Editor's note: Stay logged on to CSNCalifornia.com as Scott Bair reports from Raiders practice in New York on Friday, and leading up to the opener against the Jets on Sunday
Raiders Insider Scott Bair goes a little deeper into how the AFC West will fare this season. Below you’ll find a predicted order of finish, projected overall records, and why seasons will unfold that way. Here we go:
1. Denver Broncos (13-3)
I think quarterback Peyton Manning was embarrassed after the Broncos got beat down by Seattle in the Super Bowl. He seems extremely motivated and a bit more demanding, which could be scary for opposing defenses throughout the year. He certainly has the firepower – they added Emmanuel Sanders?!? Unfair. – in the passing game and enough of a ground attack to maintain balance. I’m not a huge fan of renting a bunch of high-profile veterans, but Manning is an attraction and Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware flocked. There’s enough there to win the division, but I think they hit a roadblock in the playoffs.
2. San Diego Chargers (10-6)
The Chargers will go as far as their defense allows, because they have offensive firepower to score on anyone. But, will free safety Eric Weddle get enough help to slow opponents down in games where points are a premium? That unit should be improved, especially in the front seven. Defensive end Corey Liuget seems ready for a star-making season. Offensively, quarterback Philip Rivers is back on top of his game and has plenty of weapons in receivers Malcom Floyd and Cal alum Keenan Allen, a stable of running backs in Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown. The Chargers head back to the playoffs after making to the AFC divisional round last year.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)
The Chiefs started 9-0 last season and made it to the playoffs after a disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2012. Quarterback Alex Smith and coach Andy Reid brought them back to respectability, but they have a tough time being elite. They don’t have many weapons outside running back Jamaal Charles. Their offensive line is in trouble with 2013 No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher underperforming at left tackle and right tackle Donald Stephenson suspended for PEDs. Kansas City’s defense should be explosive with Tamba Hali leading the charge, but the team as a whole will get stuck in the middle of the pack.
4. Oakland Raiders (6-10)
The Raiders used significant salary cap space to import veterans at several key positions and had a strong draft that helped supplement free agent efforts. They’re undoubtedly more talented than recent seasons, with end Justin Tuck, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, outside linebacker Khalil Mack and defensive tackle Antonio Smith on the roster. Depth is of great concern, especially against the NFL’s toughest schedule. Quarterback play is an unknown with rookie Derek Carr now running the show, though it’s virtually certain he’ll have some hiccups during his first NFL season. The Raiders should play better and squeak out a few more wins than a year ago, but not many.