As long as the touchdown machine that is Peyton Manning is in Denver, the Broncos will be the favorites in the AFC West. The division that was one of the weakest in the league, had three playoff representatives in 2014. The Broncos eliminated San Diego in the divisional round on their way to the Super Bowl. The Broncos received a 12th man sized beat down from the Seattle Seahawks losing 43-8. The Chiefs playoff loss was almost as embarrassing, as the Colts overcame a 28 point deficit and beat them. Despite their playoff failures, three playoff teams makes an impressive division. Will the division look so favorably in 2014?
The Broncos will be fine. They did lose some key players like Erick Decker and Knowshon Mareno, But Cody Latimer was drafted to fill Decker’s role. Losing Wesley Woodyard and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a bit of a blow. The Broncos however invested heavily in the defense signing Demarcus Ware, TJ Ward and Aqib Talib. With more star power on the defense & Peyton Manning under center the Broncos will once again be contenders.
The biggest threat to Denver would be the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers went 9-7 last season but came alive in the second half of the season. With an impressive playoff win in Cincinnati, they proved they were building something under new coach, Mike McCoy.
Phillip Rivers seemed revived in 2013. The Chargers had a great draft, filling needs. The defense found a starting cornerback in Jason Verrett and a pass rusher in Jeremiah Attaoucho. Things seem to be pointing up in San Diego but they have to get past the Broncos. Only time will tell if they took enough steps to do so.
Kansas City is an interesting team. Last season, under new head coach Andy Reid they got off to a 9-0 start. They finished 2013 with an 11-5 record losing 5 of their last seven games. Many people bashed me for not buying into the Chiefs hot start. I simply was not impressed because they had a powderpuff schedule. The tough games against Denver, San Diego and Indianapolis were all after their week 10 bye week. They lost these tough games.
This however is a season preview, not a recap of the previous year. The Chiefs have failed to improve themselves dramatically this offseason. They signed a handful of serviceable free agents but made no big splash. They had a rather mediocre draft. Dee Ford is a good outside linebacker, but he is more of a future oriented pick. The Chiefs failed to get a receiver opposite of Dwayne Bowe. Kansas City is essentially what they were last season: a decent team that may bully lesser competition but does not get a seat at the big boy table. I see the Chiefs taking a slight step backwards in 2014. I don’t think this is a playoff team.
The Oakland Raiders will be an interesting team to watch. They drafted Derrick Carr to be their franchise quarterback. With a looks shot Matt Schuab in Oakland, we may get to see Carr a lot in his rookie season. James Jones was a big signing for Oakland, as they stole one of Aaron Rodgers favorite receivers. The Raiders defense should be improved with notable free agent signings in Lamar Woodley and Justin Tuck. Khalil Mack should be an instant difference maker in his rookie season at outside linebacker. Oakland is headed in the right direction, a sentence I never expected to type. They will be competitive, but its hard to see them making real noise.