San Diego Chargers: The San Diego Chargers have completely cleaned house on their coaching staff. Gone is one coach who couldn't even get to the big game let alone win one and in is a retread coach who has never won anything anywhere period. GM A.J. Smith who along with John Butler and Bill Polian put together those great Buffalo Bills teams of the 1990's, has put together a roster which is scary good.
The Chargers must know what they're doing, in recent draft years turning the draft rights to Michael Vick and Eli Manning into LaDanian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Shawne Merriman. Tomlinson and Merriman of course the two most explosive players in the NFL on their respective side of the ball. Thus if Norv Turner doesn't win with this team, he truly is the worst coach in the history of the NFL.
How this team didn't rip right through the AFC playoff is beyond me, perhaps it has something to do with their 0-4 record in the playoffs since winning the AFC Championship game over Pittsburgh in 1994 at Three Rivers Stadium. This team which had plowed through the NFL, going 8-0 at home, winning their last ten in a row to close out the season just couldn't deliver the knock out blow to the Patriots when they had the chance.
Final Verdict: The Chargers are loaded on both sides of the ball. They were 4th in overall offense, 1st in scoring, 1st in red zone TD %, 10th in overall defense, 1st in sacks and ranked 3rd in turnover differential with a +13. Like I said at the top, if you can't win with the likes of Tomlinson, Rivers, Antonito Gates and Merriman, you never will. Predicted Final Record: (13-3).
Denver Broncos: The Broncos are another of what one would call a "lure team," showing flashes of brilliance and talent but never quite pulling it all together. Of course what would pull all of that talent together would be from the quarterback position, one which has lacked consistency for big game bravado since the departure of the immortal John Elway. Though Jay Cutler who was overshadowed by fellow rookie QB's in last year's draft Vince Young and Matt Leinart, may still be the best of the lot yet.
Broncos management certainly did their best to help Cutler out, acquiring RB Travis Henry, WR Brandon Stokley and TE Daniel Graham. Henry a former Pro Bowl back himself joins a team that were it a college would be aptly named "running back U." That's because since 1995 the Broncos have produced eleven 1,000 yard rushers, the most by any team in that time frame.
The defense also looks solid again of course with the best CB in football Champ Bailey anchoring the secondary. Bailey will again get help from John Lynch and newly acquired Dre Bly who comes over from the Detroit Lions in an off-season trade. Denver's defense also gets stronger from drafting DE Jarvis Moss, DE Tim Crowder and DT Marcus Thomas.
Final Verdict: Denver always seems to have a solid squad. And why not, they've gone eleven years in a row without a losing division record which is the longest streak going in the NFL. The Broncos feature a lot of depth and talent on both sides of the ball, realizing that potential and not losing focus will go a long way in determining just how far that talent takes them this year. Predicted Final Record: (11-5)* Wild Card.
Kansas City Chiefs: How the Chiefs made the playoffs last season is probably more a byproduct of Cincinnati, Jacksonville and Denver collapsing late than anything else. This is an aging team and a one man show in RB Larry Johnson along with his 17 TD's and 1,789 rushing yards. Needless to say there won't be much going on in the air at Arrowhead.
The Chiefs once again on defense are nothing to write home about. Unless of course one likes counting on Pro Bowlers from five years ago with CB Ty Law, CB Patrick Surtain and LB Donnie Edwards. It also won't help that DE Jared Allen is suspended for the first four games of the season.
Final Verdict: The Chiefs certainly have enough experience to make some noise in the AFC West. However as far as standouts go, Kansas City doesn't have much beyond the RB and TE positions. This team also looks eerily similar to Herman Edwards last Jets team when he was coaching in New York, which doesn't bode well for the Chiefs. Predicted Final Record: (9-7).
Oakland Raiders: The Raiders have fallen so far south since their AFC title in 2002 that they actually might get away with being called the Los Angeles Raiders. All kidding aside another reason L.A. may not want them back is because of their league worst 15-49 during that time span. The Raiders won just two games folks, losing their last nine in a row, including their last three by a combined total of 63-12 and they've also lost a current league high eleven straight road games dating back to November of 2005.
The Raiders were just awful last season, starting out with a five game losing streak and dropping their last nine in a row including being shutout three times on the season. Their offensive line was by far the worst giving up a league high 72 sacks.
Final Verdict: The Raiders have been severely mismanaged in recent years and once again they look to be overmatched. Their defense could be somewhat steady but their offense is still anemic. They can't possibly do any worse than their last three games of 2006 where the Raider offense turned the ball over more times than they scored 13-12, or can they? Predicted Final Record: (2-14).