The San Diego Chargers are certainly the most talented team in this division and their schedule should make it easy for them to rack up the wins. The left tackle position does concern me with marcus McNeil continuing to hold out, but Brandyn Dombrowski has been a serviceable fill-in so far. I don’t think the Chargers will feel the loss of Vincent Jackson much during the regular season. They have a couple very tall and athletic receivers that can catch the ball at its highest point and shrug off smaller DB’s. The addition of Patrick Crayton from Dallas gives them a reliable set of hands in the lineup and provides yet another option on 3rd downs. The Chargers defense is a solid unit but regressed a little last season, I believe they’ll bounce back and improve on the 35 sack/14 interception stats of last year. In this division, their defense doesn’t have to be stellar to win this division but if they plan on a deep playoff run they’ll need to improve. (12-4)
Player To Watch: Ryan Matthews. The Chargers had grown tired of the LaDainian Tomlinson act and are now turning to the rookies from Fresno State, Ryan Matthews. I’m generally not a huge fan of rookie RB’s stepping into prominent roles on playoff teams but this kid looks to be the exception. He has a very hard running style and has already shown good vision to get to and through the hole.
Waiver Wire Sleeper: Legedu Naanee. With Vincent Jackson holding out and not eligible to play until mid-October even if a deal is agreed on, Naanee will have plenty of opportunity to show his talent. He’s a big receiver (6’2 220lbs) that has good quickness and strong hands. With the variety the Chargers have on offense and their favorable schedule, Naanee should be able to have a few big games if you play the matchups correctly.
This is a crucial year for Josh McDaniels and it already hasn’t started particularly well for him. After shipping off Brandon Marshall they lose last years sack leader Elvis Dumervil and now their entire stable of running backs are all battling nagging injuries. This puts a lot of pressure on Kyle Orton to put points on the board and I don’t think Eddie Royal and Brandon Lloyd are capable of making up for Marshall’s lost production. The Broncos rushing attack should be solid if the injuries don’t pile up in the regular season like they did in the preseason. Running the ball will be their best chance to win games but without a wide receiver that worries a defense teams will clamp down on the run. Betting on Kyle Orton to step up and beat a team with this stable of receivers is a gamble that works in favor of the opposition the majority of the time. With the losses they’ve had this offseason I can’t see much more than an average year for the Denver Broncos. (8-8)
The Oakland Raiders defense is a very solid unit and they have the talent and quality to make life difficult for most offenses in the league. The main benefit the defense will have is the loss of Jamarcus Russell. Russell constantly put this defense in unfavorable down and distances and most times would force them to stay on the field far too much, leading to them being work out by the 4th quarter. jason Campbell certainly isn’t Jim Plunkett, but he’s also definitely not Jamarcus Russell. the ability to score enough points on offense is my main concern with this team as I don’t believe they have the skill players at wide receiver to really exploit a defense. Still, their schedule is decent and if Campbell can provide a little more balance on offense then their defense will keep them in games. I expect the Raiders to certainly improve on the 5-11 embarrassment that was last season but they don’t have the quality on offense to challenge the Chargers at the top. (9-7)
The Kansas City Chiefs were also blessed by the scheduling gods, not as much as Pete Carroll and the Seahawks, but good enough to turn around the disappointment of last year. The Chiefs main problem last year was the amount of yards and points their defense allowed. That being said, for a team in a transitional phase last year the NFL did them no favors with the schedule. Still, the Chiefs showed a lot of heart and flashes of their quality when they took Dallas and Pittsburgh to OT, losing the first but winning the latter. Dwayne Bowe reportedly took part in Larry Fitzgerald’s rigorous offseason program and Larry himself is claiming Bowe is ready for a breakout season. Bowe is a big receiver that has the physical style to dominate corners and be explosive after the catch. Adding Dexter McCluster gives the Chiefs an x-factor that they didn’t have last year. With the Chiefs schedule being much kinder to them this year, the additions of McCluster and Thomas Jones, an already solid defensive unit, and Dwayne Bowe ready to step up I believe the Chiefs will be the surprise of the league this season. Apart from the away games to Indianapolis and Houston, as well as their two division battles with the San Diego, every other game on the Chiefs schedule provide very winnable matchups. (10-6)
Player To Watch: Dwayne Bowe. When you attempt to emulate Larry Fitzgerald you’re certainly headed in the right direction. When Larry Fitzgerald singles you out and is impressed with what he saw during work outs, you’re warp-speeding in the right direction. Bowe has always had the measurable and he’s been a good receiver up until this point but he needs to be more consistent. I think this is the year he really gets it and becomes the force in the league he’s capable of being.
Waiver Wire Sleeper: Dexter McCluster. Even though he was taken relatively early in all of my fantasy football leagues I still believe he’ll be under the radar in the majority of leagues. This kid is an absolute gamebreaker. His speed is incredible and if the Chiefs use him correctly by moving him around the field to find a favorable matchup he’ll have one hell of a rookie season. Thomas Jones and jamaal Charles in the backfield give the Chiefs free reign to plug McCluster in various positions to utilize his speed. He’s a perfect ‘flex’ position guy on any fantasy team.