|07-20-2007, 02:57 PM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Fourth and Long: AFC Preview
1. Denver Broncos - Division winner, host Wild Card game
I know, I know. I'm probably on crack for not picking the Chargers to win the West, but I'll get to why I think they will fall off a bit this year in a minute. Right now, I'm gonna talk about why the Broncos are going to step up.
On offense, the Broncos could finally be back to the elite status they have missed since Elway retired. Jay Cutler may not be the second coming of Saint John, but he is poised to break out after looking solid in on the job training last season. Having Mike Shanahan leading him through the paces doesn't hurt either. Also helping will be having a legitimate feature back for the first time since Clinton Portis left town. I've always said that even I could probably run for a 1000 yards behind the Broncos offensive line, so I expect Travis Henry to have a huge year. He could very well end up being the biggest free agent pick up of the year when all the stats are taken into consideration at the end of the season. The receivers will be solid, with veterans Javon Walker and Rod Smith teaming with second year man Brandon Marshall as the main targets of Cutler. Free agent pick up Daniel Graham will be the short yardage goal line threat he was last year in New England, when he picked up a couple of TD's.
The defense is also strong. They feature possibly the best pair of CB's in the league, with Champ Bailey and newcomer Dre Bly. A shutdown of the passing game should allow the defense to improve from 14th overall and cut down on the points allowed, where they already ranked 8th last season.
With a few new toys to play with, Shanahan should be back in the dance this winter, and could be a sleeper to show up in Arizona in February.
San Diego - Wild Card playoff team
The Chargers were one bonehead play away from beating the Patriots and hosting the Colts for the AFC championship last year. Missing out on an opportunity like that has to weigh heavily on this team. In the aftermath, LaDanian Tomlinson tarnished his good guy image a bit, while coach Marty Schottenheimer - who had overseen the growth and development of the team over the past few years - got axed late in the off season. Norv Turner steps in to lead probably the deepest team in the league, but a fall off from their 14-2 season is almost inevitable.
The offense centers around Tomlinson, who is possibly the best back in the history of the league. Philip Rivers looks to be the real deal at QB in spite of falling off a bit near the end of the season, and has another weapon in top tight end Antonio Gates. There is no proven threat at wide receiver right now, giving top pick Craig Davis and third year man Vincent Jackson a chance to step up. If one of them does, the offense will be the best in the league, bar none.
Defensively, the team that lead the league in sacks returns in full with the exception of linebacker Donnie Edwards. They will continue to pester opposing offenses and could improve against the pass - which was their weaker point last season - if last year's top pick Antonio Cromartie can develop into a starter.
Along with new head coach Turner, there are new offensive and defensive coordinators on board as well. The masterminds who brought about the dominating 2006 season are all gone, but the skill players they cultivated are left in place. There will be some growing pains that should lead to a drop off from the 14-2 record, but the Chargers may be more dangerous in the playoffs this year.
3. Oakland Raiders - not in the playoffs
Yes....I have the bizarro worlds picks for the West. And yes, I do actually think the Raiders will move out of the basement this year.
The JaMarcus Russell era will likely start week 6 against San Diego after their bye week, but former Lion Josh McCown could very well delay his debut until next year if he is able to play up to his potential. He has been written off, but new coach Lane Kiffin would be well served to let McCown take the beating this year and give Russell a year to learn the NFL from the sidelines ala Carson Palmer. Whoever lines up behind center will be faced with some middle of the road talent in the receiver corps, but once Dominic Rhodes returns from suspension and teams with Lamont Jordan there will be a respectable running game teams will have to account for.
While they rely heavily on some older players, the defense was tops against the pass in the league last year and if they improve against the run, they could be another team that keeps the score low enough to allow the offense to steal a few.
They won't be contending for a playoff spot this year - or next probably - but there are some pieces in place for them to be at least competitive against non-elite teams.
Kansas City Chiefs - not in the playoffs
With or without Larry Johnson, this is going to a tough season for the fans of Arrowhead.
I've dealt with the Johnson situation in previous articles, and the longer this goes on, the more likely it seems he will not wear a Chiefs jersey again. After two huge seasons, if he returns Johnson will be playing with a 1st year starter at QB and behind a new offensive line. Why risk an off season and take money out of his pocket when he can hold out for a trade and get the money he can now? Even if he sits out the whole year, it might be better than coming in taking the beating he would this year.
Likely start Brodie Croyle is unproven at QB, there is still no wide receiver worth mentioning and Tony Gonzalez is aging. Without Johnson, they could be the worst offense in the league unless Croyle is way better than advertised.
The defense is middle of the road and, unlike some of the other teams in the AFC, won't be stealing any games this year.
|07-20-2007, 03:33 PM||#3|
Billy=Semi Tough Big Guy
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: between 5,000 and 10,000 feet elevation
|07-20-2007, 03:38 PM||#4|
Join Date: Jan 2004
Coach:"alright guys, we got denver coming up this week, where did Street & Smith predict them finishing?"
Lackey: "3rd in the West"
Coach: "stop the tape, we're taking the day off at Chili's!"