2013 NFL Preview: AFC West

Broncos ready to fly high with AFC West title

9/5/13 in NFL   |   jakeryanbrown   |   28 respect

The AFC West is shaping up the be arguably the worst divisional race in the NFL this season.  A lot of people believe that the Kansas City Chiefs are going to have a big turnaround year.  They will definitely see improvement, but nobody will be competing with the Denver Broncos for a division title.  Expect the Broncos to run away with the AFC West title and they will do it pretty early.  Let's take a look at how the standings will look in this weak division this season. 

1. Denver Broncos (12-4)

Aug 24, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) passes the ball during the first half against the St. Louis Rams at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY SportsThe Broncos time to win is now.  With Peyton Manning now 37 and nearing retirement, this is going to be the year for Manning to get back to the promised land.  The Broncos only got better at wide receiver with the addition of Wes Welker.  That gives Manning a plethora of receivers to throw to in Welker, Eric Decker, and Demaryius Thomas.  Manning will throw a ton of touchdown passes, but how will the running game do?  Denver is expected to use a running back-by-committee with rookie Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, and Knowshon Moreno.  Their offense will be in the top five this season with the depth they have.  On defense, the loss of Elvis Dumervil will be huge for the Broncos pass rush, but they have a solid secondary to make up for it.  They added Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to join Champ Bailey at cornerback and their linebacking core is very good.  It's Super Bowl or bust for the Broncos this year.  Expect them to win the AFC West at 12-4 and get to the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. 

2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-8)

Everyone is talking about the Kansas City Chiefs being a breakout team in 2013, but they aren't there Aug 16, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) scrambles against the San Francisco 49ers in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sportsyet.  They are in the right division to pick up some wins against below average teams and they bring in the head coach in Andy Reid to get them there, but it won't be enough for them to get to the playoffs in 2013.  This team got significantly better offensively as Alex Smith takes over at quarterback.  Despite some negativity on Smith, he is a huge upgrade over Matt Cassel and could lead this team to the playoffs in years to come.  Cassel and Brady Quinn led the Chiefs to an embarrassing 2-14 season last year.  Smith and running back Jamaal Charles will change that this season. Kansas City was dead last in points scored and 25th in points allowed last season.  They'll see a significant upgrade, especially with a very good secondary with the additions of Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson.  Andy Reid and company won't get to the playoffs yet, but expect an 8-8 season from Kansas City this season.   

3. San Diego Chargers (7-9)

November 18, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers (17) during the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.  Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY SportsThe Chargers are a team trying to rebuild on the fly, while contending for a playoff spot.  They desperately needed to move on from Norv Turner.  Mike McCoy comes to town with a decent team, but definitely not a playoff team.  They improved their offensive line in the offseason and added Danny Woodhead to join Ryan Matthews in the backfield.  The Chargers line was a disaster last season, but they should be able to do a little more damage now with some more depth.  Phillip RIvers has some solid receivers in Malcolm Floyd, Eddie Royal, Vincent Brown.  None of those guys really put fear into the eye of many quarterbacks though.  Defensively, expect the Chargers to struggle.  They don't have much of a defensive line and are expecting big things from their linebackers in veteran Dwight Freeney and rookie Manti Te'o.  This roster is in flux and still will question whether Phillip Rivers is their starting quarterback of the future.  Look for San Diego to have another 7-9 season. 

4. Oakland Raiders (4-12) 

The Raiders had a very busy offseason at almost every position.  The team is laying the groundwork to Aug 23, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) looks down field for a receiver during the third quarter of the game against the Chicago Bears at O.Co Coliseum. The Chicago Bears defeated the Oakland Raiders 34-26. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sportsbe competitive soon, but with Terrelle Pryor under center, it's going to be another long season in Oakland.  That says something about Matt Flynn, who got big bucks for one good game with the Packers.  Pryor will take a while to develop, if indeed the Raiders believe he's their future QB.  The loss of Darius Heyward-Bey will be seen in the passing game for this team.  Rod Streater is expected to be a breakout player this year and Joshua Cribbs should help as well, but without a stud QB, it will be tough.  Darren McFadden has slowly declined over the years and never could stay healthy.  This offense won't score a ton, but their defense did improve by a long shot in the offseason.  Their secondary was overhauled with D.J. Hayden, Charles Wooden, Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins, and Usama Young.  Despite improvement in the secondary, a lack of a big pass rush and an inept QB will have the Raiders in the cellar of the AFC West at 4-12. 
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