Over the next week and a half, I’ll be taking a look at each of the NFL’s individual divisions and offering my thoughts and predictions for how they will fare in the 2012-13 campaign. Today’s edition will feature a look at the West division of the American Football Conference, featuring the defending champion Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs.
The schedule for the 2012 NFL predictions pieces is as follows:
AFC East (09/01/12)
AFC South (09/03/12)
AFC North (09/03/12)
Without further ado, my predictions for the AFC West…..
1) Denver Broncos — (11-5) — After adding legendary quarterback Peyton Manning to an already playoff-caliber roster, all eyes will be on the Denver Broncos in 2012-13. Former Indianapolis teammate Jacob Tamme chose to accompany Peyton on his trip to the Rocky Mountains to join an offensive core that includes Eric Decker, Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno, Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Stokley. Denver was torched by Tom Brady‘s offense last year in the playoffs, but another year of development for youngsters Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller will go a long way towards keeping the Broncos amongst the AFC’s top defenses.
2) Kansas City Chiefs — (10-6) — Here’s my surprise pick of the season. Just two years ago, the Chiefs were a playoff team. Last season, they were decimated by crippling injuries to key players at multiple positions. First it was superstar tailback Jamaal Charles who fell victim to a torn ACL in week two against the Detroit Lions. Next was quarterback Matt Cassel who would have his season ended by an injury to his right hand. Despite the holes in their lineup, interim head coach Romeo Crennel nearly brought KC back to the postseason in 2011-12. Who could ever forget their magical defeat of the Green Bay Packers that stopped what would have been a perfect season? With Charles and Cassel back in the fold, the “interim” tag removed from Crennel’s title and a strong defense improved by the offseason acquisition of former Raiders’ cornerback Stanford Routt, I’d expect Kansas City to be right back in the playoff hunt this season.
3) San Diego Chargers — (7-9) — For as long as the Chargers continue to employ Norv Turner as head coach, I’m going to find it hard to believe that they’ll be able to win much of anything. After a disastrous year — for their standards — one season ago, everyone expected the Chargers to be on the hunt for a new sideline boss. It was not to be. On offense, quarterback Phillip Rivers will be without former number one target Vincent Jackson, who signed a five-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the winter. Veteran wide out Malcom Floyd is expected to absorb most of the balls that were typically thrown to Jackson. For all of you fantasy football fans out there, look for Floyd to produce big numbers this season. Fantasy sleeper of the year potential.
4) Oakland Raiders — (5-11) — Running back Darren McFadden will keep things interesting on the offensive side of the ball during what I’d expect to be another rebuilding year for the Oakland Raiders. Young head coach Dennis Allen most certainly has his work cut out for him in what will be one of the strongest divisions in the AFC. On defense, the Raiders have seen a massive overhaul. Each one of their five cornerbacks in 2011 has been sent packing and replaced with five fresh faces in the defensive backfield, a group headlined by former San Francisco 49er Shawntae Spencer.
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