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2013 NFL Projections: The AFC West

Denver Broncos v Chicago BearsThe AFC West has undergone a lot of change in the last year.

While the Broncos will try to build off of their success from a year ago and the Raiders will give Dennis Allen another year to figure things out, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers are starting over with new head coaches that will bring fresh approaches to a couple of franchises that have been stuck in underachieving mediocrity for the last five years.

Oakland Raiders

Following a 4-12 finish, the Raiders decided to make a quarterback change in the off-season, shipping Carson Palmer out to Arizona and trading for former Seattle Seahawk Matt Flynn.

I just don’t see the Raiders improving much from last season. Matt Flynn is more likely to be another disaster for this franchise rather than its savior. Flynn, a former sixth-round pick of Green Bay, got himself a big contract from the Seahawks a year ago after spending his career serving as Aaron Rodgers’ understudy and putting together a handful of impressive performances with the embarrassment of riches that Green Bay had in their receiving corp.

Darren McFadden is their one legitimate home-run threat, but he’s a guy who has struggled with injury problems throughout his career. Darius Heyward-Bey, the team’s top receiver two years ago is no longer with the team and Denarius Moore is nothing more than an average threat.

Defensively the Raiders have let a lot of veteran guys (Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Rolando McClain, Aaron Curry, Michael Huff) go, and they’ll be going with a lot of young guys with the exception of cornerback Charles Woodson, who returns to finish his career with the team that originally drafted him in the first-round of 1998. The team hopes that Woodson will help install a positive attitude and winning mentality in the young players.

There really isn’t much to like about the Raiders. They don’t have great coaching. Matt Flynn seems destined to be the next guy up in a long line of this franchise’s unsuccessful attempts to find a replacement for Rich Gannon at quarterback. The defense is filled with young, inexperienced players. There’s just no upside to this roster, and I can’t imagine a scenario in which they’re relevant in 2013.

Projected Finish: 3-13, 4th place.

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers have finally moved on from Norv Turner. After suffering through year after year of underachievement, a move that was overdue by two years finally went down at the end of the season, and the team has turned itself over to former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

Quarterback Phillip Rivers should benefit greatly from the presence of McCoy. McCoy’s claim to fame has been his ability to get the most out of his quarterbacks no matter where he’s been.

Peyton Manning has attributed a lot of his success during his comeback last year to McCoy. After the Jay Cutler trade, McCoy received a great deal of credit for the successful seasons that Kyle Orton had with the team. Orton became a 3,000-yard passer once he arrived in Denver after years of mediocre play with the Bears. McCoy also played a big part in coaching up Tim Tebow enough to enjoy the successful run that the Broncos went on in 2011, including an overtime playoff win over the Steelers. McCoy also was involved with the Carolina Panthers where he got Jake Delhomme to have his best years as a pro.

Now McCoy will get a chance to work with Rivers, a guy with enormous talent, but who also has turned the ball over at alarming rates over the last couple of seasons. If his track record is any indication, McCoy should be able to help Rivers to his best season in years.

While a strong season from Rivers would greatly help this team, the Chargers still lack a good running game. Ryan Mathews is trying to prove that he was worth a top draft pick in 2010, but he just can’t stay healthy. The team did add Danny Woodhead in free agency, giving Rivers a versatile weapon to work with, but he’s no featured back.

The Chargers defense is still nothing special. They’re going to rely on the development of guys like defensive end Corey Liuget and Melvin Ingram to give them a stronger pass rush to help cover for their poor secondary. They also added linebacker Manti Teo through the draft, taking a chance that he’ll be able to harness his potential.

The arrow is pointing up for San Diego, and McCoy will take them in the right direction, but they need another year to add additional talent before they can really compete.

Projected Finish: 8-8, 3rd Place

Kansas City Chiefs

For years, we in Philadelphia have always heard Andy Reid say after losses that hes got to “put players in the best possible position” in order to win. Andy failed miserably at that during his last two years with the Eagles and left the franchise in ruins, but he certainly put himself in a great position to succeed when he signed on to be the new head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Reid took over a young roster that already had a handful of Pro Bowlers on it, and added to it. He secured a top offensive line prospect through the draft in Eric Fisher, bolstered his defense with the signings of Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith in free agency, and (perhaps most important of all) addressed the team’s most glaring weakness by trading for Alex Smith to bring some desperately needed stability to Kansas City’s quarterback situation.

