Denver Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning throws before the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
With the regular season just eight days away, Grizzly Detail will be going through our predictions for each of the NFL’s eight divisions, as well as our picks for the Super Bowl and the various awards available after the campaign.
We’ve already gone through the other three divisions that the Bears will play against this season, so we’ll begin the rest of our AFC previews today by taking a look at the AFC West. Can the Denver Broncos repeat their performance of a season ago? Will the Kansas City Chiefs regress? We have the answers here.
Denver Broncos: 11-5
The Broncos made it to the Super Bowl last season with an historically potent offense and a defense that was one of the best in the league, and even though they were embarrassed by the Seattle Seahawks in that game, they still have to be considered one of the favorites to get back to the big game in 2015.
On offense, the team didn’t just stand pat despite having incredible weapons like Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas, as they drafted wide receiver Cody Latimer in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft and brought in Emmanuel Sanders from the Pittsburgh Steelers to replace Eric Decker.
Defensively, the team brought in even more talent, signing some of the biggest free agents on the market. Demarcus Ware came over from the Dallas Cowboys to bolster the team’s pass rush, and cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward were signed to shore up the secondary.
With those additions, the Broncos should be right in the thick of things for a second straight AFC title, and with Peyton Manning looking to grab one more ring before he retires, this could be his best chance.
Kansas City Chiefs: 8-8
With a defensively-loaded team, the Chiefs surprised many people last season under the direction of head coach Andy Reid as they made a run to the playoffs. They did lose in the first round to the Indianapolis Colts, but they still have players like Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry there to hopefully propel them on another run.
The big question for the Chiefs is whether or not Alex Smith can replicate his successes from last season. He still will have running back Jamaal Charles in the backfield, but his success will hinge on whether or not Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery can be a good enough receiving tandem to take pressure off the team’s running game.
San Diego Chargers: 7-9
The Chargers are a team that has plenty of question marks heading into the season. They do have a fantastic young wide receiver in Keenan Allen, and Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown are both capable of making up an excellent duo of receivers for quarterback Phillip Rivers to throw to.
One question facing the team is whether or not their running backs will be good enough to take pressure off the passing game. Ryan Mathews has a history of underperforming, and while Danny Woodhead is a great option in the passing game, he’s not that great a back-up if Mathews struggles again.
On defense, the Chargers did get a really talented piece in the draft when they selected Jason Verrett out of TCU, but they will need veterans like Dwight Freeney to step up if they’re going to be successful.
Oakland Raiders: 4-12
The Raiders are a team that haven’t exactly been lighting the NFL world on fire over the past several seasons, and while they probably will continue to struggle this season, they have plenty of players who could be great weapons in the future.
Derek Carr out of Fresno State is one of those players, but the quarterback will be behind Matt Schaub and Matt McGloin on the depth chart to begin the season. Even though rookies like Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel are more likely to get starting roles this season than Carr is, he is worth keeping an eye on if the veterans on the team struggle early on.
On the defensive side of the ball, first round draft pick Khalil Mack is going to be a player to watch at multiple positions. He can play defensive end in the Raiders’ 4-3 defense, and he also is capable of playing at the strongside linebacker position. New acquisition Justin Tuck should help out as the youngster gains experience, and he will be a player to watch for the next several seasons.