Our NFL Crystal Balls finally align in the AFC West, where the Denver Broncos cruise, but San Diego keeps things interesting. Two playoff teams indeed. Dan Salem and Todd Salem debate in today’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate the NFL and sports.
The AFC West had all the fun last season, grabbing both AFC wildcard spots and the best record in the conference. Yet the turnover in the NFL has been so consistent from year to year that we KNOW there will be new wildcard teams this coming season. So what’s going to happen in the west? Our final 2014 NFL Crystal Balls are full of prior success, but future uncertainty.
Here’s how the AFC West finished in 2013:
Denver Broncos 13-3 (division champ)(playoffs)
Kansas City Chiefs 11-5 (playoffs)
San Diego Chargers 9-7 (playoffs)
Oakland Raiders 4-12
There are two sure bets in this division for the upcoming season. Peyton Manning will be outstanding and the Oakland Raiders will finish in last place. The announcement that Carr will be their starting quarterback basically secures this fact. The Raiders are rebuilding, giving the rookie a chance to grow into a leader. This didn’t work out so well for them the last time or two, but I for one would like to see this team become good again. It won’t be this year.
I’m a bit worried about the Broncos, but not to the point that I see them losing this division. The Wes Welker concussion issue is troubling and Manning is another year older, putting his durability into question, but none of the truly matters. This team will find its way to double digit wins and another division crown. Thirteen wins seems like a lofty goal to repeat and I think Denver falls short of that mark. But they still are top dog in the AFC West and the AFC.
I like both the Chiefs and Chargers, but I can’t see them both making the playoffs again this season. Something tells me that San Diego improves on its 9-7 record from last season and secures a wildcard berth in an otherwise average AFC. They aren’t a great team, but certainly better than nearly everyone else outside of Denver and New England.
Kansas City unfortunately takes a step back, finishing above .500 but out of the playoffs. Their defense will continue to impress, but not enough to compensate for a struggling offense. I think consistency will be an issue for them, costing a win or two.
Isn’t it quaint that we went through this whole exercise disagreeing on every division only to arrive at the final one, the AFC West, and agree on the teams wholeheartedly?
I think the West division standings are a piece of cake to predict and you nailed it as well. The Oakland Raiders are going to finish last. Their offensive weapons are solid but lack a star. Their quarterback is a rookie. The defense added a number of pass-rush savants but lacks depth and talent on the second and third levels. This is the worst team in the West for sure and could vie for the top pick in the 2015 draft.
Third place is Kansas City for sure. I like them even less than you do. They are due to regress in a major way. The offensive line is decimated compared to last year’s unit. Also, the schedule will be a nightmare compared to the cupcake cruise they took in 2014. There are blue-chip players on this roster still. The rest of the team isn’t good enough though to repeat with a playoff berth.
San Diego finishes second and should be a super offensive team. The defense was very poor last year and should improve. I’m not sure this division produces two teams with double-digit victories again, but the Chargers make it interesting.
That leaves Manning and the Broncos to win this thing yet again. I’m not even worried like you are. No Wes Welker? No problem. No more Knowshon Moreno? No problem. This is still the best offensive team in football. And on defense, look out! DeMarcus Ware is in Denver now; Von Miller is back; Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward are here as well. This should be a much improved unit over last season’s to make up for any possible regression from the offense that finished as perhaps the greatest in the history of the sport.
As you said, I only like two playoff teams out of the West: Denver and San Diego. This division seems too easy. Someone’s going to screw it up. The NFL is never this straightforward.