AFC West – 2010 NFL Season Preview

2009 Standings at Season’s End

  1. San Diego Chargers (13-3)
  2. Denver Broncos (8-8)
  3. Oakland Raiders (5-11)
  4. Kansas City Chiefs (4-12)

As we wrap up our NFL divisional previews and predictions for 2010, we head out west where the possibilities are as untamed as JaMarcus Russell’s deep ball. There is much to be said about this division, but none of it is really that good considering the AFC West only had one team over .500 on the season. As a whole, this division is weak defensively and doesn’t bring much to the table offensively either. The Chargers are again the early favorites to take the division, but the AFC Wildcard could still be an option for one of the remaining teams – let’s find out who.

San Diego Chargers

Led by Philip Rivers and Vincent Jackson, this team was among the top 5 offensive passing teams in the NFL. Turn the page to 2010, however, and this offense has a much different look. Vincent Jackson is a holdout for the season, and there is no telling just how long it will last. Rivers still has Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates as targets, but the loss of Jackson all but assures that this team won’t finish as strong as they did last season. Couple that with the loss of LaDanian Tomlinson, who although he was past his prime, still contributed greatly and you have a recipe for a down year. Even with all the same pieces, replicating 13-3 from last season would have been a difficult task, but now the Chargers are back at a reachable level for the rest of the division.

San Diego Chargers 2010 Prediction

The defensive struggles of this team were often overlooked last season, thanks to the great passing offense, but I get the feeling that their deficiencies will come to light a lot more this year. They should still have enough in the tank to win the division, but not nearly with the cushion they did in 2009. Look for the Chargers to post an 11-5 record.

Denver Broncos

Josh McDaniels tried his best with this team, and actually started them off strong in 2009, but then somewhere around the first bye week, the wheels came off the bus and the Broncos were exposed for the team that they really are. Kyle Orton also enters 2010 without his best receiver from last year, so he will have to rely on Eddie Royal and Brandon Lloyd. Knowshon Moreno is a great young back, but he is still very young and very inexperienced and let’s face it – the team isn’t running the ball like they did back in the Shanahan days. On the defensive side of the ball, they can still shut down a passing game as good as any team in the league, but their run stopping ability is suspect and was often exploited. For the Broncos to improve on their record from 2009, they will need to do it defensively, because the tools they have right now won’t put up big numbers.

Denver Broncos 2010 Prediction

The Broncos will do Ok in their division, and benefit from playing against the NFC West this year as well, but they will be hard pressed to win any games outside of the aforementioned matchups. Best case scenario they post a .500 record, but I think that 6-10 is a bit more realistic.

Oakland Raiders

In doing these recaps and projections for 2010, I was surprised that this team didn’t finish at the bottom of their division. The Raiders have a slight upgrade at Quarterback this year, but not much of one. And considering that they are moving forward from JaMarcus Russell, we would have liked a much better improvement. However, Jason Campbell has shown that he can be a game manager, although not a game winner. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kyle Boller under center at some point in the year, possibly finishing out the last 4 or 5 games of the season as the starter. At running back, they have a lot of talent in Darren McFadden, but just not enough other elements to really make him stand out. This team is bad offensively – flat out. Defensively, they are OK in pass coverage but fairly weak against the rush. If they can improve their rush defense, this is a team that should have a better record than last year.

Oakland Raiders 2010 Prediction

With all things being equal, the arrival of Jason Campbell should equate to maybe 2 or 3 more wins this year. But in the NFL, nothing is equal and the rest of the league upgraded much more than the Raiders. They have the potential to win 6 or 7 games this year, but will more than likely only go 5-11 again.

Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City is just now finding out what fans in New England knew all along. No offense to Matt Cassel, but his numbers in 2008 were primarily due to the system he played in. 2009 saw him lead the Chiefs to a 25th ranked passing attack, not exactly what the KC front office had in mind when they brought him in. It’s not for lack of talent either – the Chiefs have Dwayne Bowe as a hot young receiver and they now have veteran Chris Chambers and Leonard Pope as additional reliable targets for Cassel to throw to. This is the season that Cassel has to prove his value to the Chiefs, but I don’t think he can do it. The Chiefs got some help at running back, picking up Thomas Jones in addition to Jamaal Charles, so I would expect this rushing attack to rank in the top 10 of the league. If Cassel doesn’t emerge, however, this team will be too one-dimensional to win very many games.

Kansas City Chiefs 2010 Prediction

Even if Cassel plays poorly, this team was much better than their record showed last season. The Chiefs should finish at or around .500, but will never be in any playoff discussions for too long. Best case scenario, they go 8-8 thanks to their strong rushing attack.

2010 AFC West Predicted Final Standings

  1. San Diego Chargers (11-5)
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-8)
  3. Denver Broncos (6-10)
  4. Oakland Raiders (5-11)