2006 AFC WEST PREVIEW
2006 OAKLAND RAIDERS PREVIEW
Quarterback, Aaron Brooks comes over from New Orleans, and he is very much a hit-or-miss guy. Brooks has put up pretty good numbers over the years, but he has not delivered as many victories as his statistics might suggest. If Brook struggles early, it would not be surprising to see him pulled in favor of Andrew Walter.
Brooks has one surefire target to throw to in Randy Moss. Moss looks to have a bounce-back year after a mediocre 2005 campaign. Number two receiver, Jerry Porter is currently injured and wants to be traded, but Doug Gabriel is a player who could break-out as his replacement.
Running back LaMont Jordan did not have as good a year as expected in his first year with the Raiders. Jordan did break 1,000 yards, but his 3.8 average yards per carry were way below his career average with the Jets. There is not a lot of proven depth behind Jordan, so he better not get injured.
The offensive line has spent some high picks on players like left tackle Robert Gallery and center Jake Grove. It is time for some of that expenditure to start paying off. Head Coach, Art Shell is a former All-Pro lineman and just the man to oversee it.
Oaklands defense was 13th in the AFC in yards allowed last year, and 14th in points allowed. That was not what defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had in mind for last season. Ryan had a lot of experience coaching in the Patriots 3-4 defense, but the Raiders will stick with the 4-3 that fits their personnel better.
Four defensive linemen allow ends like Derrick Burgess to concentrate on rushing the passer. Burgess had 16 sacks last year. Warren Sapp was useless in the 3-4, but he has something left in the tank as a 4-3 lineman. However, the Raiders struggled stopping the run last year, and that looks to continue in 2006.
The linebacker unit looks to have rookie Thomas Howard on one side and Sam Williams on the other. Kirk Morrison is in the middle, and he is trying to build on his rookie season when he had 116 total tackles.
The secondary is very young and talented and that means that rookie Michael Huff should fit right in. The cornerback tandem of Fabian Washington and Nnamdi Asomugha are both former number one picks like Huff. They will do their best to help Raiders fans forget Charles Woodson.
Coach Shell was the right man to take over the 4-12 Raiders for a number of reasons. One, he will provide discipline that this team desperately needs. Two, he was a successful head coach with the Raiders from 1989-1994. Shell went 54-38 in that span and it was disgraceful that it took him so long to receive another head job.
Shell was also a Hall of Fame player with the Raiders. That earns him a lot of respect in the locker room and with Owner Al Davis. The problem Shell has this year is that the team is in transition, and there are three teams ahead of them in the AFC West. A 5-11 record is the prediction.
2006 DENVER BRONCOS PREVIEW
Quarterback, Jake Plummer had another solid season last year, but he imploded in the AFC championship Game. There are questions as to whether Plummer is good enough to lead a team to a Super Bowl win, and that was one of the reasons Denver drafted Jay Cutler in the first round of this years draft. Cutler will sit this year, but could conceivably start in 2007.
Plummers receivers are in flux right now with Ashley Lelie still sitting out and wanting to be traded. The big addition is Javon Walker, who is hoping to be ready to start the season after having a knee injury with Green Bay last year. Fortunately, 36 year-old Rod Smith is still solid on the other side.
The running Game was Scheduled to have a two-headed attack of Ron Dayne and Tatum Bell. However, rookie Mike Bell was just named the starter for their first pre-season Game, and it is anyones guess right now how the carries will be distributed in the regular season.
The Denver offensive line has been the backbone of this offense, allowing the team to virtually plug in any running back and still be successful. That should continue as the line looks very solid again this season.
Denvers defense was 7th in the AFC in yards allowed last year and tied for 2nd in points allowed.
Before last season, the Broncos had a very interesting method to building their defensive line. Namely, it was to assemble as many former Cleveland Browns as possible. This year, the team lost veteran Trevor Pryce, and needs to get a better pass rush from the front Four. Denver hopes another former Brown, Kenard Lang, can add some help in that area.
One group that does not cause too much concern is the linebackers. D.J. Williams, Al Wilson and Ian Gold are all agile, mobile and hostile. The secondary should also be very good with Champ Bailey shutting down one side of the field and the maturation of young cornerback, Darrent Williams on the other.
The team also has another good young cornerback in Domonique Foxworth. Safety, John Lynch can still play, but he is a bit overrated.
By all accounts, Denver has a very good team on paper this year. The question marks rely more on the mental make-up of the team. For example, what lingering effect will there be from blowing an AFC championship Game at home? Is Jake Plummer going to slip now that the team has drafted his eventual replacement?
