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NFL 2005 AFC West Preview

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Sep 6, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Joined:
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    Source: <a href="http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/2005/09/06/SPGKAEFS941.DTL" target="_blank">SFGate.com
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    If the Raiders have their way this season, the AFC could bring back memories of the old American Football League in the '60s, when it was known for its high-scoring shootout games.

    With an offense fortified by the addition of Randy Moss, the Raiders look to be in position to score a lot of points. But they also appear to have a defense capable of giving up a lot of points again, and the big question is how many of those 42-35 games they can win.

    The Raiders' division, the AFC West, always has been one of the most intriguing in the league because the four teams have been rivals since 1960 and also because these rivalries are among the most heated in the league.

    And, as usual, the division begins the year with more questions than answers. Here are the key questions facing each team, and a rating of the teams in various categories:

    THE QUESTIONS

    Raiders: Will their offense be as good as they expect it to be, and will the defense be any good at all?

    Chargers: With all the starters back from last year's surprise team, can San Diego improve even more -- or will the Chargers regress?

    Broncos: Can Mike Shanahan's coaching overcome some of his audacious personnel moves, like wasting a third-round pick on Maurice Clarett?

    Chiefs: Is the defense, which has been significantly retooled, going to be good enough to win before the offense begins to deteriorate?

    THE RATINGS

    COACHES

    1. Shanahan, Broncos. There is no indication Shanahan is under any pressure from owner Pat Bowlen, but the fact is, he hasn't won a playoff game since John Elway retired.

    2. Dick Vermeil, Chiefs. This could be his last year, and he hasn't had the impact with the Chiefs yet that they thought he would.

    3. Marty Schottenheimer, Chargers. Showed he still had it last year but reverted to form with conservatism in the playoffs that led to an early exit.

    4. Norv Turner, Raiders. This is a big year for Turner; the Raiders made some offseason splashes that he needs to turn into in-season victories.

    QUARTERBACKS

    1. Drew Brees, Chargers. There is still plenty of skepticism about Brees, whose first two seasons as a starter were pretty ordinary, but who last year had a Pro Bowl season and a 27-7 TD-interception ratio. If he can do it again, he'll make himself a lot of money, and Philip Rivers will be available in trade.

    2. Trent Green, Chiefs. He has been a model of consistency the last three years, with passer ratings of 92.6, 92.6 and 95.2.

    3. Jake Plummer, Broncos. Under Shanahan, Plummer has had the two best years of his career back-to-back. But he still throws too many interceptions.

    4. Kerry Collins, Raiders. He's one of the best long-ball throwers in the league, but two numbers sum up his career -- 153 touchdown passes, 154 interceptions.

    RUNNING BACKS

    1. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers. He's the best running back in the league. His average season for a four-year career: 1,475 yards rushing, 505 yards receiving, 15 touchdowns.

    2. LaMont Jordan, Raiders. After four years as Curtis Martin's backup, Jordan moves into a starring role in Oakland. By all accounts, he's ready for it, and the attention defenses must pay to Moss will ease his path.

    3. Priest Holmes, Chiefs. Holmes is not a big guy, he has had some injury problems and he'll be 32 years old in October. All those factors would seem to mitigate his success, but he has beaten the odds before.

    4. Mike Anderson, Broncos. Anderson ran for 1,487 yards as a rookie in 2000 and just 1,321 in four years since then, and he's coming off an injury. But Denver almost always has a 1,000-yard runner, and there is plenty of depth behind him on the roster, too.

    RECEIVERS

    1. Moss, Raiders. Say what you want about his off-field behavior and his history of not playing hard all the time, he's still one of the game's best weapons (and, word is, a much better teammate than that jerk in Philadelphia).

    2. Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs. Yeah, he's a tight end. But he's also Kansas City's go-to guy, more reliable than wideout Eddie Kennison, and he has averaged more than 12 yards a catch for five straight seasons.

    3. Antonio Gates, Chargers. Another tight end. He emerged last year as a terrific red-zone threat, and should be that again. And now that Keenan McCardell has had a training camp with the team, expect him to be a bigger part of the offense, too.

    4. Rod Smith, Broncos. At age 34 a year ago, he added a new job as punt returner. Still going strong.

    DEFENSE

    1. Broncos. There's depth up front and good experience. Denver actually had the No. 4 defense in the NFL last year but the points-against looked worse because of Plummer's 20 interceptions.

    2. Chargers. San Diego's 3-4 gives it a bit of an edge because there still are so few teams playing it, which makes it difficult for opponents to prepare. Two first-round draft picks will help the Chargers, too.

    3. Raiders. They'll be improved, and this year, they're playing a defense which better suits their players. A key is whether Warren Sapp has a year left, and he looked in camp like he might.

    4. Chiefs. They'll be better because of the players they signed. But how much better?

    HOTTEST ROOKIE

    Raiders: LB Kirk Morrison is working into the nickel defense and the coaches like what they have seen of him.

    Chargers: LB Shawne Merriman is missing time due to hamstring and knee injuries, but look out when he gets healthy; he's a playmaker.

    Broncos: CB Darrent Williams, a second-round pick, appears to have won the job as the team's primary punt and kickoff returner.

    Chiefs: LB Derrick Johnson. He gives Kansas City the kind of play on the edge that its defense has not had since Derrick Thomas' tragic death.

    MOST INDISPENSIBLE PLAYER

    Raiders: Jordan. Turner has directed successful offenses without stud quarterbacks or receivers, but not without a top running back.

    Chargers: Tomlinson. You can't easily replace the league's best running back.

    Broncos: Plummer. He has been making steady progress under Shanahan, and the backups behind him are not good enough.

    Chiefs: Gonzalez. Maybe Larry Johnson can fill in for Holmes, but there's no one remotely close to being able to take over for Gonzalez.
    MVP: Peyton Manning- Colts, QB

    He'd have another big year even if the Colts did not have such a weak schedule.
    Top rookie: Ronnie Brown - Dolphins, RB

    Without a competent quarterback, the Dolphins will try to stay in games by leaning on their first-round pick.
    Coach of the year: Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati

    It has been a long playoff drought for the Bengals.
    Division winners: Denver, New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis

    Wild cards: N.Y. Jets, Oakland

    AFC champion: Indianapolis over N.Y. Jets
    Best veteran acquisition : Corey Simon - Colts, DT

    Simon, a former Pro Bowler, gives the Colts a stud run-stopper on the inside to go with their quick pass rushers on the outside.
    Surprise team: Cincinnati

    Take a look at how the Bengals played down the stretch last year.
    Tough times ahead: Bill Cowher, Pittsburgh

    His job's not in jeopardy, but Steelers won't approach 15-1 again.
    Biggest bust: Kansas City

    The Chiefs' defense is going to be better. Unfortunately, their offense will be worse.
     

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