As some of you know, and I've said this before, I'm not a follower of any team but a fan of the NFL in general.
This season, I've been interested in the AFC West although God knows why. I guess it's because there has been more "drama" in this Division than any of the others thus far. It doesn't look like it will abate anytime soon. With the Broncos hanging on to their 3 game lead and trying to field an effective team and the Chargers with more than enough reason to play their hearts out and leave it all on the field, it could well be the most interesting Division out there. That being said, I figured that now is a good time to take a look at the four teams and try to make something out of what has happened this season and where they are going to be come the preseason in 2009.
Denver has had the most challenging season because of all the injuries. The most critical position being running back. With Shanahan now dipping into the practice squad and recalling a RB from, literally, off the streets, there are some questions as to whether the Broncos can maintain their lead over the Chargers. I have to hand it to Mike; he has done a great job keeping the running game going.
It's also going to be interesting to see what happens when all the defensive personnel are healthy again. Does Shanahan keep playing those rookies that have answered the call and done so admirably or does he insert the veterans and hope they can maintain the intensity the rookies have instilled. Tough call - and I wouldn't want to make it.
So where does that leave Denver after the season? Where do they address their needs first? Obviously they are going to spend the bulk of their draft on defense but don't be too suprised if they trade away a couple of picks for a chance to go higher and draft a premium DB. There is also a strong possibility that another RB is in Denver's future. Right now, I don't feel it necessary to discuss the possibility of a very strong FA coming to Denver. Shanahan just isn't going to spend the kind of money to buy what he feels he can steal. In the draft, that is.
The Chargers, on the other hand, have (so the media was spouting at the beginning of the season) the most talented players in the AFC. If that's the case, what happened? I have my own theory and here it is.
San Diego never got over Cutler's "fumble" and the resulting 2-point conversion. I'm not entirely convinced the Chargers are over it yet and the more the season progresses, the more I'm sure that's the reason. The Chargers seem to be looking for excuses to lose games rather than reasons to win them. These last 3 games of the season will be the proof of the pudding. If they win out, I'll take back everything. If they win less than 2, I'll know my gut instinct was right on the money. They have everything to play for and nothing to lose by winning. It's for certain that if Denver wins just one more game, the Chargers Must win their last three to make the playoffs. It's entirely up to them.
What the Chargers really lack isn't talent. It's a combination of two things - both of which no team can be successful without. The first I just discussed. The second is a real leader on the field. It isn't Rivers - and it should be. It seems to me that Rivers is more interested in running his mouth and trying to find others to blame for why he isn't winning more games. Is it immaturity or something more sinister? The players know but they aren't talking and I admire them for that. Rivers needs to stand up, shut up, and become the guy the rest of the team follows rather than trying to be "just one of the guys". If and when he can accomplish that, the Chargers will really be one of the elite in the AFC - not before. LT is fast becoming a shadow of his former self and I really think his glory days are behind him. Then again, he may just suprise everyone and come "charging" back next year". I won't hold my breath, however.
Where do the Chargers look in the off-season to help them take the next step? Maybe look at some veteran FA's? Take a long hard look at some brute RB's? the LB corps could use some attention as well. Perhaps a veteran QB to instill some professionalism in Rivers?
The Chiefs have some serious issues that will have to be addressed before the first regular season game in 2009. Top of the list is at QB. Will Thigpin be the starter? Do the Chiefs hang their hat on his future? If I were the coach the answer is yes. He has all the markings of a pretty good QB - provided there is a running game to compliment him. That has to be the first goal of the draft. Get a good smash-mouth RB and maybe a speedster. Then there is the question of Gonzo. He isn't getting any younger and there better be someone who can step right in with little reduction in output. That's a tall odrer but one that must be addressed as well.
Will Herm be around next year? That's a question that isn't easy to answer at this point. Finding a coach that can take a struggling team and turn it around in 1 or 2 years is a very rare thing. It doesn't happen all that often. I think he will be around until, at least, the end of the preseason. If the team looks like it has some promise, he'll stay. If it looks like more of the same from this year, he will walk.
That brings me to the Raiders. What can I say except that the players will not play on a winning team until there is some stability throughout the organization. I'll refrain from making any anti-Davis remarks because those have been worked to death. Besides, I happen to agree with most of what has already been said. Russell is also another QB that can become a real prize. Provided the Raiders start giving him the tools to get there. Right now, they just aren't anywhere to be seen.
Oakland has some pretty decent players and a couple that will develop into All-Pros. The problem is whether or not they will be allowed to under the present circumstances that prevail in the Nation. More on this later.
That's about it for this installment. Feel free to give me the gas or tell me what you think will happen in the AFC West. I'll try to address all posts as soon as possible. If you think I'm crazy, say so. If you think I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread, keep that to yourself, please. I'm not so sure I could keep my head from swelling and then I would become another of the media types I dislike so much.