams on their schedule, and that leads to 9-7. That might be good enough for the second wild card spot but it’s doubtful.
Chiefs (7-9)- They were the surprise team in 2013 when they started 9-0 and made the playoffs, but the Chiefs will take a step back in 2014. The Chiefs are on the right track with Head Coach Andy Reid but they lost a fair amount of talent in the offseason.
Their offensive line will feature three new starters and their secondary is very young outside of safety, Eric Berry. The decision to release cornerback Brandon Flowers is still a head scratcher and both Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers have to be licking their chops to face this secondary.
The Chiefs strength will once again be their running game with Jamal Charles and a front seven led by Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. They will try and keep games close going to the fourth quarter, and find a way to win them late as they did so often in 2013. The problem is that the Chiefs really struggled to beat the good teams last season and the schedule this season’s is loaded with good teams. Their first six games are brutal; 7-9 might be optimistic.
Raiders (5-11)- Are the Raiders better, probably. Are they ready to compete in the AFC West, not even close. They did finally make a good decision in deciding to go with rookie quarterback, Derek Carr and they did sign some big names in free agency but it only adds up to one more win.
Carr is a talent and could be a thorn in the side of the other teams in the division for years to come, but he will struggle with growing pains in his rookie season. Carr just does not have enough talent around him to succeed right now. Running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden are great talents but Jones-Drew is on the back end of a great career and McFadden can’t stay healthy. The Raiders will struggle to score points and in the AFC West, that’s a problem.
Defensively, the Raiders could be pretty good if their veterans stay healthy and play back to form. Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack was the best player in the draft in my opinion and veterans like Lamar Woodley should make the defense respectable if they are not worn out by midseason from being on the field so much. A young quarterback, a good but aging defense and the toughest schedule in the league leads to a 5-11 mark for the Raiders.
The offseason is over and the regular season is upon us. Every team’s goal is to win the Super Bowl but it starts with winning the division. It’s the Broncos division right now, can anyone take it from them?