Wednesday, September 2, 2009

NFL 2009 Preview - AFC West

Denver Broncos

Last Year: 8-8

Kyle Orton was bad in Chicago, and it will be interesting to see how he does in Josh McDaniel's new system, surrounded by superior talent. The bad news is that Brandon Marshall wants a trade and is doing everything wrong this offseason. He's got obvious talent but it may not ever work out in Denver. Eddie Royal is a solid shifty underneath WR2, but if Marshall isn't out there he'll be asked to be the #1 WR. The Broncos have too-old Brandon Stokley listed as the other starter if Marshall is out. TE Tony Scheffler is quietly a very good pass-catcher. A sleeper option might be Brandon Lloyd. He looked better than he had in a while last year in Chicago, but missed a lot of time due to injury.

The Broncos have traditionally used zone-blocking, and I'm not sure how much McDaniels will use that this year. If they don't, I'd expect the running game to be less efficient. Correll Buckhalter, Knowshon Moreno, Lamont Jordan, and Peyton Hillis all in the mix in the backfield. McDaniels used lots of backs in New England and might here too.

The defense was terrible last year and should be again this year. The transition from 4-3 to 3-4 will take time, and the secondary is laughably old.

There's a sense of impending doom here, and for this season, the sky really is falling. Still, coaches deserve time to build their team, so I'll try not to judge McDaniels after what is certainly a rebuilding year.

2009 Projected Record: 3-13

Kansas City Chiefs

Last Year: 2-14.

The Chiefs have added career backup Matt Cassel as their starting QB. Cassel got to play last year when Tom Brady went down, and developed throughout the year. He was playing pretty well towards the end of the year, but now he'll have a much less impressive supporting cast. Dwayne Bowe has averaged 1000 yards/season in his first two, but can he take the next step into stardom? Don't look for the answer from me, I'm torn and waiting to see. They lost Tony Gonzalez, so Cassel's other options will be a yikes! list of Mark Bradley, Terrance Copper, Devard Darling, Bobby Engram, and Sean Ryan.

Haley is used to passing a lot in Arizona, but then again he had Fitzgerald, Boldin, Warner, and a horrible run-blocking O-line. He's still stuck with terrible run-blocking, but he might run a bit more considering the drop-off in the passing game. Larry Johnson is a decent runner and Jamaal Charles provides a great change of pace.

A lot like Denver, the Chiefs defense is changing schemes and has a lot of ancient players. It will continue to be bad.

Matt Cassel provides just a glimmer of hope that the team might win enough games to count on both hands. They might, but I'll stick with 5.

2009 Projected Record: 5-11

Oakland Raiders

Last Year: 5-11

Jamarcus Russell will probably never be a good NFL QB. Sure, the O-line stunk and the receivers stunk, but so did the QB play. Jeff Garcia is 39 but could be a better option. The receivers aren't any better this year, either. Darius Heyward-Bay, Chaz Schillens, Javon Walker, Johnnie Lee Higgins. TE Zach Miller was a pleasant surprise, and might be the team's best receiver again this year.

Darren McFadden still looks like a star, just a star surrounded by jokes. Justin Fargas will get the ball less with Darren healthy, but is still a solid #2. Michael Bush is there in case the Raiders need a stronger power option.

Defensively, the Raiders have been terrible against the run and decent against the pass. Asomugha shuts down half the field, but still only decent against the pass. This year they could be worse because a lot of the key players are getting old.

This team needs new management.

2009 Projected Record: 3-13

San Diego Chargers

Last Year: 8-8

What a breakout year for Philip Rivers, who was the most efficient QB in the league last season. He'll almost certainly regress from his 8.0 adjusted net yards per passing play, but is still a very good QB. Likewise, Vincent Jackson had a career year that probably won't be matched. Chris Chambers is the 3rd option on this team, and at this point in his career you know what you're getting from him. (not much). Antonio Gates is an elite tight end who struggled with injury last year.

On the ground, starter LaDainian Tomlinson is on the downside of his great career and should give up a few more carries to shorty sensation Darren Sproles.

Adding Merriman and English to last year's defense should be a huge boost. Igor Olshanky was solid and is gone, but overall the front 7 will be better. Cromartie struggled last year but had a fractured hip. The defense should return to the league's elite.

2009 Projected Record: 12-4, AFC West Champs

Current Division Future Odds:

(Disclaimer: I don't bet futures or suggest you tie up money for that long)

931 San Diego Chargers -450
932 Any Other +350
9/10/2009 7:30 PM Odds to win the 2009 AFC West without SD Chargers
933 Denver Broncos +125
934 Kansas City Chiefs +185
935 Oakland Raiders +205

100 Turnips on the Chargers, even at that price.

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