2013 NFL Preseason Predictions: AFC West (Woodhull)
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Here are my AFC West preseason predictions:
1. Denver Broncos (schedule): 11-5
I had a difficult time forecasting the Broncos this year for a few reasons: 1.) I feel they over-achieved last year, so they should come back to earth from their impressive 13-3 regular season; 2.) They are facing a boatload of injuries this year, which would have decimated a lesser team; 3.) I feel a rising Chiefs team could disrupt the top of the division.
The second tenet first: The injury bug has bitten Denver in a bad way. They lost center Dan Koppen with a torn ACL. They’ve had injuries to Champ Bailey, Derek Wolfe, and Stewart Bradley, all starters on defense. They’ll see further talent attrition due to Von Miller facing suspension and losing Elvis Dumervil to the Ravens in the offseason.
Back to the first item: They over-achieved last year. They played the fourth-easiest schedule in the NFL and improved by five wins from eight the prior year, simply due to the addition of Peyton Manning. Considering the prior year was filled with Tim Tebow miracles, however, you could argue their jump was closer to 8-10 games. So my analysis gets a little messy because in the past two years, they’ve drafted well and added talent, which would mitigate that free fall back.
I already stated that Manning is past his prime, but word from Champ Bailey himself is that it seems like Manning is throwing the ball with more velocity this year than last. Manning may put some of my doubts about his arm strength post neck surgery to rest; and who am I to question an All-Pro corner?
Was upgrading Tebow to Manning, plus a soft schedule worth 10 wins? Maybe not. The defense will suffer with the limited personnel this year, but the offense will carry them to the division crown.
As for the rising Chiefs, they’ll come up just short ...
2. Kansas City Chiefs (schedule): 10-6
The Chiefs upgraded the two most important personnel spots on any football team: quarterback and head coach. Alex Smith is an immediate upgrade over the turnover-prone Matt Cassel. Andy Reid is a proven coaching winner and had only three sub-.500 seasons as Eagles coach. Reid also came into a team with a great deal of talent.
Smith gets to take advantage of a couple of skill players, in wideout Dwayne Bowe and lightening quick running back, Jamaal Charles. On defense, there were four players named to Pro Bowl last year (Eric Berry, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston), all of whom are coming back. They also have young talent. Dontari Poe looks like he might be for real at nose tackle and Erik Fisher is a can’t-miss talent for their offensive line.
There is no doubt this team bounces back in a big way from last year’s disappointing season – the only question is how big.
3. San Diego Chargers (schedule): 5-11
Out goes A.J. Smith. Finally.
I’ve been a hater of Smith for years, as he destroyed the juggernaut built by Marty Schottenhiemer. After a power struggle between the two left only Smith standing, the team has eroded more each year. Norv Turner was the fall guy for the franchise, as GMs can sometimes fly under the radar and Turner is one those recycled head coaches, who seem like they were always just better off as coordinator.
In now are Tom Telesco as GM and Mike McCoy as coach. The feel of training camp is of a team moving the right direction. As with most reclamation projects, Year 1 will be evaluation and bringing in the right guys. They started to upgrade talent on the atrocious offensive line immediately, by bringing in four new starters.
Telesco and McCoy also added other veterans on both sides of the ball, Dwight Freeney at defensive end and Danny Woodhead as a third-down back. These guys will stabilize the clubhouse and set a good example for some young talent.
4. Oakland Raiders (schedule): 3-13
This team is still in salary-cap hell and Reggie McKenzie’s job is unenviable. After leaving Green Bay as director of personnel and taking over as GM for the Raiders, McKenzie is tasked with cleaning house and righting the ship. And turning over the roster is what he is doing.
This year brings nine new starters on defense and considering last year’s squad was 18th in total defense, this could be an upgrade. He also added veteran Charles Woodson at safety and drafted D.J. Hayden, so the secondary will be better.
McKenzie and head coach, Dennis Allen, are still developing a young offensive line to protect the Matt Flynn, acquired to replace Carson Palmer at QB. Recent rumors now are that Terrelle Pryor may beat out Flynn for the starting job, which could mean the offense is in some turmoil. Turmoil is a pretty accurate description for whole organization and this is a multi-year project with a long way to go.
All of our contributors will make their division and Super Bowl picks and we will track those on this centralized predictions page.