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Old 08-21-2006, 05:23 PM
Blue Bolt
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Bolt AFC West - Jim Trotters take

From NFL.com: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/9611082

AFC West: Many changes, but Broncos stable

Team previews: Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
By Jim Trotter
Special to NFL.com

(With the NFL regular season set to kick off on Thursday, Sept. 7, NFL.com has put together an eight-part series previewing each team division by division. Here is the AFC West.)

The Denver Broncos breezed to the AFC West title last season, finishing 5-1 in the division, 8-0 at home and 13-3 overall.

That's the good news. The bad: The AFC West has not had a repeat champion since the league realigned in 2002.

Oakland won the title that year, Kansas City the next, San Diego the following year, and Denver last season.

A case can be made that the trend will continue this season, because the Broncos enter the season with 19 returning starters and several key questions.

For instance, can they adequately replace their leading rusher, their co-leader in sacks and their offensive coordinator? And, has newly acquired wide receiver Javon Walker fully recovered from major knee surgery?

The Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders have issues, too.

Jamal Williams and the Chargers are aiming to knock Jake Plummer and the Broncos off their perch.
Kansas City has loads of talent, but how will it cope with the loss of creative offensive coordinator Al Saunders, the retirement of both starting offensive tackles, and the change in strategic philosophy under new coach Herm Edwards?

San Diego won the division two years ago and finished 9-7 last year despite a brutal schedule that included five trips into the Eastern Time Zone, but can quarterback Philip Rivers, a third-year pro with no starts and only 30 career pass attempts, adequately replace former Pro Bowl selection Drew Brees, who was allowed to leave as a free agent? And will the secondary finally play up to its potential?

Oakland reached into its past in hopes of brightening its future by hiring former player and coach Art Shell to replace Norv Turner. The Raiders have won only 13 games over the past three seasons, tying the San Francisco 49ers for the league low, and failed to win a division game last season for the first time in franchise history.

There is optimism Shell will restore the commitment to excellence that has been lacking since the Raiders won three consecutive division titles from 2000-02 and advanced to the Super Bowl in January 2003.

Following is a closer look at some of the changes in the offseason:

When you finish 13-3 and advance to the conference final, you don't make dramatic changes. And so it is that the Broncos will return 19 of their 22 starters, losing only running back Mike Anderson, defensive end Trevor Pryce and wide receiver Ashley Lelie, who is holding out for a trade.

Undrafted rookie Mike Bell will get the first shot to replace Anderson, who led the team in rushing but was considered expendable. And veteran newcomer Kenard Lang will take the place of Pryce, who, like Anderson, signed with Baltimore.

Lelie was unhappy even before the Broncos traded for former Green Bay Pro Bowl wideout Javon Walker; however, since the deal was consummated, he has skipped every voluntary and mandatory workout, including training camp. Walker is a better route runner and more willing to work the interior of the defense than Lelie, a deep-ball threat who led the league in yards per catch last season. But he's coming off knee surgery that cost him all but one game last season.

Another change that bears watching is on offense, where coordinator Gary Kubiak departed to become head coach of the Houston Texans. Kubiak had a great relationship with QB Jake Plummer and played a key role in Plummer's career season last year. Mike Heimerdinger, the new assistant head coach/offense, will assume many of Kubiak's duties. But it remains to be seen how he meshes with Plummer.

The big change is along the sideline, where Herm Edwards has replaced Dick Vermeil as coach. But even more important could be the turnover at offensive tackle, where both of the 2005 starters have retired: Willie Roaf and John Welbourn. The two played key roles in the Chiefs ranking first or second in scoring in three of the past four seasons.

Herm Edwards and Ty Law have taken their act to Kansas City.
Their potential replacements both come with question marks. Kyle Turley, who's expected to take over at left tackle, missed the past two seasons because of a back injury. (During his tryout with the team, he was seeking to make the squad as a tight end.) Kevin Sampson is a third-year pro with only one career start, and Jordan Black is a fourth-year pro who did not distinguish himself in 10 starts last season.

The addition of cornerback Ty Law, who led the league with 10 interceptions last season, gives the Chiefs stability opposite starter Patrick Surtain. That's critical, considering Kansas City allowed 46 completions of 20 or more yards.

The Raiders fired Turner and brought in Shell, who in five full seasons as the team's coach in the early 1990s led the team to four winning records, three playoff appearances and one trip to the conference final.

The cupboard is not nearly as stocked now as it was then, beginning at quarterback, where former New Orleans starter Aaron Brooks might take over for Kerry Collins. There also are major concerns along the offensive line, where all but one guy is playing a new position.

The addition of several rookies could help the defense. Safety Michael Huff and linebackers Thomas Howard and Darnell Bing have the speed and athleticism that was lacking last year. However, the loss of massive defensive tackle Ted Washington will hurt. The departure of cornerback Charles Woodson won't be as big an issue because there were issues with health and consistency.

Two years after earning a Pro Bowl spot, and one year after being voted first alternate, quarterback Drew Brees was allowed to walk without compensation because of medical concerns about his throwing shoulder; Brees sustained a torn labrum and rotator cuff damage in the season finale.

Other than that, there were no significant losses for the Chargers. They added safety Marlon McCree in free agency and could receive immediate help from rookie cornerback Antonio Cromartie, the 19th pick in the draft, and offensive tackle Roman Oben, who is trying to bounce back from a foot injury that sidelined him the second half of last season.

Whatever the case, it figures to be an intriguing race.
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Old 08-21-2006, 05:29 PM
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Thank you for the post. Very informative and shows where our division in a great way.
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Old 08-21-2006, 07:25 PM
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Thunderstruck21 Thunderstruck21 is offline
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yeah, great read, the division is wide open between the three teams, SD, KC, and DEN.
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Old 08-21-2006, 11:33 PM
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I don't think we going to have to worry about KC this season, their O-line suddenly isn't so great and they have looked bad in pre-season.
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Old 08-22-2006, 08:27 AM
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I think our only competition this year is with Denver, we have to beat them home and away so how! But KC and Oakland are just stepping stones this year.....
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Old 08-22-2006, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by thunderstruck88
I think our only competition this year is with Denver, we have to beat them home and away so how! But KC and Oakland are just stepping stones this year.....
Man I hope your're right. Winning in KC is almost as hard winning in Denver. The Boltz need to dominate this division including the ugly wins. For any chance at the postseason. I kinda wish we were in a easy division like the NFC north, West, ect. Rick
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Old 08-22-2006, 02:52 PM
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Without a doubt, the division games will make or break our season. Denver will be the toughest competition, but KC is always tough too. I see us beating the Raiders & the Chiefs twice each, & splitting with Denver. I think we'll win the division, BUT it all hinges on 4 key areas/people: Rivers, left tackle, our secondary, & injuries.
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Old 08-23-2006, 03:07 AM
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Nice read, thanks.
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Old 08-24-2006, 12:59 AM
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Rivers_owns Rivers_owns is offline
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Yeah, thanks for the post buddy... Chargers for the AFC West crown in 2006!!!
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Old 08-24-2006, 01:36 AM
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All we need is some 2004 turnover luck. It seemed like last year the ball always bounced to the other team in tips, fumbles etc. This year will be different because...well because I don't want to have a heart attack at 26! I need another trip towards the playoffs so that I can feel the gleam!
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