(Note: If you click on the red colored team name, a link will take you to a web page that will show you strength of schedule etc.)
Denver Broncos – People outside of Colorado may not know this, but there is a lot to look forward to from this team in 2010-2011. Since I cover the Broncos for other websites, I have analyzed this team backwards and forwards until I have been blue in the face at times.
Denver is one of those teams that have the ability to show the world that even though they don’t have any legit superstars at key positions on their team, they can still compete in the AFC West and for a playoff spot. The Broncos are a team in which their whole is greater than the sum of their parts.
On offense the key to the Broncos success is Kyle Orton. He is without a doubt the most important player on this team and if he goes down, the Broncos are in trouble in a big way.
There is a cause for concern for Orton’s health because of the Broncos offensive line. It looks great on paper, but due to injuries it hasn’t looked so good during games. To complicate matters, the Broncos are switching from a zone blocking scheme to a man to man blocking scheme.
With all of the injuries on the offensive line, the Broncos have not had their starting five offensive linemen together at any point during the preseason for them to practice this new blocking system.
An offensive line needs to be able to work together so that they can build the cohesiveness that is necessary for an O-line to have for them to be effective. You can’t just throw a group of guys together and expect them to be able to go out every Sunday and protect the quarterback and open holes for the running backs.
Defensively their secondary is one of the best in the NFL, however their run defense is a “milk carton” defense and they are still wondering how they are going to consistently pressure the quarterback with Elvis Dumervil out for the year.
Robert Ayers has looked good at putting pressure on the quarterback at times during the preseason. However he has been more effective blitzing up the middle instead of coming off the edge from his “Will” linebacker spot like he should which is a cause for concern. Does he not have the speed or pass rushing skills to come off the edge?
Any who, Broncos will finish 9-7 on the high side, or 8-8 with 6-10 being on the low side.
San Diego Chargers – Since 2005 the Chargers have been one of the five most talented and deepest teams in the NFL. They lose people every year and have continued to be a Super Bowl contender year in and year out. That trend won’t change this year even if Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeil don’t rejoin the team.
The Chargers backups may not be as good as some of the people that they have lost during the offseason; however they have top notch talent at key positions that can and have held down the fort until the backups figure things out.
Top notch talent can make average talented player on a football team look good. Look no further than what Brett Favre did with Sydney Rice last year. Favre made Sydney Rice look like a future hall of famer. Rice is by far not overly talented, he is just tall.
On offense the Chargers will be absolutely fine. Malcolm Floyd may not be a household name like Vincent Jackson, nevertheless he has always been a dangerous target for Phillip Rivers to go to. And let’s not forget Rivers’ real favorite target Antonio Gates is still on the team.
San Diego moving up sixteen spots in this year’s NFL draft to pick Ryan Mathews was a great move by the Chargers. In the NFL there are certain players that come along and before they even play one down in the league you know they will be great. Mathews is one of those guys and Norv Turner knows that.
Turner is known as one of the best play callers in the NFL and he is also known for taking a good running back and creating a dominant running game that teams have a hard time containing.
On the other side of the ball, the defense has some questions, mainly their pass rush, but they have looked really good during the preseason. Shawn Merriman doesn’t look the same anymore and has been hampered by injuries.
Hopefully the preseason success that we have seen from San Diego on defense will continue into the regular season. If not, the Chargers will be in a lot of high scoring games this year.
Chargers win the division by going 11-5. 12-4 if the defense continues to look good.
Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs are one of these teams that are kind of hard to read going into this season. The upcoming season is going to be a critical mark as to whether or not they are on the verge of turning things around.
On paper the Chiefs look like they should be more formidable and partially explosive on offense than what they were last year. However they haven’t consistently shown that during the preseason.
I am not overly concerned about the Chiefs offense except for that offensive line. But I am concerned about the defense being able to stop teams from racking up points and yards at will.
They run a 3-4 defense and for about two years now they have yet to be able to find the right defensive linemen that they need to run that defense properly. The defensive line looked better during the preseason but it still doesn’t look right.
To make matters worse, they can’t generate a pass rush to save their lives. That’s not a good thing to not be able to do in the NFL today.
Romeo Crennel who is considered to be one of the best at coaching defense was hired during the offseason to get the defense to a level in which opposing teams actually had to game plan for.
I realize that Romeo can’t make things happen overnight nor perform miracles. But something needs to happen or opposing teams will be breaking offensive records on any given Sunday.
Chiefs go 6-10 or 5-11.
Oakland Raiders – Oakland is one of two of my surprise teams going into the season. The Raiders will be a good team this year. They won’t be a playoff team this year, nevertheless they are going to be a darn good team who isn’t going to be a gimme win on Sundays.
Oakland’s offseason was one of the five best in the NFL this year. Al Davis either had an epiphany or decided that he needed to change how he did things on draft weekend and during the offseason. Every move that the Raiders have made over the past six months has been darn near flawless.
This year’s draft was not one of those typical Raider drafts where they chose the faster guy over the more talented guy. This year they ignored the guys who were the fastest and picked the players who were the most talented.
I vividly remember the reaction that I and everyone else had on draft weekend with each pick that the Raiders made. It was shocking and impressive to watch unfold over draft weekend.
Oakland has always had talent on their team; they have just had two major issues that has hindered this team from being competing in the NFL for anything, including wins.
One is good consistent quarterback play. When they do get it, they have always been a formidable team. When they don’t get it then they are a horrible team.
Jason Campbell has looked really good in the preseason and in turn the offense has looked great. So the quarterback issue looks to be taken care of.
The other issue is Al Davis changing the game plan on the Friday before the game on Sunday.
Warren Sapp told a story on the NFL Network a few weeks ago about how when he was in Oakland the coaches would put together a game plan for the upcoming game and have the team practice it Monday through Thursday. Come Friday Al would look at the game plan and would make drastic changes to it.
So the game plan that they had practiced on Monday through Thursday was voided out and a whole new game plan was prepared courtesy of Al Davis for that upcoming game on Sunday. The players wouldn’t have time to practice it or make any adjustments to it. You simply can’t do that in the NFL.
Seeing as to how Al didn’t do what he normally has done in the past on draft weekend, maybe Al will keep his little Crypt Keeper hands and mind out of the weekly game planning this year.
On defense they are loaded in all three areas of the defense. The defensive line is solid and could get even better if they sign former New Orleans Saints Bobby McCray who they brought in for a workout today. The linebackers and secondary on this defense are also impressive.
As mentioned earlier, the offense has looked great with Jason Campbell running the show. Look for Michael Bush and Louis Murphy to have a big year and the Raiders to have a much better year than they did in 2009-2010.
Raiders go 7-9 or 8-8.
Next up; NFL power rankings.