2013 NFL Preseason Predictions: AFC West (Yanotchko)
Here are my AFC West preseason predictions for 2013:
1. Denver Broncos (schedule): 14-2
The Broncos have reloaded, as they are determined to make the most of Peyton Manning's time left in the league to capture a championship. The biggest addition this year is perhaps the league's best slot receiver in Wes Welker, and they also added Wisconsin's workhorse back in Montee Ball. The Broncos certainly will not struggle to score points on offense, but they do have a weakness on the defensive side of the ball.
A front-office screw up allowed Elvis Dumervil the chance to depart for Baltimore. The Broncos will also be without Von Miller due to suspension, and the jury is still out on Champ Bailey's status as a pure shutdown corner. The Broncos will mirror the Patriots of the past having no problems scoring 35 per game, but there are many questions about the defense's ability to keep pace.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (schedule): 10-6 Wildcard
The Chiefs were last year's trendy pick to make the playoffs, and as they had the second-most Pro Bowlers in the AFC last year, it is hard to argue with the talent they have on the roster. T he Chiefs get an upgrade in the head coaching posistion with Andy Reid taking over for Romeo Crennel, and they will have better quarterback play, as they have acquired Alex Smith from the 49ers.
The Chiefs still have one of the best running backs with Jamaal Charles, and they have bolstered the offensive line with No. 1 pick Eric Fisher of Central Michigan. The Chiefs back end has incredible talent with linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, and they have two of the better defensive backs in the game with Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry.
Yes, the Chiefs were the worst team overall (record wise) in the league last year, but a proven winning coach, better quarterback, and soft schedule will see the Chiefs into the playoffs.
3. San Diego Chargers (schedule): 4-12
The Chargers were just one of the league's best teams a few years ago, and now the mighty have kept tumbling down the AFC West standings. San Diego helped themselves in the draft to shore up their shoddy offensive line by grabbing D.J. Fluker, but the question is can Ryan Matthews ever live up to his potential behind it?
The Chargers also grabbed the controversial Manti Te'o in the second round as a bargain, and also added former Colts pass rushing terror Dwight Freeney. The Chargers will struggle to score points, as they are banged up in the receiving corps, and Antonio Gates is certainly not getting any younger. The Chargers defense is an area in flux and rebuilding, but they still have one of the best safety's in all pro Eric Weddle.
It will be yet another tough year for Phillip Rivers and crew, and still a year or two before they see the playoffs again.
4. Oakland Raiders (schedule): 2-14
The Raiders have finally hit rock bottom, but now after a decade of bumbling they finally appear to have a workable plan to bring them back to excellence. The Raiders do not have much talent on the offensive side of the ball, and their best running back Darren McFadden has never played more than 13 games in a season.
Oakland certainly did not do well with the Carson Palmer trade as they gave up two first round picks, and now after trading for Matt Flynn, it looks like Terelle Pryor will be the starter. The one bright spot for the Raiders has to be in its defensive backfield, as they have a playmaker in Tyvon Branch, and also Charles Woodson has come home.
The Raiders will be in the running for the No. 1 overall pick, as they do have to clear the roster to rebuild again. Oakland is a few years away from returning to their past glory, but at least they have a blueprint on how to get there now.
All of our contributors will make their division and Super Bowl picks and we will track those on this centralized predictions page.