Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning leaves field after being defeated by the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford

NFL Preview FAQ: AFC West

With the season right around the corner, we’re previewing each division with FAQ’s. Previous installments:        

 AFC East:  http://www.punchdrunksports.com/nfl-preview-faq-afc-east/

AFC North: http://www.punchdrunksports.com/nfl-preview-faq-afc-north/

AFC South: http://www.punchdrunksports.com/nfl-preview-faq-afc-south/

 

AFC West

1. Denver Broncos
Last Season: 15-4 (Lost Super Bowl to the Seahawks. That’s pretty fun to write.)

Hi! Do you have any leaked photos of famous actresses?
No. This is a football post.

Ok. That’s kind of a let down.
It’s the internet. You can always go to one of the other million sites that does have the photos and then come back.

Since we’re talking about Denver, would you like to chat about the Super Bowl? Maybe make some digs about how the Seahawks dominated the game?
Honestly, no. It’s like the nicest two fan bases to ever meet in a championship. Every engagement I’ve been too that featured Denver and Seattle fans had zero hostility. The average conversation was basically

Denver fan: “Boy, you guys killed the Broncos”

Seattle fan: “Honestly, the whole thing just snowballed from that opening safety. Your team will be back there this season”

Denver fan: “That defense was incredible though!”

Seattle fan: “Yeah, it was a good team, hopefully it’ll continue. Would you like some of my weed?”

Denver fan: “Sure!”

So, no, I have no desire to “rub it in”. The Hawks were great, the Broncos were great, and I’ve been on the losing end many a time. Let’s just move on to the next season.

Are the Broncos any better?
They sure seem to be. They lost Eric Decker, but Manning could turn you or I into a 1,000 yard receiver, so they’ll be fine replacing him with Emmanuel Sanders. They lost 3 or their 4 starting DBs, but added T.J Ward and Aqib Talib. Throw in a healthy Von Miller and the addition of Demarcus Ware and you’re looking at a significantly better defense. I’d say they’re still the team to beat in the AFC.

Any glaring weaknesses?
Running back for sure. I’m not sold on Montee Ball (not that I was sold on departing running back Knowshon Moreno either). But the real question is whether Manning will regress or not. If he can be 90% as effective as he was last year, the team will be fine. Also, and I know very little since it happened while I’m writing this, but Welker being suspended for drugs might be a distraction. Denver’s first four games are all teams who won 10 or more games last season. So there’s that…

So there’s a great possibility that it’ll be Manning v. Brady for the AFC Championship again?
Assuming Denver can over come those few things, yep. Looking forward to the 23 hours a day ESPN will devote to that match-up. Did you know those two quarterbacks have a rivalry but also a deep respect for one another?

 

2. San Diego Chargers
Last Season: 10-8 (Lost in the playoffs to Denver)

So you’re going with the rest of the pundits that think San Diego will be a formidable opponent this year?
Eh…

But you’re picking them to finish second in the division. Ahead of the Chiefs?
We’ll get to the Chiefs. As for the Chargers, eh…

That’s two “eh…s”. Care to explain?
It’s just that I’ve seen it before. Rivers completed almost 70% of his passes, threw for 4500 yards 35 touchdowns, had only 11 picks, and the Chargers still had to win their last four games just to make the playoffs. Rivers had the best season of his career, and the Chargers had to rely ON A TIEBREAKER just to have the opportunity to beat the Bengals in the first round before losing to a better team later on.

So what do the Chargers have going for them?
The team is solid and they play in a division that includes Oakland, so there’s two wins.

OK, what hilarious things are in the guide you are currently reading?
For key additions it highlighted Donald Brown, who was so good last year that the Colts have Trent Richardson and STILL didn’t resign Brown during the offseason. In key losses, it listed Charlie Whitehurst. Good stuff.

So just because Rivers had his best season ever and the Chargers were still barely above average, you’re going to write them off this season?
Yes. That’s exactly the point I’m making. You could shuffle their last ten seasons together, ask me to guess the year of each random season, and I could go 10-0, 0-10 or anywhere in between. “Wait, which year did they win 14 games and lose in the playoffs? Which year did they win 9 games and lose in the playoffs? Is this the year that they lost a Divisional playoff game because they chose to punt on 4th down 19 different times in their opponent’s territory? Oh, it was that other year? YOUR SEASONS ALL LOOK THE SAME SAN DIEGO! I’m looking forward to seeing Natrone Means and Tim Dwight playing again this season.

