Thursday, September 5, 2013

NFL Preview: AFC West

With just about an hour to go before the opening kick of the 2013 season, we come to the end of my preview of the 2013 season. In honor of the first game, I end this preview with the Denver Broncos and the AFC West. After the addition of Peyton Manning, the Broncos dominated the division last season, and look to be poised to do so again, and make a run towards the Super Bowl. There doesn't seem to be anyone who can pose a real threat to the Broncos supremacy in this division, though the Kansas City Chiefs have made significant strides. Let's take a look:

Denver Broncos: The addition of Peyton Manning to this team last season immediately vaulted the Denver Broncos into the category of "contender". This year they bring in one of the most consistent wide receivers in the league in Wes Welker. Adding him to the good young receivers they already have in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker and you have what should probably be the top offense in the entire NFL. They don't have much of a running game, though the addition of Monte Ball through the draft should help, but they don't need it to win. The loss of Von Miller to suspension for the first six games is a significant blow to their defense, but Manning and the Broncos should be able to put up enough points to offset any trouble the defense puts them in. Broncos should run away with this division yet again.

Kansas City: If any team can make a "worst to first" turnaround, it's the Kansas City Chiefs. A team loaded with talent who consistently underachieves, the Chiefs yet again have a team who looks like they could make some noise in the division. The addition of Alex Smith brings a proven, decent quarterback to the team, something they have been missing for the last several years. Adding him to a lineup chock full of talent with guys like Dwayne Bowe, Jamal Charles, Tony Moeaki, and first round draft pick Eric Fisher, should drastically improve the Chiefs from where they were last season. I don't think they have enough to push for a playoff spot, but they will be the most improved team in the NFL this year.

San Diego Chargers: A team that should be better than it is year after year, the San Diego Chargers are, once again, poised to miss the playoffs. Philip Rivers is one of the more talented quarterbacks in the league still, but he just can't seem to get it together and cut down on the turnovers. If Rivers can finally figure it out, this team should be better than expected, but not by much. There simply isn't much surrounding Rivers anymore. They drafted Ryan Mathews to be the next stud running back after LaDanian Tomlinson, but that hasn't panned out as they had anticipated. Mathews has been a solid back, but he hasn't excelled and, like Rivers, has had a big problem with turnovers during his career. These turnover issues lead me to believe that the Chargers struggle yet again this season and fail to make any noise. It's too bad too, because I still think Rivers has in him the potential to be an elite quarterback in this league, but the front office seems to be unable to get him any solid help.

Oakland Raiders: Not a lot to say here. The Raiders will be a contender for the first overall pick in next years draft. They, along with the New York Jets, have easily the worst rosters in the entire NFL. They're opening the season with Terrell Pryor as the starting quarterback even after bringing in Matt Flynn from Seattle, which should speak volumes about Flynn after being supplanted by Russell Wilson last year too. Darren McFadden can be one of the best running backs in the league when healthy, but as their only decent option, he just doesn't have what it takes to put a team on his back and carry them to a winning record. It will be a surprise to me if the Raiders win more than four games this season. The battle to win the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes officially begins for the Raiders on Sunday.

Well, there you have it folks, the end of my preview. Let's get this season started!

NFL Preview: AFC South

In the first of two posts today, I near the conclusion of my NFL preview, and not a bit too soon, with the season officially kicking off tonight. The second to last division in my preview is the AFC South. Last season, the Houston Texans won the division yet again, and the Indianapolis Colts, led by an amazing rookie year from quarterback Andrew Luck, surprised everyone to finish second and secure a playoff appearance as a wild card. This year, I see this division playing out in much the same way, though I do think that the Tennessee Titans have made strides to become competitive. Let's take a look:

Houston Texans: Though the Texans have a history of being a disappointment, I still think that they have what it takes to take home the division crown again this season. Arian Foster is still one of the elite running backs in the NFL, and the same can be said for Andre Johnson at the wide receiver position. In the draft, the Texans brought in former Clemson stand-out receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Though he's had some concussion concerns this preseason, I anticipate him to be healthy to start the season and finally give Johnson someone opposite him to take the pressure off and give defenses another weapon to fear. Add to that the leadership that the addition of Ed Reed will provide, and I think that this might be the year that Houston steps up and lives up to expectations.

Indianapolis Colts: After a 2-14 season the year before and the jettisoning of nearly everyone on the team, including future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, no one expected anything from the Colts last season. They far exceeded expectations, however, led in large part by the emotional boost that was provided by coach Chuck Pagano's struggle with and eventually overcoming of leukemia. With the maturation of Andrew Luck, and having his roster remain largely unchanged, I see a fairly similar season for the Colts this year. Luck is going to be one of the greats in this game, and it's just a matter of time before he takes this team to the promised land. It won't be this year, but it's not to far off, believe me.

Tennessee Titans: Led by star running back Chris Johnson (though he has been inexplicably much maligned over the last few seasons) and with the additions of two stellar guards in the NFL draft, the Titans should boast one of the top rushing attacks in the league this season. If last year's Minnesota Vikings are any indication, a great running attack can be enough to vault you into the playoffs. I don't think that will be the case with this team though, as the division they play in is just too tough. I don't yet trust Jake Locker enough to be able to get this team over the hump and pass the Colts for a wild card spot. If Locker can develop into more of an NFL-caliber quarterback this team can contend, but that's going to be a year or two off yet. Right now, this team is squarely in the third slot in this division.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Which leaves the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. They have one of the better running backs with Maurice Jones-Drew, but after that the cupboard is pretty bare down in Jacksonville. At this point I don't have any faith in Blaine Gabbert to figure things out and become a competent quarterback. I think we have seen the best we are going to get from him, and that just isn't very good. It's not all his fault though, as he has had a pretty porous offensive line in front of him, and wide receivers that just aren't very good. Justin Blackmon has failed to live up to the expectations placed upon him coming out of Oklahoma State, and Cecil Shorts has been a competent, but not much more, second receiver. At this point, I'm convinced that things aren't going to get better for the Jaguars until they decide to cut ties with Gabbert and usher in a new era. Until then, they will continue to be bottom feeders in this division.

Stay tuned later today as I finish off my preview of this season with one of the two teams playing in this evenings game, the Denver Broncos and the AFC West!