The 2012 Chiefs reminded me a lot of the 2011 Washington Redskins. The 2011 Redskins were a tough team with some nice talent, but any chance that they had of consistently winning was destroyed by the black hole that was their quarterback position, which was manned primarily by Rex Grossman and John Beck. They were a quality quarterback away from becoming a factor in the NFC, and last year’s addition of Robert Griffin III made them a playoff team.

The same is true for the Chiefs. Their offense has some explosive talent, with guys like running backs Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster, and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. Unfortunately, the talents of these guys were made null and void by the fact that they were quarterbacked by the likes of Matt Cassel, Brady Quinn, and Ricky Stanzi. If Alex Smith can come in and play like he did over the last two years for the 49ers, he has a chance to be the engine that powers the Chiefs back to relevancy within the division and the AFC playoff picture.

That being said, I wouldn’t consider Smith to be a sure thing. The former top draft pick was considered a bust until Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman began coaching him two years ago. They were able to get Smith to cut down on his mistakes, and finally perform at an above average level. But despite his success, Smith was never overwhelmingly good. Once he went down with a concussion last season and gave way to Colin Kaepernik, the 49ers turned things over to the untested starter and never went back to Smith in spite of what he had achieved a year ago.

Smith certainly comes with his question marks, but Andy Reid has reputation for being able to get the most out of his quarterbacks, and the offensive talent that Smith has around him should set the Chiefs up for a fun and exciting first year of a new era.

Projected Finish: 9-7, 2nd Place.

Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning proved that he still has some good football left in him, throwing for over 4,600 yards and 37 touchdowns last season.

Manning really helped some of Denver’s young talent (Demarius Thomas, Eric Decker) enjoy a couple of breakout seasons, and made his teammates around him better. Now Manning will benefit from the addition of former New England star Wes Welker, who brings a different dimension to this offense as a slot receiver.

Rookie running back Montee Ball figures to get the majority of the carries, with former first-round bust Knowshon Moreno getting some of the load as well.

The loss of Elvis Dumervill will hurt the defense. Dumervil has been the team’s most consistent pass rusher, and it will be difficult to replace his playmaking ability. Further complications arose for the team several weeks ago when Von Miller was suspended for the first four games of the year.

Champ Bailey remains the anchor of the Denver secondary. He’s still playing remarkably well for a man who has been in the league for 15 years. Denver also signed former Eagle Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a one-year deal. The team hopes that DRC will benefit from playing with a veteran like Bailey, who could finally help him harness his undeniable ability.

The biggest question for the Broncos is simply how much longer can Manning play at a high level? As great as he was last year, he’s been in the league for over 15 years now, and sooner or later his run has got to come to an end.

I think Manning has at least one more big year left in him, and this will be Denver’s best opportunity to win with him. The Broncos are still the best in an improving division, but Kansas City and San Diego are quickly closing the gap.

Projected Finish: 11-5, 1st Place

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Posted by on Aug 5 2013. Filed under BREAKING NEWS, News, NFL. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

20 Comments for “2013 NFL Projections: The AFC West”

  1. So your trying to tell me Kansas City is going 9-7 with the major changes only being Andy Reid and Alex Smith. You gotta be kidding me and you don’t think Chip Kelly can get the Eagles 9-10 wins in a wide open division I’m LMAO at your opinion.

    • You’re greatly undervaluing the talent Kansas City has in place already…poor quarterback play crippled that team, and now they have a guy who just two years ago led his team to the NFC Championship game and have a guy coaching him who has a fabulous track record…add in the fact that you’ve got (Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Albert, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry) who have all made Pro Bowls, plus they also pick up guys like Eric Fisher, Dunta Robinson, and Sean Smith (which I mentioned above) so Reid and Alex Smith are far from the only major changes in Kansas City, plus keep in mind they’ve got plenty of winnable games against teams like Jacksonville, Dallas, the Eagles, Tennessee, Oakland (twice), Cleveland, Buffalo, San Diego (twice)…nine wins is not out of the question at all for the Chiefs.

