In preparation for the upcoming 2014 NFL season, Just A Guy has put together a team-by-team run down of every division. Today we highlight the AFC West, which includes the Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos and Chargers.
The Raiders offense is going to be significantly different looking than it did last year. The Terrelle Pryor era is officially over with his trade to the Seahawks for 7th rounder. Matt Schaub was brought in and Derek Carr was drafted to fill the void at quarterback. Schaub will start the year and they hope Carr will be Aaron Rodgers-esque in learning the game from the bench before coming in to start. Schaub is poised to rebound after a tough year in Houston, but if he doesn’t were likely to see Carr get some in-game experience. 2013 Raiders leading rusher Rashad Jennings is gone, which leaves the team without their two leading rushers (Pryor being the other) but they did pick up Maurice Jones-Drew. Another player with previous success that had a down year in 2013. Between MJD and McFadden the backfield has potential but that doesn’t always translate to wins. The receiving core won’t wow you but with Rod Streater, Denarius Moore, Andre Holmes, and newly acquired James Jones they should have a solid group.
On the defensive side of the ball, Oakland should be in decent shape, even with the loss of Lamarr Houston. They signed Lamarr Woodley, Justin Tuck, and Antonia Smith to beef up the d-line and drafted the best linebacker available, Khalil Mack, who will be a stud at the strong side spot. Pair him with team leading tacker Nick Roach and that gives the Raiders a solid 1-2 punch. The ancient Charles Woodson returns for his 17th(!!!) year which is good when you see he had 97 tackles but bad when you realize he’s only had 2 interceptions the last 2 years. They also picked up Carlos Rogers, from the 49ers, who should be a good fit and improve the defense overall. The only hope for the Raiders in the AFC West is a wild card spot if everyone plays at the level they’re capable of. – Ryan
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers had a quietly good year in 2013. While other teams in their division, namely the Chiefs and Broncos got a lions share of the spot light, the Bolts, led by Philip Rivers quietly went 9-7 earning a trip to the playoffs where they knocked out the Bengals in the Wild Card round before losing a close matchup to the Broncos 24-17. The teams ranked fourth in the league last season in passing yards per game, with 270 a contest. Philip Rivers can still throw and Keenan Allen came on nicely with just over 1,000 yard receiving and eight touchdowns. Antonio Gates is still serviceable, although he only contributed 872 yards and four TD’s. The rushing attack of Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead, will need to remain, and improve if possible on last seasons numbers.
Defensively, Eric Weddle led the team with 115 total tackles and two interceptions, but was the only player to tally over 100. Rookie Manti Te’o had a solid rookie campaign of 61 tackles, but needs to improve on those numbers. Overall, the team won’t look very different than last years edition and I expect the win-loss total to reflect that. – Steve
Kansas City Chiefs
2013 was quite the turnaround for the Kansas City Chiefs. After a year removed from going 2-14, the Chiefs made the playoffs in 2013 with an 11-5 record. They were knocked out of the playoffs after blowing a 28 point lead in the second half. Looking at the Chiefs turnaround, it can be argued that a lot of it was the easy schedule they received. On the other hand adding Andy Reid and his staff had to have a hand in it. The offense in 2014 will again be run by Alex Smith but be revolved around Jamaal Charles and the running game. Smith will have to step up more to take the pressure off the running game however and it may help if Dwayne Bowe can rebound this year after a rough 2013.
Andy Reid would be smart to give rookie burner DeAnthony Thomas some playing time in open space. The defense took a hit especially in the secondary, as they lost a few playmakers. This wont bode well in 2014 in a division with Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, who were already doing a number on that secondary. The line backing corps has a nice rookie addition in Dee Ford. He has been compared to Von Miller and Derrick Thomas- pretty damn good. The schedule is much rougher this year and I cannot see a repeat of last year. They didn’t do much in terms of adding free agents either. Look for the Chiefs to miss the playoffs and go 8-8. – Chris
The defending AFC champs got thrashed in the Super Bowl, despite Peyton Manning having an all time great season. Critics had a field day with Manning coming up short again. So Elway went all out, Eric Decker is gone on offense, so is Knowshon Moreno. Studs Demaryius and Julius Thomas remain, with the aging Welker too. Brought in were Emmanuel Sanders and rookie Cody Lattimer at wideout, and Montee Ball is ready to step in at RB. Really, just about any RB is productive with Peyton’s system, so he should be just fine, and Moreno’s loss is nothing. The other side of the ball was revamped big time, hoping to balance this team out. Veteran DeMarcus Ware comes in, looking to make a final run at a title. They also brought in Aqib Talib at corner, and TJ Ward at safety. Once again, it’s Super Bowl or bust for Denver. Peyton can’t play forever. – Frank