Tuesday, August 9, 2011

AFC West Champions: The Kansas City Chiefs

Free agency has cooled down in the NFL and now it's time to get down to brass taxes. Training camp will go a long way in determining which teams will succeed and which ones will fail. We've already seen the Detroit Lions and New York Giants lose first round picks to injury and the Chicago Bears and the Tennessee Titans are dealing with disgruntled running backs that are holding out. We're bound to see even more casualties as training camp continues, but it's never too early to handicap each division. Here is how the AFC west will shake out.

Division winner: Kansas City Chiefs. The Midwest version of the New England Patriots will continue with the maturation process. Jamaal Charles will have another productive year and the addition of Steve Breaston at wide receiver makes the offense more explosive than ever. Romeo Crennel gets a 2nd season as defensive coordinator and safety Eric Berry is a star in the making. San Diego might put up a bit of a fight, but otherwise the Chiefs will run away with the division.

2nd place: San Diego Chargers. The Charger lost their insurance policy Darren Sproles to free agency so running back Ryan Mathews will have to step up and fill the void. Phillip Rivers is a top 5 quarterback, but the team has grown old around him. It's time to blow the current team up and start fresh.

3rd place: Oakland Raiders. The Raiders were decimated in free agency with the loss of cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, tight end Zach Miller, and tackle Robert Gallery. Hue Jackson is in his first year as head coach so it will be important for him to establish his philosophy early. The Raiders have enough talent to keep the games close, but not much more.

Last place: Denver Broncos. The Broncos were able to keep Kyle Orton around to start at quarterback, but it won't be enough to keep them out of the cellar. First year coach John Fox brings a defensive mindset to the team and the return of Elvis Dumervil at defensive end will be significant. The running game is still a question however and the receiving corps doesn't scare anyone.

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