This is a division in which any of 3 teams can win. The Chiefs, when healthy have shown what they can do. They have the most talented roster of the 3 teams at the top, but the 3rd best QB of them. Sometimes that can be all of the difference. The Chargers, always talented, always thought to be the best team in the division, always seem to disappoint. The Broncos were everyone’s darling last year with Tim Tebow playing the QB position. This year with Peyton Manning they again will be. Then you have the Raiders, who have one of the best RB’s in the league when healthy, but what else?
1st Kansas City Chiefs – 10-6
The Chiefs biggest problem last year was their health. Even with all the injuries they had, they still went 7-9. They got Jamaal Charles back from injury, which should be a big help to the run game and to Matt Cassel. Fearing that Charles may not be completely back this year the Chiefs went out and picked up Peyton Hillis. While being quite a bust last year, he is a hard runner, good change of pace back and a good insurance policy for Charles. Also coming back from injury on that offense is Cassel’s security blanket, TE Tony Moeaki. They also upgraded the RT position with the signing of Eric Winston away from the Texans. One problem however is the continuing holdout of Dwayne Bowe, who wants a long term contract. However, Jonathan Baldwin is taking this opportunity to work hard as the number 1 WR and prepare himself for the season.If Cassel can’t take this team where they should go this year, it is time for him to go.
However the real strength of this team is its defense. Tamba Hali is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and Justin Houston really emerged the last 5 weeks of the season as a real threat from the OLB position. Inside of those 2 is one of the better ILB duos in the NFL. Derrick Johnson is well known as one of the better inside linebackers in the NFL. However Jovan Belcher is very underrated. The chief have Brandon Flowers and Stanford Routt at the CB position. Routt replaces Brandon Carr, who left for Dallas. Eric Berry is returning from injury and will make a huge impact on this D. Dontari Poe, the mammoth of a NT drafted in the 1st round, while raw, has the potential to make a huge impact as a rookie.
2nd San Diego Chargers – 9-7
Philip Rivers continues to say he didn’t play hurt last year. He also continues to lie about not playing hurt last year. He will have to rebound in a big way, which I expect him to do, to carry this team to a winning record this year. Also with Mike Tolbert gone, Ryan Mathews will be getting a lot more playing time. He will have to step up and carry a bigger load. Vincent Jackson is no longer a Charger, so Malcolm Floyd steps into the #1 WR role. Robert Meachem was given a big contract to be the #2 WR. They need Antonio Gates to stay healthy this year, but even as he is getting older he still has the talent to be a top 5 WR. Their offensive line is the big question. Kris Dielman retired and Marcus McNeill is gone.
The defense needs to be better this year too. After an outstanding 2010 season they fell back a bit this past season. However the new additions to the defense should really help. Melvin Ingrim and Kendall Reyes should add to a pass rush that just wasn’t very good. Jarret Johnson who was brought over from the Ravens will help the run defense and in pass coverage. They have to hope that their CB’s play better this year. Quentin Jammer is 33 so that isn’t likely. Reyes will start across from Corey Liuget who wasn’t that good as a rookie. They will need him to step up his game and help them get more pressure on the QB. Shaun Phillips had foot problems last year, and they will need him to recover and have a big year.