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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 NFL SEASON: AFC WEST PREVIEW



1. Broncos
2. Chiefs
3. Chargers
4. Raiders



Last season Denver led the league in points, yards, tied for first in yards per play, and scored the most touchdowns.

But…



Denver's performance in that game was equal to previous Super Bowl blowouts. The highest scoring team in the league last season only managed EIGHT points in the Super Bowl.

But this is not about last season. This is about THIS season.

The Broncos are trying to do something that hasn't been achieved in 42 years: a Super Bowl loser returning to the big game and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

DeMarcus Ware decided to follow my lead and leave Dallas for Denver. Wide receiver Eric Decker left for the Jets, but signed Emmanuel Sanders from the Steelers. Champ Bailey is no longer with the team, but drafted cornerback Bradley Roby in the first round and signed Aqib Talib away from conference rival New England.

There is one constant: Peyton Manning is still under center for the Broncos.

Denver will likely repeat as division champion given their schedule and opponents. The Broncos first two games are at home against the Colts and Chiefs, teams that made the playoffs last season. Week 3 is their rematch against the Seahawks in Seattle. Week 7 through 9 could be telling about this Broncos team as they host the 49ers and Chargers in primetime games and travel to Foxboro for a late Sunday afternoon matchup against the Patriots in another installment of the Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady Matchup.

Both Kansas City and San Diego will be battling it out for second place in the division and who claims a playoff spot. Kansas City raced out to a 9-0 record before losing 5 of their last 7 and blowing a 28 point third quarter lead in the playoffs on the road in Indianapolis. Quarterback Alex Smith threw for a career best 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns which earned him a new contract worth $68 million for 4 years.

San Diego was 5-7 and facing playoff elimination after a home loss to the Bengals. It started with a win over the free falling Giants at home. Four days later at Denver, the Chargers won to bring their record to .500. The Chargers clinched the last playoff spot with a win over the Chiefs on the last Sunday of the regular season. The winning streak continued with a win over the Bengals in the first round of the playoffs. San Diego's season ended with a loss in Denver in the divisional round.

While both teams paths to the playoffs in 2014 might be tougher than in 2013, Kansas City may make a return to the playoffs with the way their schedule is set up. Three of Kansas City's first five games are against playoff teams including at division rival Denver in Week 2 and a Monday Night encounter hosting the Patriots in Week 4.

San Diego opens the season at Arizona, but their home opener is a first test when they host Super Bowl champion Seattle in Week 2. The next 2013 playoff team they face will not be until Week 7 when the Chiefs come to town after their bye week. Kansas City plays in-state rival St. Louis in Week 8 and host the Seahawks and Broncos in Weeks 11 and 13 followed by games at Arizona, home against the Raiders, and at Pittsburgh.

After their Week 7 contest against the Chiefs, the Chargers travel to Denver in another short week to take on the Broncos and then to Miami prior to their Week 10 bye week. San Diego has a difficult stretch run starting in Week 13 when they travel to Baltimore, followed by Sunday Night hosting the Patriots in Week 14, and their home finale against the Broncos in Week 15. The Chargers play at San Francisco in Week 16.

Both the Chiefs and Chargers wrap up their season in Kansas City for what could determine which team plays in January.

I have been doing these NFL preview's for the last four seasons and I don't think I have ever predicted the Raiders to finish higher than third (feel free to double check). They are the very definition of bottom feeders. In the offseason they signed Matt Schaub who was at his peak as a quarterback over the last couple of seasons when he was in Houston. Last season the bottom fell out for him and during the preseason he was outplayed by rookie Derek Carr. Just before the start of the season, Carr has been given the starting quarterback job over Schaub.


Not only will their roster doom them to another last place finish, but their schedule is unforgiving. In Week 3 they travel to New England to play the Patriots and then to London for a home game against the Dolphins in Week 4. Week 9 begins the crucible where 7 of their last 9 games against playoff teams starting with at Seattle, playing the Chiefs Weeks 12 and 15, and the Broncos in Weeks 10 and closing out the season in Denver.

Denver will cast a shadow over the AFC West as high as Pikes Peak. The question remains if they can reach the championship summit in February 2015.


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