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NFL Pro Football 2010 AFC West Preview

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Fearless Rick's 2010 NFL Preview - AFC WEST

Rick Gagliano | to be published July 29, 2010


San Diego Chargers 2009 record: (13-3) Projected 2010 record: (12-4)

Predicted finish: 1st, AFC West

Head Coach: Norv Turner

Departed: S Kevin Ellison; CB Antonio Cromartie; QB Charlie Whitehurst; WR Kassim Osgood; TE Brandon Manunaleuna; RB Michael Bennett; RB LaDainian Tomlinson; NT Ian Scott; C Eric Ghiaciuc; NT Jamal Williams; LB Tim Dobbins

Incoming: TE Randy McMichael; OT William Tra Thomas; CB Nathan Vasher; WR Josh Reed; CB Donald Strickland; rookie RB Ryan Mathews; rookie LB Donald Butler; rookie SS Darrell Stuckey; rookie NT Cam Thomas

Strengths: Offense. With Phillip Rivers at the helm and rookie RB Ryan Mathews replacing the worn-out LaDainian Tomlinson, there will be more viable options than last season. Rivers has talented receivers all over the place, including TE Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd. Playing in the NFC West. Probably the worst division in the league, the Chargers should cake-walk to their fifth straight division title.

Weaknesses: Defensive secondary. This unit keeps changing and the loss of Antonio Cromartie won't help, though the addition of Donald Strickland is a positive lining up at one corner with Quentin Jammer on the other side. Opponents have to throw on the Chargers usually because they're way behind.

Key Games: 10/24 @ New England; 10/31 @ Tennessee; 11/7 @ Houston; 11/28 @ Indianapolis; 12/16 vs. San Francisco; 12/26 @ Cincinnati. Note that all of the key games for San Diego are out of their division, because they should sweep those six contests. Even if they manage to lose all five of these key game (5 on the road and one, 12/16, on a Thursday night), they'll still win the division going away.

What if?: The Chargers are 6-0 heading into the 10/24 game with New England? There's a good possibility that this will be the case, with the Chargers playing KC, Jacksonville, Seattle, Arizona, Oakland and St. Louis prior to their first real test. They will probably lose that game, thus taking pressure off the team to remain perfect. Even if they lose the next two games after that and prior to their bye week, they still can't finish any worse than 10-6, and they'll probably be much better than that.

Oakland Raiders 2009 record: (5-11) Projected 2010 record: (8-8)

Predicted finish: 2nd, AFC West

Head Coach: Tom Cable

Departed: QB JaMarcus Russell; FB Gary Russell; OT Cornell Green; DE Greg Ellis; LB Jon Alston; LB Kirk Morrison; LB Isaiah Ekejiuba; NT Gerard Warren; RB Justin Fargas

Incoming: RB Michael Bennett; RB Rock Cartwright; QB Jason Campbell; G Daniel Loper; LB Quentin Groves; LB Kamerion Wimbley; NT John Henderson; rookie DT Lamarr Houston; rookie WR Jacoby Ford; rookie CB Walter McFadden; rookie LB Travis Goethel; rookie LB Rolando McClain; rookie OT Jared Veldheer; rookie G Bruce Campbell

Strengths: Offensive talent pool. With the JaMarcus Russell experiment over, the Raiders can finally employ some of the talent amassed over the past three hopeless seasons. They're very deep in running backs and having Jason Campbell as the starting QB will be an immediate upgrade.

Weaknesses: Defense. The Raiders allowed 361.9 yards per game in 2009, and even improving on that number will not make this a cohesive unit. They're still searching for linebackers.

Key Games: 9/19 vs. St. Louis; 10/3 vs. Houston; 10/10 vs. San Diego; 10/17 @ San Francisco; 10/24 @ Denver. The Raiders open on the road against Tennessee, in what might be a surprise game that Oakland could win. The key games are the one directly after that, against St. Louis (winnable), then four straight, including a trip across the bay to SF, which is almost a home game. Should the Raiders win at denver on the 24th, they might be 4-3 or 5-2 at that point, with some easy ones ahead and look like a playoff contender.

