The Scoop on the NFL's Wild-Wild West Divisions
As we venture off into the Wild-Wild West of around the NFL in a day, we come to the NFL's West Divisions of the AFC and NFC teams, before they head into training camp. I thought we should start off by visiting the Mile High city of Denver, Colorado and get the latest scoop on the Broncos first.
Denver Broncos: My take on the Denver Broncos is that they are a pretty solid team heading into training camp. With Peyton Manning now at the helm of the quarterback position, Denver fans will have the opportunity to see if Manning still has what it takes to orchestrate a successful offense. As I mentioned months ago, my concern with Manning is if he can still take the punishment of being sacked. Defensively, the Broncos are solid, led by defensive end Elvis Dumervil, defensive tackle Ty Warren and linebacker Von Miller. They've also revamped their secondary, adding strong safeties Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore and free safety Mike Adams. I see the Broncos making the playoffs again this season.
Kansas City Chiefs: With the addition of a new offensive coordinator, the Chiefs will showcase a offense that displays power and speed, referring to running backs Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis. My two concerns are the inconsistent play of both wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and quarterback Matt Cassel. Cassel, in my opinion, has not lived up to the high expectations, after he robbed the Chiefs of the six year $63 million contract he received back in 2009, but who am I to knock the hustle. Defensively, the Chiefs are average at best, so I don't consider them a real threat this season.
San Diego Chargers: Last year, the Chargers finished the season with a 8-8 record. This season, I predict that they probably won't even see a 8 win season. I think quarterback Philip Rivers days in San Diego are winding down, simply because this is as good as it gets with his ability to led the team to a winning season. It gets even worse for Rivers this year, considering his major target, Vincent Jackson bolted for Tampa Bay during free agency to play for the Buccaneers. Defensively the Chargers secondary was a bit shaky and the pass rush was invisible. I can definitely see the Chargers and the Chiefs battling it out for who sits in the bottom of the division this year.
Oakland Raiders: Man I feel bad for quarterback Carson Palmer, the former Cincinnati Bengal signal caller. Palmer is seeing that the stadium grass isn't greener on the other side. Let us do the math real quick. New general manager, plus new head coach, minus owner Al Davis (R.I.P), plus linebacker Rolando McClain's off the field behavior spells losing season. Just too many distractions. Maybe I'll revisit the Raiders at the break of training camp with a clearer outlook.
Arizona Cardinals: It's a shame I don't have high hopes for the Cardinals this season, considering they have one of the most elite wide receivers on their team, referring to Larry Fitzgerald. The offensive line is weak and they have a mediocre quarterback in Kevin Colb, who the Cardinals blew $19 million on when they traded for him. The running game is good, featuring Beanie Wells, but can he rush for over 1,000 yards again this season while fighting a knee injury. On a high note, I can't wait to see what type of impact former Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd has this year. He was my favorite receiver in the 2012 April draft. Defensively, I like the addition of defensive back William Gay, who comes in from the Pittsburgh Steelers. I'm thinking 7-9 for the Cardinals.
St. Louis Rams: Unfortunately, quarterback Sam Bradford will work with his third offensive coordinator this season, so I'm not sure how the offense will flow this year. Another concern is the wide receiver position. This season, the Rams have three receivers returning from injuries and one who will be suspended for two games this year for performance enhancing drugs. Defensively, the Rams look solid, but putting their defense in bad field position, due to a possible struggling offense can kill the Rams season quickly. I'll give them 5-11.
San Francisco 49ers: I like the 49ers and their chances of returning back to the playoffs for a run at the Super Bowl. I'm not a fan of quarterback Alex Smith, but he is surrounded by the right offensive weapons to steer the team in the right direction. With names like running back Brandon Jacobs, tight end Vernon Davis, wide receivers Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree and Tedd Ginn Jr., how can you not put points on the board. Defensively, the 49ers are sound and reloaded. They may even get to the promise -land this season.
Seattle Seahawks: It's time for Tarvaris Jackson to "do-work" or take a back seat. My prediction is that Jackson will struggle, paving the way for former Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn to take over. Receiver Sidney Rice is finally healthy, so that's a good sign for the Seahawks passing game. If only receiver Mike Williams can get onboard and have more than 18 receptions (Williams number of catches in 2011) during the whole season, then all will be complete. Defensively, the Seahawks must invest more into the pass rush. Last season, Seattle was ranked 19th in the NFL in the sacks department. At best, they'll go 8-8.
San Diego Chargers: Last year, the Chargers finished the season with a 8-8 record. This season, I predict that they probably won't even see a 8 win season.
But which teams will be the league’s worst this coming year? Charlotte set a record for futility in the shortened 2011-2012 season by winning only 10.6% of their games, the worst single-season winning percentage in the history of the league, but despite all the flak Bobcats owner Michael Jordan has gotten during the offseason for that putrid on-court performance, it’s pretty much impossible for the ‘Cats to repeat that stunning display of mediocrity.