      And Chip Kelly wins 9-10 games this year huh? My, what an enchanted world you live in. Why don’t you try to enlighten me on that one haha because I see a tough schedule, no defense, quarterback issues, and no Maclin? Yeah, 9-10 wins sounds completely reasonable and realistic. “Lmao” indeed…

    • Turk, as a Chiefs fan I saw what happens when you change from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense and do not have the right personnel to make that change. Don’t expect Isaac Sopoaga to be Vince Wilfork next season because he’s not. Its going to take at least a year for the Eagles defense to click and make that transition and biggest difference will be the play out of the outside linebackers and how they adjust. Tamba Hali was originally a DE and had to make the switch to OLB and struggled mightily to defend against the pass and thats usually what happens when teams switch from 4-3 to 3-4 so don’t be surprised if by the 6th game in the season you are screaming at Connor Barwin because he keeps getting burnt by TE’s and running backs in the flat. Not an Eagles hater, just stating some opinions and observations that I had while watching my team switch to a 3-4

  2. Perhaps the Weakest Division Top to Bottom in the NFL

    1) Broncos 12-4 (Class of the AFC this Season, but do have some issues like who the RB will be, losing DE E Dumervill and now LB V Milker for 4 Weeks will hurt a bit but playing in such a weak division allows them to get thru pretty easily.. Manning in Year 2 will have his best chance to win a Super Bowl
    With an excellent WR Corps of Thomas, Decker & Welker which will be hard to match up up with

    2) KC Cheifs (10-6)
    Say what you want about Coach AR, the nan chanes the losing Culture overnight in KC.. They have 6 All Pro Players on ther Roster,
    He’s hired perhaps the best Staff in the NFL (behind the 49ers)
    Had a great Draft and some solid off-Season Aquisitions (QB Smith, CB Smith, TE Fasano) and With a last place Schedule play the Bills,Jags,Browns,
    Raiders & Chargers Twice and also Playing the NFC East Teams which Reid is very familiar with.. I see them contending for a Wild-Card Spot in a weaker AFC this Season.. Put this with a QB n Alex Smith coming in with a huge chip on his Shoulder, remember he was the #1 Rated QB in the NFC last Seaon until his injury which means something..Resigned WR Bowe & OT Albert

    3) Chargers (5-11)
    New and first time HC McCoy has his work cut out for him
    A no established RB, shaky OL, an average WR Corps plus new CB’s on Defense along with losing last years #1 pick Promising OLB whose names escapes me at the moment will hurt
    They had a decent Draft, but did little to upgrade their OL
    besides adding DJ Fluker who will probably be eould he’d ahead of time to play LT due to necessity.. QB Rivers will have to change his games under Coach McCoyz more controlled passing attack and without a strong running game and OL, could be a problem for Rivers who is better suited for a deep passing attack rather than quick timing routes and see him struggling again

    4) Raiders (3-13)
    Lots of new Players, a shaky QB Corps, Young WR’s
    A solid RB in McFadden who can’t stay healthy
    Lost 3 Starters from their DL, brought in an aging Secondary
    Their best Strength is a pretty good OL and if they can run the ball, eat up clock and shorten the games, can hang around in many games but see them struggling to score TD’s in the Red-Zone with their QB Play as Matt Flynn benefited playing with the Talented Packers And will have to do much more to win games for the Raiders to win games..

    • here is why the Kansas City queefs will continue to blow

      Alex smith is the qb and is a game manager at best. Andy Reid is the hc, and makes his qbs chuck the ball all over the place and refuses to run the ball even if ur rb is McCoy. so his offense is a Recipe for disaster. Doug Peterson thinks Alex Smith is one of the best QBs in the league…

      If however Andy decides it’s 1999 Jamaal Charles will do the jamaal Charles thing and will be hurt by week three and then it will force Andy to force Alex to chuck it all over the place

      • I’ve been a Chiefs fan my entire life, and I’m used to the ignorant people like yourself that have no clue about the game of football so i’m gonna explain very slowly why the Chiefs will not blow. Jamal Charles is the best running back in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson, not only did Charles rush for over 1500 yards last season, but he did it on a pathetic team that played from behind every single game in the season. Alex Smith is not an elite QB but honestly he doesnt need to be for this offense to excel. Fasano, Moeaki, and Kelce will be a force to be reckoned with and possibly the best TE tandem in the league. Justin Houston is arguably the best 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL and will take another big step next season with the team changing to more of an attacking 3-4 defense. Hali has lost a step but he can still play at a high level and Derrick Johnson is a very solid 3-4 Ilb. If Dontari Poe turns into the pass rushing beast that everyone envisioned him to be, then this defense will be top 5 in the league. Doug Peterson doesnt really think Alex Smith is the best QB in the league, he was saying that to show Alex that he supported him and to give him confidence going into the season. I’m not saying the Chiefs are superbowl bound, but to say they blow and not know what you’re talking about just makes you look like an ignorant jackass. Good luck when KC comes to your town and makes your favorite team look like they belong in the arena league

