It’s that time again, the most wonderful time of the year. I say it every year and I’m going to say it again; football season starts at the perfect time of the year.
Fall is when school starts back up and our businesses get a whole lot busier, thus making things way more hectic and stressful. This great game brings sweet relief. When watching the National Football League, nothing else matters. It’s a temporary escape, a stress reliever, a chance to enjoy life the way the weekend intended.
Since it’s that time of the year, it’s time for our annual NFL division predictions. My cohost on the Hague Sports Podcast, Ben Dieter will break down the AFC while I will break down the NFC and we will go start in the west.
By Ben Dieter
Let’s face it, the AFC West was not turning any heads last season as the division to watch. Tim Tebow led the offensively challenged Denver Broncos to a playoff berth, and even won a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was totally unexpected. The Chargers, for what seems like the 20th season in a row, came up short of the expectations. The Chiefs had a very disappointing season and the Raiders finished where we all expected them. So how will the AFC West pan out this season? My prediction? The same but different.
Denver Broncos (11-5):
Some people argue the Broncos should not have been in the playoffs last season. I would agree. Some people argue that the Broncos should not have won a playoff game last season; I also agree. But they did, and they did it with Tim Tebow leading the offense.
Now, the Denver Broncos have Peyton Manning leading the offense. Now, he is not going to be the exact same Peyton Manning that we saw all those years in Indy, but 80% Peyton Manning is way better than 100% Tebow. Decker and Thomas have had a good camp and they love their new quarterback, and the running game is still good. The offense will be way better than it was last season, and the West is not better. The Broncos should clean up in the West, and they should be able to compete with the big boys in the AFC this season. It may be tough to outscore the Broncos this season.
As far as the defense goes, they were the ones who saved Tebow most of the time during that amazing run in the second half of the 2011 season, and they are going to be very good this season as well. This defense gets to the quarterback and forces turnovers, and with Peyton Manning running the offense, that will equal points. I see the Broncos finishing better than they did last season. I will go 11-5 for the Broncos.
San Diego Chargers (9-7):
Let’s face it, the Chargers are an immensely talented team that can’t win. They have been that for many years, and will continue to be that way. The only difference between last season and this season? The Chargers have gotten older. Phillip Rivers will be better this season, and Antonio Gates is always pretty good. They lost Vincent Jackson, and their running game is nothing like it used to be
when L.T. was there. But they will be better this season than they were last. This offense has shown me year after year that they can close a season well, and last year was an exception to that rule.
Their offense should be much better. On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers hired a new defensive coordinator. It will be interesting to see if that will fix their problems. In my opinion, their defense took a step back talent wise, and it will be about the same or worse than it was last season. That being said, I feel like they have a somewhat easy schedule, and I think they can overcome some of that. I look for the Chargers to finish 9-7 and be second in the AFC West.
Oakland Raiders (7-9):
The Raiders lost their long time owner, Al Davis last season, and it was emotional for the team. This year starts the era of Mark Davis, no not the long time Dallas political talk radio host, but Al’s son. It is time for him to make it his team. So he went out and replaced an aging, not very talented backup quarterback in Jason Campbell by signing an aging, not very talented backup quarterback named Matt Leinart. But, he is not the starting quarterback. That job goes to aging, but very talented quarterback Carson Palmer, who was good five years ago. Hmm, kind of reminds me of something Al Davis would do.
Instead of throwing to Ochocinco and Houthsmenzada in their prime, Carson will have second year receiver Denarius Moore as well as Derrius Heyward–Bey and Jacoby Ford. Not exactly striking fear into the hearts of defenses everywhere. Not to mention they lost running back Michael Bush to free agency. McFadden is a plus for this offense, unless of course they cannot get the passing game going and defenses just sit on him.
On the defensive side of the ball the Raiders are still old. That being said, they do plan on playing some zone defense this season, which is new for them. They, under the direction of Al Davis, have always been a man to man defense. That may help them at first, but I believe that it will also hurt them. They will not be used to it, and teams will probably be able beat it from time to time for big plays. Legal problems (Rolando McClain) and lack of premier talent will be trouble for this team’s defense. The Raiders, however, will beat the Chiefs twice, and because of that, 7-9 will be good enough for 3rd in the AFC West.
Kansas City Chiefs (7-9):
The Chiefs lost corner back Brandon Carr to the Cowboys, running back Le’Ron McClain, defensive end Wallace Gilberry as well as a few others. They lost their quarterback Matt Cassel pretty early in the season. Cassel was less than impressive in the nine games he started, throwing 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Cassel needs to prove that he can break some of his bad habits this season, such as staring down his target and generally not making bad decisions in the pocket, and I do not believe he can do it.
This offense was very bad last season, and I do not believe that will change for the 2012 season. They had a halfway decent defense in some areas last season, ranking 6th in the NFL in rushing defense, and ranking 5th in 3rd down defense. But Carr is a pretty good cornerback, and the loss of him will not help this defense. At best, the Chiefs will break even on the season. There is a big if on the Chiefs though. If Jamaal Charles can stay healthy (something he has not done in his career), the Chiefs have a chance to finish at 8-8 or even 9-7. They won’t though. My Prediction: 7-9. 4th place in the AFC West.