What if?: The defense comes back to life in 2010? Then the Raiders actually will be a playoff contender, because the offense should click to some extent. The toughest games after the bye (week 10) are at San Diego and home for the Colts. The others are all potential wins.

--- Story continues below ---

Denver Broncos 2009 record: (8-8) Projected 2010 record: (6-10)

Predicted finish: 3rd, AFC West

Head Coach: Josh McDaniels

Departed: CB Ty Law; WR Brandon Marshall; TE Tony Scheffler; C Casey Wiegmann; G Ben Hamilton; DT Kenny Peterson; LB Andra Davis

Incoming: NT Jamal Williams; LB Akin Ayodele; QB Brady Quinn; OT Maurice Williams; DE Jarvis Green; DE Justin Bannan; RB Kolby Smith;CB Nate Jones; rookie QB Tim Tebow; rookie C Eric Olsen; rookie WR Demaryius Thomas; rookie CB/KR Perrish Cox; rookie C J.D. Walton; rookie WR Eric Decker; rookie G Zane Beadles

Strengths: Quarterback. With Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn all fighting for the job, the Broncos have a wealth of talent at a key position.

Weaknesses: Run defense. The Broncos were 7th worst in the NFL against the run in 2009, allowing 128.7 ypg. That's not good enough in this league (or any other) and teams which can't stop the run, die by it. Offense. Outside of excess talent at QB, there's little at the other positions. Knowshon Moreno is about the best RB they have, but Eddie Royal, Brandon Llyod and Jabar Gaffney isn't much of a receiving corps.

Key Games: 9/26 vs. Indianapolis; 10/3 @ Tennessee; 10/10 @ Baltimore; 10/17 vs. NY Jets. Four brutal games after starting the season at Jacksonville and home against Seattle should prove to be more than this young team can handle. The Broncos could start out 1-5 or even 0-6 before they know what hit them.

What if?: Tim Tebow becomes the starting QB? Expect the Broncos to utilize the wildcat offense about 80% of the time and have sideline prayer meetings when the defense is on the field. After a great 6-0 start in '09, the Broncos went 2-8 after their bye week, making them the biggest collapse of the season. The struggle continue in 2010.


Kansas City Chiefs 2009 record: (4-12) Projected 2010 record: (4-12)

Predicted finish: 4th, AFC West

Head Coach: Todd Haley

Departed: WR Bobby Wade; RB Kolby Smith; C Wade Smith; G Mike Goff; G Andy Alleman

Incoming: G Ryan Lilja; RB Thomas Jones; C Casey Wiegmann; WR Jerheme Urban; NT Shaun Smith; rookie WR/RB Dexter McCluster; rookie S Eric Berry; rookie TE Tony Moeaki; rookie FS Kendrick Lewis; rookie CB Javier Arenas; rookie G Jos Asamoah

Strengths: Nothing to Lose. The Chiefs are one of the NFL's worst teams, having gone 4-12 in 2007, 2-14 in 2008 and 4-12 in 2009. Getting to five wins is a real goal and one that these Chiefs may not be able to accomplish.

Weaknesses: The whole team and organization. From top to bottom, from the front office right down to the last guy on injured reserve, the Chiefs define mediocrity. They have no stars, no prospects (except Dexter McCluster) and no quarterback, as acquiring Matt Cassell after one season in New England has proven to be a monumental mistake.

Key Games: None. Or all. Any games they win will be flukes. OK, 9/19 @ Cleveland; 10/24 vs. Jacksonville; 10/31 vs. Buffalo; 11/28 @ Seattle; 12/19 @ St. Louis are five games in which the Chiefs have a chance, but they won't win all of them and could lose as many as four of them.

What if?: Matt Cassell disproves his critics and is among the league leaders at quarterback? The world as we know it would be ending. We're all hoping that Cassell plays down to the standards of his coaches and teammates so that the earth doesn't spin off its axis or is blasted by a rogue comet.

Copyright 2010, 2010, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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