Valid points.
I feel so.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Season: 11-6 (Lost in the playoffs to the Indianapolis)

Who did the Chiefs add this year?
No one. Or, at least, no one I can write about. The Chiefs parlayed one of the easiest schedules into 11 wins last season, lost every meaningful game, came into this season and said “Fuck it; we’re good”. But they did lock up Alex Smith to a $68 million dollar contract. Because when you think of successful teams in the NFL, you think of the teams who would lock up Alex Smith to a long-term contract.
Wait, the Chiefs were good! Didn’t they lose a heart-breaker to the Colts in the playoffs?
You mean when they were up by four touchdowns with 28 minutes to go and still lost? Yeah, that sucked. It was like half the team succumbed to atrophy and the other half were cursed my some evil genie. Literally everything went wrong and the Chiefs bowed out of the playoffs.

Still, the team is on the rise, right?
Well they did go from 2 wins to 11 wins, but they finished the season 2-5 and then had that epic collapse in the playoffs. It was a team overachieving and underachieving at the same time. On paper, they look a little worse than they did last season, and I just can’t trust any team being captained by Alex Smith. It feels like his achievements have a low ceiling. Call it a hunch.

When will we know if the Chiefs are for real?
Their first 5 games are TEN, @Den, @MIA, NE, @SF. That’s a brutal stretch. The schedule gets a little easier after that, but a slow start might sink this team early. Jamaal Charles is the lifeblood of the offense, so if something happens to him, look out. Also, if someone can please tell Dwayne Bowe it’s ok to be good again, that would be helpful. He caught 15 touchdown passes in 2010 and has 13 touchdown receptions total in the three years since. It’s probably a bad sign when you were last good the year Inception came out.
4. Oakland Raiders
Last Season: 4-12 (Lost in the playoffs to…just kidding, it’s Oakland, they missed the playoffs)

Oh Em Gee, the Raiders…
I know.

Let’s start from the top, why is Dennis Allen still around?
You mean how can a coach take over a .500 team, win a total of eight games since, and still have a job? I don’t know.

Key addition?
Matt Schaub! Who has already been replaced by rookie Derek Carr as the starting QB. The Matt Schaub era in Oakland lasted four preseason games, so if you bet the over in Vegas, you win! They also added (insert broken running back who is no longer good here) Maurice Jones-Drew, who with Darren McFadden, should ensure that there will always be two Raider running backs on your fantasy football waiver wire.

Key losses?
Dignity, respect, ratings, any applicable usefullness…same as any of the last few seasons…

How about players?
I read a story about how they planned to sign tackle Jared Veldheer, but forgot to use a franchise tag, so he bolted to Arizona. But since he’s an offensive lineman, I have no idea if he’s good or not. I’m being told it’s a key loss. They also tried to sign another lineman named Rodger Saffold, who then immediately failed a physical. This all sounds very “Raider-like”.

Can you explain how you live in Southern California and yet every Oakland game takes prime billing on the local TV stations?
I cannot. It’s like watching a buddy support a girlfriend that dumped him 20 years ago. Even worse, a girlfriend that has gotten increasingly horrible over those years. The whole thing makes me sad, but mostly for people who don’t have Sunday Ticket and are forced to watch Raider games every Sunday. If I lived in Seattle and the local stations kept airing Oklahoma City basketball games, I’d probably start firebombing.

How much Raider football will you be watching this season?
Well I tried to record their preseason game against the Seahawks on the NFL network, but I forgot that it would be blacked out and I was supposed to record a local channel (you know, because they played here twenty years ago), so none I guess? I will be watching them none times this season, for a total of none minutes.

The Raiders haven’t finished above .500 for 11 straight seasons. Will this be the year that-
12 straight seasons. It’s going to be 12 straight seasons.

Any silver lining for Oakland fans?
The Warriors should be fun to watch!

 

Coming up next: The NFC

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