When you think of the AFC West going in to 2012, ¬†it’s the addition of Peyton Manning to the Broncos that comes to mind more often than not. However, there are some very¬†intriguing story lines in the West this season that will play in to who¬†ultimately takes the crown.
Walking away with the division title this season will be the Broncos. Honestly people, they took it last year with Tim Tebow at the helm. Replace him with Manning and now they won’t? An explanation is needed for that logic. Their defense kept them in games last season for Tebow’s forth quarter magic to even be possible, and I don’t think the unit is going to decline a whole lot. The one concern to be had is star defensive end Elvis Dumervil’s recent arrest for possible assault with a fire arm. We’ll have to wait and see on that one. As far as the offense goes, there are a few things to be excited about. Willis McGahee was a pleasant surprise last season, showing he still has some gas in the tank. TE’s Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreesen will add some nice big targets. Peyton Manning has always had a under-the-radar type of wide¬†receiver¬†that becomes his go to guy (Gonzalez, Stokely), this season look for that to be Eric Decker. The guy possesses all of the same mediocre qualities, and will be made to look better by Manning’s presence. If Demaryius Thomas steps it up, he will be a stud down the field. I have no questions as to weather Manning will be okay or not, comeback player of the year award is headed his way.
Taking second in 2012 will be the Chargers. Phillip Rivers will not repeat the dismal let down of 16 games that he did in 2011. He may not have wide receiver Vincent Jackson this season , but I strongly believe that Robert Meachem will be a solid addition, and Malcom Floyd will step it up. Antonio Gates, just stay healthy. With running back Mike Tolbert in Carolina (only God knows why), Ryan Mathews now is the main man in that backfield. He has the ability to succeed and can show what he can do as the number one workhorse back for that squad. The defense has holes, and that will be the teams¬†Achilles¬†heel all season. They lack a strong pass rush, and the secondary is unimpressive. It’s official, Larry English is a bust, but can Melvin Ingram thrive where English failed? Quentin Jammer is the more solid of the cornerbacks and that’s not saying much. However, in this division, they won’t have to be great to be the runner up.
Next up, the Chiefs. For some reason Kansas City fans seem to think that their team is primed for a Super Bowl run. I am truly sorry Chief backers, but I have one very big problem with that, Matt Cassel is still your starting quarterback. I mean seriously New England, you drafted a guy that never even started in college. Then he stepped in to an all ready very good New England offense and ran it with an amazing amount of managerial skills. Well, that screams pro starter to me. The rest of this team is impressive. Jamaal Charles will throw his name in for comeback player of the year, Peyton Hillis is a very nice compliment as well. Dwayne Bowe has¬†inconsistent¬†moments but they are becoming less and less with experience. The rest of the time, the man is a solid receiver. Their defense has a chance to be a top 10 unit in 2012 with another year under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and the return of safety Eric Berry. With all those positive things said, that should show you the lack of confidence I have in Cassel. You should have kept Kyle Orton.
Bringing up the rear will be the Raiders. I want to believe in them, but I just can’t yet. Carson Palmer is trying to¬†rejuvenate his career here, but it’s yet to be seen if he will. Michael Bush is gone, so there is less security if Darren McFadden goes down. McFadden will have a strong year, but it may be similar to Maurice Jones-Drew’s in 2011. Lots of yards and the only source of offense. Snatch him up in your fantasy draft people. Their wide receivers are way to¬†inconsistent¬†to assume any one of them will produce for a whole season, but it’s probably safe to say they’ll go deep. We have Al Davis, rest his soul, to thank for that. It’s a pre-requisite for a Raider receiver to run a sub 4.4 forty yard dash.¬†¬†¬†I have said for a while and will maintain, Oakland would be the perfect landing spot for Terrell Owens. The defense is no better. While Oakland did resign safety Branch who is vastly under-rated, they lost cornerback Stanford Routt and linebacker Kamerion Whimbley. ¬†Ronaldo McClain may be on his way to a bust label. He struggles in pass defense and tends to over play the run, this is his last chance. Oakland has some work to do.
When it’s all said and done, the least popular pick will reign as AFC West champs and will be headed to the post season. Many analyst and NFL experts seem to think that Denver just doesn’t have what it takes. You will have to forgive me for not sharing their subtraction by addition¬†mentality.