Finally, the questions of Javon Walkers health and the uncertainty at running back also cast a doubt on this team. The Broncos are still good enough to go 10-6 this year, but it is too risky to predict anything better than that right now.
2006 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS PREVIEW
Quarterback, Trent Green has thrown for over 4,000 yards each of the last three years. That is more yards total than Peyton Manning over that span. Green did just turn 36 years-old, but he has been extremely durable, not missing a start in his five years with the team.
The fact that the Chiefs have had so much success passing the ball is surprising given that their receivers have been average. This year, 33 year-old Eddie Kennison mans one wide-out position, while Samie Parker looks promising on the other side, if he can stay healthy.
Of course, a lot of their success in the passing Game relates to the presence of tight end, Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez is entering his 10th year in the league, but he is only 31 years-old, and he has a lot left in his potential Hall of Fame career.
The running backs are very solid with Larry Johnson coming off a tremendous year and Michael Bennett acquired to be his backup. The trade for Bennett signifies that the team is not counting on the injured Priest Holmes at all this year.
Ironically, the most concern about the offense revolves around the offensive line. It is ironic because the line has been so dominant and a huge key to their success. The problem starts with the sudden retirement of left tackle, Willie Roaf. Kyle Turley is penciled in as his replacement, but the team is still trying to convince Roaf to change his mind.
As for the rest of the line, the interior is still solid, but right tackle is also a question mark.
Kansas Citys defense was 11th in the AFC in yards allowed last year and 9th in points allowed. Those numbers were both big improvements over 2004 and point to the great work of defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham.
Cunningham built a faster front seven that did a solid job stopping the run. A lot of that credit has to go to linebackers, Derrick Johnson and Kawika Mitchell. The pass rush was less effective, so the team drafted Tamba Hali in the first round to play opposite Jared Allen. Allen had 11 sacks last year.
The biggest hole on defense last year was the cornerback position opposite Patrick Surtain. That was filled in a big way by former Patriot and Jet, Ty Law. Law has lost a step from his New England days, but he is getting into good shape and he is a proven winner.
Coach Herm Edwards comes over from the Jets to replace the retired Dick Vermeil. Edwards made the very smart decision to keep Gunther Cunningham, although they did lose respected offensive coordinator Al Saunders.
The offense looks like it could take a half a step back this year with the uncertainly regarding the offensive line, while the defense should take a step forward. The head coaching change is a push as Edwards is a great motivator, but he tends to make curious coaching decisions late in ball Games.
If Roaf comes out of retirement, then the prediction might be higher, but right now it stands at a projected 10-6 record.
2006 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS PREVIEW
Phillip Rivers is a third year quarterback who has sat on the bench behind Drew Brees. Rivers has a ton of pressure on him as he was a high first round draft pick, and Brees was very popular with the fans and his teammates. Rivers does not have any grace period and must prove he can win right away.
Rivers has an interesting receiving core that is highlighted by tight end, Antonio Gates. While Gates may be the best in the NFL at his position, receivers Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker are just average. McCardell is also 36 years-old, so the team is relying on young, Vincent Jackson for a breakthrough season.
The running back situation is in great hands as LaDainian Tomlinson remains a force, and Michael Turner and Darren Sproles are two interesting options behind him. Sproles is one of the shortest players in the NFL, but also a potential Game-breaker.
The offensive line is led by center, Nick Hardwick who just signed a big deal to stay with the team. Overall, the unit has a good chance to be above average, but having left tackle Roman Oben protecting Rivers blindside is a little scary.
San Diegos defense was 6th in the AFC in yards allowed last year and 7th in points allowed. The Chargers play a base 3-4 defense that was tops in the Conference in stopping the run last year.
A lot of that credit goes to nose tackle, Jamal Williams who ties up blockers and allows inside linebackers like Donnie Edwards and Randall Godfrey to make the plays. The outside linebackers are very exciting with Shawne Merriman rushing from one side, and Steve Foley coming off the other.
The secondary has been the weaker part of the defense with the starting cornerbacks combining for just two interceptions. Quentin Jammer is set on one side, although the coaches would like his hands to be a little stickier. The Chargers also hope that first round pick, Antonio Cromartie will eventually take over the other cornerback spot.
The Chargers lost their first two Games last year and their last two Games. In between, they played very good football at 9-3. Alas, that was not good enough to make the playoffs, and it ended up being a very disappointing season overall.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer needs to win this year or it could be his last. However, much of the teams success will hinge on Rivers. If he plays well, then this is a definite playoff team. If he struggles some, then this is a .500 team. The prediction here is right in the middle, and that means the Chargers finish with a 9-7 record.
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