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GZL14 | AFC West | Dynasty In The Making?
By Paul Willis
Special to gzl-football.com

GZL DIVISION PREVIEW
AFC West
Thursday, January 10th, 2014
Paul Willis, GreenZone Media Committee




John Stanley is the most decoarated GM in the GZL and is the only member of the AFC West who has been in the league since the beginning. After tearing the walls down following a championship run in 2010 the Chargers shocked everyone by winning their second title a year ahead of schedule with backups Pat Devlin and Jordan Todman leading the way. A healthy San Diego team promises to be a juggernaut in 2014, so who can possibly hope to stop the wheels of dynasty from rolling forward?

The Pearce Brothers, Wade and Garth, run the show in Denver and Oakland respectively. Denver struggled mightily in 2013, though much of that strife could be laid at the feet of former GM Dave Bauer's neglect. Wade has the team headed in a promising direction, but is the turnaround still a season or more down the road? His brother in Oakland revitalized the career of Mark Ingram and led the Raiders to the playoffs, but faltered down the stretch and left the door open for San Diego's miracle playoff run. Can Vick and Ingram improve on their magic of a season ago?

Finally, the prodigal son returned to GZL when former Washington GM Tim Miller ended his hiatus from the league by taking over his hometown team in Kansas City. Andrew Luck appears to have turned the corner and the team finished 2013 on a 6-1 run. With a drastically improved receiving corps, can the Chiefs make a run for the title?

Those are your combatants, will the last man standing be the muscly armed champion in San Diego, the upstart renegade in Denver, the battle scarred contender in Oakland or the hot young prototype in Kansas City?


San Diego Chargers

Key Additions:
HB Reggie Bush (Trade)
RE Justin Tuck (Trade)
C Samson Satele(Trade)
WR Keenan Allen (Trade)
DT Linval Joseph (Trade)
OLB Casey Carter (Draft)
SS Matt Elam (Draft)
LE Sam Montgomery (Draft)
TE Jackie Thomas (Draft)
WR T.Y. Hilton (Draft)
CB Jonathan Joseph (Trade)
Key Losses:
CB Demarcus Van Dyke (Trade)
FS Markelle Martin (Trade)
C Nick Hardwick (Trade)
DT Michael Neal (Trade)
WR Vincent Jackson (Trade)
MLB Ernest Munoz (Trade)
SS Sherwood Galarza (Trade)
CB Jason McCourty (Trade)
Strengths:
The defending champs are stacked across the board. Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Mathews will be back and better than ever this season and Keenan Allen gives the team the prototypical wideout they've lacked over the last few years. Vernon Davis is still the best tight end in the business and they'll be able to threaten big plays from jumbo sets with rookie Jackie Thomas joining him. The defense is scary from front to back. Melvin Ingram's move to MLB will pay dividends and upgrading from Jason McCourty to Jonathan Joseph gives them two legitimate shutdown corners with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie still on the roster.

Weaknesses:
The best I can do is nitpick. The offensive line is good, but not great aside from Marcus McNeill. Pat Devlin isn't a great backup option on paper, but he's coming off of a Super Bowl victory so..yeah. Other than that, not sure what to say.

MVP:
QB Blaine Gabbert


Prediction:
(13-3)




Oakland Raiders

Key Additions:
FS Markelle Martin (Trade)
CB Glover Quin (Trade)
DT Jacques Bailey (Trade)
RT Sebastian Vollmer (Trade)
CB Charles Tillman (FA)
FS Ed Reed (FA)
FS Tavon Wilson (Draft)
QB Denard Robinson (Draft)
OLB Chris Carter (Trade)

Key Losses:
DT Dean Figueroa (Trade)
LOLB Michael Boley (Trade)
LT Kris Dielman (Trade)

Strengths:
Mark Ingram was one yard short of breaking the GZL rushing record last season and he should challenge that benchmark again. FB Marcel Reese is an absolute stud with the speed to stay in front of Ingram deep in to the second and third levels of the defense. Darrius Heyward-Bey is one of the most feared deep threats in the league and Louis Murphy provides a solid balanced option opposite him. The offensive line was already among the league's most athletic before adding Sebastian Vollmer, who will make an already dynamic running game even more so. I really like the front four, the Jacques Bailey/Brandon Wood combo at DT gives them a nice 1-2 punch with a classic run stopper and pass rusher. The linebackers are also very good, all three are complete players and Quentin Groves and Shayne Skov give them great depth. Camden Pietarila is one of my favorite CB's, I mocked him at 1.3 last season.

