NFL Mid-Season Predictions: AFC West

AFC West

Joe Amon, The Denver Post

Joe Amon, The Denver Post

*Broncos 13-3:  If Peyton Manning were to match his passing touchdowns and yards in the next eight games he would finish the season with 68 touchdowns and 5,838 passing yards. Now, most likely he’s not going to match those numbers, however it is very possible that he will break both season records.

Let’s not forget as a team the Broncos have amassed 343 points which is also on pace to beat out New England’s 2007 record of 589 points. You also have to give credit to the running game that is being led by the finally-producing Knowshon Moreno (456 rushing yards and eight touchdowns).

The defense isn’t that bad either, as they rank third against the rush and are tied for first with 13 interceptions. Still the secondary might be this team’s Achilles heel as it gives up just as many touchdowns (15) as takeaways. Even though it seems that this will be a year Denver rewrites the record books on offense, they still sit in second place in the very surprisingly tough AFC West.

The outcome of the division might come down to what happens in the next couple weeks when Denver has to face Kansas City twice in a three week span. My money is on Manning and the Broncos to bring home a second straight division title as they have dismantled almost every team they have beat.

Y-Chiefs 12-4:  The Chiefs are a prime example of how much a team can change with a talented head coach guiding them. With great defense (ranked fifth in total defense), a good game-managing quarterback, and a running back that is second in league for rushing yards, the Chiefs are the last team standing without a defeat.

The games might not be pretty but Kansas City has found a way to come out on top every time. Now the road to the playoffs does get a little steeper in the second half of the season; however with eight wins already, the Chiefs are pretty much a shoe-in to advance. Although, with Denver right behind them in the standings and on their upcoming schedule twice, the AFC West is far from decided just yet.

I really like what the Chiefs are doing. Their defense leads the league in sacks (36) and certainly knows how to take the ball away (17 turnovers). However, not one of the opponents they have faced has a winning record and they have barley squeaked by the last two weeks. Because of this, I’m picking the Broncos to win the division. If I’m wrong and the Chiefs keep rolling and secure home field advantage in the playoffs they will be tough to beat in the very loud Arrowhead stadium.

Y-Chargers 9-7: Many critics thought Phillip Rivers was done after throwing 35 picks in the last two seasons. Well, come to find out with a fresh new offensive game plan brought in by new head coach Mike McCoy and some improvement on the offensive line (ranked fourth), Phillip Rivers has shown he still has what it takes to succeed. It also helps that Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead are forming a formidable backfield that is running and catching the ball well. The defense is still a work in progress (ranked 23rd in total offense), although they have held their last two opponents (Colts and Jaguars) under ten points. Sitting 4-3 makes it almost a long shot to keep up with the Chiefs and Broncos for the AFC West. Nevertheless, even with their upcoming schedule having five games against teams with a winning record, I see the leadership of Phillip Rivers guiding the Chargers back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Sam Riche, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Sam Riche, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Raiders 7-9: With his ability to take off and run on a whim, Terrelle Pryor is starting to shine at quarterback and the defense has quietly risen to the ranks of the top ten. It finally seems that the Raiders are coming out of their decade hibernation from success.

There still is work to do in Oakland as the passing game is still ranked (176 passing yards a game seven touchdowns and eight interceptions) at the very bottom with Pryor still needing work in that department.  Finding a couple of receivers next year might help Pryor in his development as a passer, but remarkably the Raiders aren’t dead yet and need to keep pushing forward with want they have for now. I see the Raiders having a season of progress but fall just short of a winning season. Still with GM Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen guiding this team the future is starting to show some promise.

x – Clinched playoff
y – Clinched Wild Card
z – Clinched Division
* – Clinched Division and Homefield Advantage