|Notes and Observations Week 16: Patriots Escape from New York with 17-16 Win; Clinch First Round Bye.||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win By Less Than a FOOT||Panic Mode in Full Effect, Minutemen are Struggling||Patriots Survive Gritty Challenge From Jets|
The Chargers are the obvious favorite, but the rest of the division is full of mixed expectations. Some see the Chiefs as a young team ready to cause trouble, and some see them as a team stuck behind an overrated Matt Cassell. Some trust Jason Campbell in a new environment with the Raiders and some expect him to bring this franchise down as well. All of this, combined with the Broncos’ competitive quarterback corps make for an entertaining division.
1. Chargers – In what could be the weakest division of them all, San Diego should run away with the West.
2. Chiefs – This may not be their year yet, but Kansas City is a team on the rise.
3. Broncos – No Brandon Marshall on offense plus no Elvis Dumervil on defense equals no playoffs for Denver this season.
4. Raiders – They won’t be nearly as awful as they’ve been the past few years, but I’m still not a believer in any team that’s led by Jason Campbell.
1. Chargers – Ryan Matthews is the pre-season offensive rookie of the year. Philip Rivers will continue to make his pin-point throws, Antonio Gates will continue to dominate the league’s tight-end corps and their tough run defense will stifle the few challenges they have while taking advantage of a weak division.
2. Broncos – Kyle Orton is underrated and Knowshon Moreno is a solid number one back if he gets back to full health. They will miss Brandon Marshall’s playmaking ability on offense, but might function better without him. On defense, they will miss Elvis Dumervil more than the offense will miss Marshall, and might be in trouble without him. (note: I refuse to discuss Tim Tebow).
3. Raiders – Jason Campbell will finally be comfortable in the pros to lead a team in Oakland that hasn’t had a leader in more than a decade. With a solid one-two punch in Michael Bush and Darren “Run DMC” McFadden, as well as a steady-enough defense, the Raiders are poised perfectly to ruin the value of that 2011 first-round pick they sent to the Patriots.
4. Chiefs – The little Pats (Matt Cassell, Mike Vrabel, Scott Pioli, Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis) have a couple young solid players, but still need a more consistent corps across the board to leverage Jamal Charles, Dwayne Bowe and Derrick Johnson on a consistent basis. Maybe in a few years.
1. Chargers – There’s something about the West teams that make them not so good, except for Philip Rivers, of course.
2. Broncos – Whatever you say about Tim Tebow, he’s looked pretty good, but still doesn’t figure to make much of an impact in his rookie year.
3. Raiders – JaMarcus Russell may be gone, but they’re still the Raiders.
4. Chiefs – It looks like Matt Cassel was a one trick pony, and the Chiefs are still bottom feeders because of it. Thomas Jones will help out, though.
1. Chargers – Until they prove otherwise, the Chargers deserve to be called the class of the AFC West. They always seem to start slow, but finish really strong (11 straight wins last year).
2. Broncos – Year 2 of the Kyle Orton/Josh McDaniels era may be overshadowed by Year 1 of the Tim Tebow era.
3. Raiders – With Oakland releasing JaMarcus Russel and acquiring Jason Campbell, an 8-8 season could be in the works.
4. Chiefs – Matt Cassel is still working with a young squad, but the team should continue to improve after a 4-12 campaign last year.