Weaknesses:
Mike Vick had his best GZL season last year, but still leaves something to be desired for me. He's got an injury history and if Denard Robinson is forced in to action things will get ugly fast. Samkon Gado doesn't scare anyone on the rare occasions that Mark Ingram leaves the field. I think Shareece Wright is good, but he struggled a season ago(6 DFL/25 CTHA). What's with all the safeties? Whoever starts opposite Michael Huff will be talented but unpolished and savvy quarterbacks will take advantage from time to time.

MVP:
HB Mark Ingram

Prediction:
(9-7)


Kansas City Chiefs

Key Additions:
LG Brandon Frye (Trade)
CB Demarcus Van Dyke (Trade)
WR Greg Jennings (Trade)
FS Nigel McDaniel (Trade)
LE Jason Pierre-Paul (Trade)
RT Jason Peters (FA)
WR Justin Hunter (Draft)
WR Terrance Williams (Draft)
LG Frank Capone (Draft)
LE Ezekiel Ansah (Draft)

Key Losses:
QB Matt Leinart (Trade)
DE William Hayes (Cut)
RG Richie Incognito (Cut)
WR Malcom Floyd (Cut)
DT Paul Soliai (Cut)
RT Vernon Carey (Trade)
FS Chip Vaughn (Trade)
WR Mohamed Massaquoi (Trade)

Strengths:
Andrew Luck is ready to start playing like a franchise quarterback and the Chiefs made sure he had no excuses in 2013 by drafting receivers for him with 1.3 AND 1.15 in addition to trading for veteran Greg Jennings. Tight end Jimmy Graham hasn't done much to celebrate over the past 3 seasons but should have a renaissance in 2013 as part of an extremely dangerous passing game. Jamaal Charles and CJ Spiller give Kansas City a tandem of backs capable of breaking the big one on any given down behind an athletic young line with depth. DT Michael Brockers is one of the best in the league at his position and will excel in either a 3 or 4 man front.

Weaknesses:
I can't say with any level of certainty what kind of defense the Chiefs will run, but a trio of pass rushers in Jason Pierre-Paul, Ezekiel Ansah and Bruce Irvin might be misfits if Tim Miller isn't careful about how he utilizes them. The young secondary may get burned from time to time, there is talent with Marquis Robinson, Garry Blair and Demarcus Van Dyke but all three will likely commit mistakes when the high powered offense gives them a lead to defend. If Andrew Luck goes down I really don't like the prospect of Matthew Tebow getting on the field yet. His accuracy(68) is simply unacceptable for the pro level right now. I mentioned speed backs Charles and Spiller as a strength earlier, but if they're not breaking big runs they'll put a lot of pressure on Luck on third downs.

MVP:
QB Andrew Luck

Prediction:
(8-8)



Denver Broncos

Key Additions:
WR Pierre Garcon (Trade)
QB Howard Christensen (Trade)
QB Ryan Mallett (Trade)
DT Dean Figueroa (Trade)
OLB Michael Boley (Trade)
SS Corey Webster (FA)
MLB Kevin Minter (Draft)
OLB Khaseem Greene (Draft)

Key Losses:
QB Kyle Orton (Amnesty)
WR Steve Smith (Trade)
LG Chris Kuper (Trade)

Strengths:
Bringing in Howard Christensen and Ryan Mallett was savvy, as the Broncos now have a starter and backup for the forseeable future. If the season doesn't go well they can swap starters and get progression for both guys. Whoever's playing quarterback will benefit from one of the fastest receiving corps in the league. Demaryius Thomas is a freak of nature, Edmond Gates is one of the fastest players in the league and Pierre Garcon is a crafty vet who produces. Tackles Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris are as good as they get. Marvin Austin could be the most dynamic defensive tackle in the league with his remarkable measurables. Dumervil is a beast who can rush the passer and stuff the run and Shea McClellin will be a great fit at MLB alongside Kevin Minter. Corey Webster should compliment Thomas Jackson well, expecting good play from those two. CB Bernard Stevens doesn't look like much on paper but is a world beater who gets work done.

Weaknesses:
While Christensen/Mallett were great long term moves, there will be struggles this year despite the excellent supporting cast. Knowshon Moreno is 15th on the GZL all time rushing list, but his 3.85 YPC is the worst of any back in the top 39. The interior of the offensive line has huge question marks aside from RG Walter Edwards, making it even tougher on Moreno to break out as a true feature back. Switching to a 3-4 is good because it gets their talented linebackers on the field, but why go get Dean Figueroa if you're going to start Ray Edwards at RE?

MVP:
WR Demaryius Thomas

Prediction:
(6-10)


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