With three playoff teams, the NFL’s two final undefeated teams, and the eventual AFC champion, the AFC West put up a strong argument to be considered the best division in the NFL in 2013. For the first half of the season, two of the NFL’s most talked about teams were in the AFC West. The Broncos started the season with an 8-1 record and one of the most dynamic offenses in league history, lead by Peyton Manning’s record-setting season. Meanwhile, the Chiefs were without a doubt the surprise of the NFL, starting 9-0 after finishing 2-14 in 2012. The teams met up in week 11, and the Broncos’ 27-17 win foreshadowed how the rest of the season would turn out, as the Chiefs would lose five of their final seven games en route to an 11-5 finish, while the Denver finished 13-3, swept the Chiefs, and won the AFC. The San Diego Chargers were lead by a resurgent Phillip Rivers, who lead the league in completion percentage, to a 9-7 finish and a wild card birth. With all of this in mind, let’s shift our focus to how each team will fare this season.
2013 Record: 13-3
2014 Projected Record: 13-3
While the Broncos’ season might have ended on a severe down note, that should not cancel out what they accomplished in every other game leading up to the Super Bowl. Their offense was one of the most explosive we have ever seen, led by Peyton Manning, who set new records including yards in a season, and touchdowns in a season. Manning was helped to these new records by his incredible supporting staff, which included Demaryius Thomas, Julus Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and Knowshon Moreno. Denver’s explosive offense led them to the top spot in the AFC, and two playoff wins before their super bowl demolishing at the hands of the Seahawks.
After the super bowl, Denver went into the off-season looking to sure up their defense, which looked shaky at times before being exposed by the Seattle Seahawks. They went into free agency with their mind set on acquiring big name players, and that is just what they did. They upgraded at cornerback and signed Aqib Talib to a six year $57 million deal, while losing Dominique Rodgers Comartie. They also signed former Browns safety T.J Ward to a four yeard $22.5 million contrace, and former Cowboys linebacker Demarcus Ware to a three year $30 million contract. They also lost wide receiver Eric Decker to the New York Jets, but were able to sign former Steeler wideout Emanuel Sanders to sure up the receiving corps. With the free agency overhaul completed, Denver then drafted Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby. With the same core, but new faces all around, the Broncos are looking to use any anger leftover from Februray to get back to the super bowl, this time with different results.
San Diego Chargers
2013 Record: 9-7
2014 Projected Record: 10-6
Last season, the San Diego Chargers barely snuck into the playoff thanks in large part to a missed penalty against them on a Ryan Succop field goal that would have knocked them out of the playoffs. But that does not mean in any way that this team is not a forced to be reckoned with. After his strong resurgence ladt year, Phillip Rivers proved that he has plenty left in the tank, and is ready to lead a potent offense with Ryan Matthews, Danny Woodhead, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, and newly acquired running back Donald Brown. The Chargers are a popular sleeper pick in the AFC, and for good reason. In a division filled with teams with defensive questions, and the schedule of a third place team, the Chargers could cruise into an AFC Wild Card birth, and even further
Kansas City Chiefs
2013 Record: 11-5
2014 Projected Record: 8-8
Don’t get me wrong, the Chiefs are a solid team, but they aren’t nearly what their 2013 record says they are. This season, they come in after losing 6 of their last eight games, including a playoff loss in which they squandered a 28 point second half lead. In addition, their 2014 schedule is much stronger, having to play six games against teams who finished last year with ten wins or better, and two more against a Chargers team that swept them. More importantly though, is the fact that after their 9-0 start, their once feared defense suddenly turned into a laughably bad defense that could only beat the Redskins and Raiders. If the Chiefs defense cannot turn around from its poor finish, then they will have to lean on Alex Smith and his mediocre receiving core to win games instead of Jamaal Charles, and that is a recipe for disaster.
2013 Record: 4-12
2014 Projected Record: 5-11
The career of Matt Schaub came full circle this week, when seven years after beating out David Carr for the Texans starting job, he got beaten out by David’s brother, Derek. The emergence of the second round pick from Fresno State is a much welcomed sign for the Raiders, who have tried and failed time after time to find a franchise quarterback since drafting Jamarcus Russell with the first pick back in 2007. However, the Raiders will need more than Derek Carr to guide them back to the postseason in one of the league’s tougher divisions. The Raiders will need to address their team needs through the draft and free agency over the next few years to gain back relevance. And if you name a position, it is probably one in need in Oakland. However, for a team that finished 29th in points allowed per game, and 23rd in points scored, things are looking up for the raiders, as they now have a solid group of young players including DJ Hayden, Khalil Mack, and Derek Carr. If they make the right draft and roster decisions, they could be back in the playoffs sooner than you think.
MVP: Peyton Manning
Offensive Player of the Year: Jamaal Charles
Defensive Player of the Year: Aqib Talib
Rookie of the Year: Khalil mack
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