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Football picksJuly 17, 2008

NFL Previews 2008: AFC West

PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH:
 
1. SAN DIEGO
3. KANSAS CITY
3. DENVER
4. OAKLAND

SAN DIEGO
COACH: NORV TURNER 2nd yr. (13-6)
LAST YEAR:  11-5
GAMES DECIDED BY 3 OR LESS: 1-0
BIGGEST ADDITION: DEREK SMITH LB
BIGGEST LOSS: MICHAEL TURNER RB
 
DIRECTION: GOING DOWN
OUTLOOK: The Chargers window of opportunity may be running out. LaDanian Tomlinson had a more human season last year, and after carrying the load for eight years the wear and tear may finally be relegating him to just good, instead of Superman. Philip Rivers has made strides, but he will be testing a reconstructed knee after off-season ACL surgery, and that could present some problems for the Chargers if his knee causes some problems. The biggest obstacle for the Chargers is the fact that they must contend with Indianapolis and New England to get to the Superbowl and it would be crucial for them to finish with one of the top two records in the AFC to avoid having to beat them both to get there. Micheal Turner looked better than Tomlinson at times last season, and he is now carrying the ball in Atlanta. So if Tomlinson misses time again this season the safety net is gone, and with Rivers on a reconstructed knee, this team doesn’t look like one that will improve but may in fact take a small step back in the win column. Thanks to a weak division and a very soft schedule however, they should have little problem coming out on top of their division.
 
PROJECTED FINISH:  10-6

KANSAS CITY 
COACH: HERMAN EDWARDS 3rd yr (13-20)
LAST YEAR:  4-12
GAMES DECIDED BY 3 OR LESS:  2-3
BIGGEST ADDITION: BRANDEN ALBERT OL
BIGGEST LOSS: JARED ALLEN  DE
 
DIRECTION: GOING UP
OUTLOOK: The Chiefs will have a new look this year as Herm edwards made changes to a disfunctional offense, replacing almost the entire offensive staff. The Chiefs traded the sack master, Jared Allen, to stockpile draft picks and add quality new faces to a team in need. They landed six top players, of which several could have an immediate impact in ’08. Probably the biggest impact on this season won’t be due to player changes, but the schedule itself. The Chiefs have a rather soft schedule with 10 games vs. teams that finished ’07 under .500. That in itself will be the key reason this team moves up in the win column in ’08. If the Chiefs draft proves to upgrade the overall performance of the team, the win tally could push this team to the .500 mark, but we think they will fall just short.
 
PROJECTED FINISH:  7-9

DENVER
COACH:MIKE SHANAHAN 14th yr (138-83)
LAST YEAR:   7-9
GAMES DECIDED BY 3 OR LESS:  4-1
BIGGEST ADDITION: NIKO KOUTOUVIDES LB
BIGGEST LOSS: JASON ELAM   K
 
DIRECTION: GOING NOWHERE
OUTLOOK: The Broncos win total has now declined for the last two straight years and the fans and radio pundints are turning on the so-called “genius” Mike Shannahan who still has yet to do anything in the playoffs without #7 behind center. There has been an abundance of player turnover, but this year it was in the coaching ranks, as they have two new assistant coaches and a new general manager. Probably the most significant player move was the loss of PK Jason Elam to free agency and he will be sorely missed. When you consider the fact that the Broncos offense struggled last year, the leg of Elam was personally responsible for keeping them in games and winning others. He was a perfect 37-37 in FG attempts inside the 40. The Broncos won just seven games and four of them were by 3 points or less, so the impact of Elam’s departure is surely going to show up in a game or two, and that could be the difference of a team getting back into the playoff hunt vs. settling back into mediocricy. Despite having a very easy schedule, we just don’t see this team making any strides, and any improvement overall may be balanced by the loss of Elam.
 
PROJECTED FINISH:   7-9

OAKLAND
COACH: LANE KIFFIN 2nd yr. (4-12)
LAST YEAR:  4-12
GAMES DECIDED BY 3 OR LESS: 2-2
BIGGEST ADDITION: JAVON WALKER WR
BIGGEST LOSS: CHRIS CLEMONS DE
 
DIRECTION: GOING UP
OUTLOOK: The Raiders defense has been jekyl and hyde the past two years (great in 2006 and poor in 2007). Their offense, however has been unmistakenly bad for several years and was in dire need of a boost after last season. Last year they scored 15 points or less in seven games. This year coach Lane Kiffin is finally turning the offense over to JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders made sure he has some weapons by acquiring Jevon Walker to compliment Ronald Curry at wideout. They also drafted Darren McFadden who many believe could have an impact similar to Adrien Peterson of the Vikings last year. If Russell lives up to his #1 draft position, McFadden provides stability in the running game, and Walker stays injury free, the offense will keep the ball longer and the Raiders will produce points at a much higher, and more consistent rate over a year ago. The schedule also presents a very nice opportunity for improvement with 11 of the 16 games to be played vs. teams that were .500 or less last season. Oakland should add significantly to the win column this season.
 
PROJECTED FINISH:   7-9