        • fan of the queefs huh. why are you on a philly sports blog and a fan of the pussy farts? wrong place pal.

          poe is a bust
          alex smith is a bottom 10 qb
          andy is a passoholic and wont use charles properly

          your team is in bad hands pal:

          Chiefs OC Doug Pederson claims he thinks Alex Smith is the best quarterback in the NFL.
          It’s obviously a coach expressing hyperbole while standing behind his guy, but it’s another sign the Chiefs truly believe they can execute a pass-first offense with Smith at the controls. They’ve barely even practiced running the ball so far in camp. It’s the kind of play-calling that got new coach Andy Reid in hot water in Philadelphia. Smith was little more than a game-manager in San Francisco. Aug 1 – 10:46 AM
          Source: Kansas City Star
          chiefs will stink

          • I’m not just a fan of the Chiefs, I’m a fan of football in general and the last time I felt good about my team was when Vermeil was the coach. I’m not saying the Chiefs are gonna win the superbowl, but they are not gonna be a bad team. Yes, Charles might not get as many carries as he did last year but he will still get touches and thats all that matters because whether its a 50 yard td run or a 5 yard pass that goes 45 yards for a td it doesnt matter to me as long as they put points on the board and if its one thing Andy knows how to do its put points on the board. I’m gonna make sure I favorite this page and after week 3 when the Chiefs beat the Birds hopefully you will have the marbles to come back and eat some crow

          • Also the reason I am on a Philly sports blog is because there was a link on Arrowheadpride.com to the article.

        • I agree with you Rocco
          The KC CHiefs and the SL Rams are my 2 Surprise Teams in the NFL from each Conference and both will be in the Wildcard Hunt

          2 Big Keys to the Chiefs Offense in 2013 besides the obvious (Smith,Chalres & Bowe) are Scat Back Dexter McCluster who some of you may remember that Coach AR really loved when coming out of College a few years back and was about to Draft McCluster but selected Safety Nate Allen instead and will utilize McCluster all over the field like a young Brian Westbrook and other wild-card for the Chiefs is WR Jonathon Baldwin whi needs to step up in Year 3 and prove to be a consistent #2 WR opposite of Bowe.. per most Reports Baldwino is having a fine SUmmer Camp and is poised for a break-out Season which gives the Chiefs another playmaker and a big Target at 6-4 230lbs ..

          • lmfao @ using mccluster like a young brian westbrook. haaaaaaaaaaaaa. ya ok dude…

            • That’s right Mhenski,
              Split out wide in the Backfield, Pitch outs & Reverses , Screens, Returning Punts just like Westbrook did his first few years with the Eagles before he became the full time RB… What short memory you have…

  3. Chiefs could be in it, because besides the Broncos, that division stinks and they have the easy schedule.

    It will remain to be seen if AR will actually let Charles run the ball though.

    • Bugsy, my guess is that you will see a fairly balanced team in K.C. Andy used his backs at the start of his career AND… he has learned. They will not be winning the SB any time soon but sadly… i think Andy will again be a good coach. Im so glad he is gone tho.

  4. Chiefs will stink because of this right here.

    Alex Smith – QB – Chiefs
    According to the Kansas City Star, Chiefs coach Andy Reid “has long coveted” Alex Smith, and looked into acquiring him while he was still coaching the Eagles.
    The implication being, he really, really likes the guy. The Chiefs have every reason to pump up their new quarterback — OC Doug Pederson has gone as far as to claim he believes Smith is the best quarterback in the NFL — but the reality is, he’s only a marginal upgrade on departed signal caller Matt Cassel. Reid is going to have to heavily alter his famously pass-happy system if he hopes to have the same success managing and manipulating Smith that Jim Harbaugh did in San Francisco.
    Source: Kansas City Star Aug 6 – 3:00 PM

    For the record I would take Vick over smith and that’s saying a lot

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