2013 NFL Preseason Predictions: AFC West (Hanson)
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Here are my 2013 preseason predictions for the AFC West:
1. Denver Broncos (schedule): 12-4
Not only do the Broncos have one of the league's all-time greatest players in Peyton Manning, a four-time MVP, but he has three 1,000-yard receivers as weapons. In addition to Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, who had breakout seasons last year, the Broncos signed free-agent slot receiver Wes Welker in the offseason. While all three of those receivers could potentially see fewer targets than they had in 2012, they form the best trio of wide receivers in the league.
Although the Broncos will light up the scoreboard, they have some concerns on the defensive side of the ball. Not only did they lose Elvis Dumervil to the Ravens, their Week 1 opponent, but Von Miller will miss the first six games of the season due to a suspension. They combined for 29.5 sacks and will only have that duo for 10 games total this year. In addition, cornerback Champ Bailey is 35 years old (and out for the opener).
2. Kansas City Chiefs (schedule): (8-8)
Despite the talent on the roster, the Chiefs won only two games in 2012. Unluckily (sorry for the pun), the Chiefs landed the top overall pick in a year where there was not a potential franchise-changing prospect at quarterback like we saw in 2012 with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. (Or next year with Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.)
In this year's draft, they selected Eric Fisher No. 1 overall and he and Branden Albert form one of the league's better pairs of bookend tackles. They did upgrade themselves at quarterback with Alex Smith and quarterback guru Andy Reid as coach enhances that upgrade.
Much was made of the rebound (to nearly historic heights) by Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, but what Jamaal Charles did was almost as incredible. Despite tearing his ACL in 2011 as well, Charles rushed for a career-high 1,509 yards last season.
They have many Pro Bowlers on the defensive side of the ball with Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Eric Berry and they added Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson to their secondary to play along with Brandon Flowers.
The Chiefs will bounce back although I have them falling short of the playoff expectations many have for this squad.
3. San Diego Chargers (schedule): 5-11
It's a new era in San Diego (at least when it comes to the front office), but they still have many of the same problems on the field.
Quarterback Philip Rivers has struggled and there isn't much optimism for a rebound. Not only is their offensive line only marginally better than last year, but Rivers lost the team's best receiver Danario Alexander for the season.
It's going to be more of the same for the Bolts this year and they are unlikely to challenge either of the top two teams in the division.
4. Oakland Raiders (schedule): 3-13
The once-proud Raiders franchise has gone a decade without a winning record, which is not much of a "commitment to excellence." There is a greater chance (so you're saying there's a chance?) that Marisa Miller will confess her undying love to me than there is that the Raiders finish with a winning record this season.
The upside of that is they have a legitimate shot of securing the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft with a shot to select super prospects Jadeveon Clowney or Teddy Bridgewater.
All of our contributors will make their division and Super Bowl picks and we will track those on this centralized predictions page.