Man, you guys really like to fill my inbox.
When I started this experiment (seeing if I could write a successful column and get people's feedback on a regular basis) I figured it would take some time to get where I wanted to go. Like a trip to Mexico in a truck without AC, I figured it would be a long journey, filled with cases of Mountain Dew, plenty of Cool Ranch Doritos and meals at strange and frightening truck stops. Not to mention that swampy feeling in your shorts.
I was wrong. There are a lot of people on this site that know football. Nicely done, and thanks for giving me all kinds of ideas for things to write about.
So we're a few weeks away from the season starting, and I'm planning for my fantasy draft (by the way, if anyone would like to join our league, send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, we'll get you the information. We need about 6-8 people to round out our league since 6 players from last year got married and three others got beaten so soundly they refuse to play), and I figured it was time to offer up the AFC West preview.
In my opinion, the West will be the most interesting division, with four possible playoff teams and two that could challenge for a trip to Detroit.
(Quick question: why is the Super Bowl in Detroit? Have they forgotten that this game is held in the middle of winter? Have I lost my mind? There are five places that should be allowed to host the Super Bowl: San Diego, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix. That's it. No Detroit, no Tampa, and for God's sake no Houston. Had to get that off my chest. Back to the column.)
Kansas City: Is the defense improved enough?
The answer, quite simply, is no. No it isn't. And the Chiefs are one of those teams that have a real identity crisis on their hands. The fact is that the defense has improved, but when there are 30+ teams in a league and you're ranked #30 in total defense, you almost have to intentionally work towards not improving. I don't think Trent Green is as good as Dick Vermiel would have you believe, and I think Priest Holmes is headed for a sub-par year (he'll still get 1,000 yards though, so he's a good pickup for your fantasy team). Fred Mitchell (or FredEx as he likes to call himself) is going to be more of a distraction than a benefit, and pairing him with an egomaniac like Eddie Kennison is a HUGE mistake. Vermiel's seat is getting warmer by the day. Prediction: 6-10.
Oakland: Sure they got Randy Moss, but what if he's too stoned to play?
Cheap shot? Of course it is. Really, it's beneath me, but give me a little credit: I was thinking of filling this part of the column with a bunch of "Randy's Bong" jokes, even considered writing this whole preview through the bloodshot eyes of the Blue Mooner himself. The fact is that getting a guy like Randy Moss doesn't address the most pressing need of the Oakland club, which is the defense. Unless, of course, Randy's willing to play cornerback as well. Somehow I don't think that's happening; potheads usually prefer to do less work, not more (sorry). The issue of who's going to get him the ball is still up in the air as well, and if the Silver and Black's answer is Kerry Collins (as it seems to be), I'm going to enjoy this season more than I have a lot of previous ones. The addition of LaMont Jordan was a good one, but I'm not entirely sure that he's the answer to their running woes. Yes, he ran for a truckload of yards last year, but he was a backup who got thrown in and teams were gearing up to defend the pass. The Raiders will be a very good team this year, but only when they're playing against teams with both a mediocre defense and unthreatening offense. But hey, that gives them, what, about eight games to shine in. Prediction: 8-8, out of the playoffs.
San Diego: How will they self-destruct this year?
There's one team every year that makes me think "these guys could finish 13-3 or 7-9, and there's no middle ground." This year, that team is the Chargers. Their schedule is a murderers row: San Diego plays at New England, Pittsburgh at home, then travels to Philly to meet the Eagles, all within four weeks of one another (the Patriot/Steeler weeks are back to back – ouch). They also have to travel to New York to take on the Jets, which will be a tough game. Everything points to the kicking game as the most stressful, headache-giving part of the Bolts 2005 campaign. The Chargers have to be hoping for a return to form of Antonio Gates, provided he even makes it to camp, and hope that Drew Brees has another season like last year's, when he made the Pro Bowl. If he slips, second-year pro Philip Rivers might get a shot (despite the column on SDBoltReport.com this morning). Basically, if San Diego can win every game by 10 points or more, they have no worries. But if that offense sputters, and with Gates possibly missing part of the season combined with a possible struggle for Brees, that's a good possibility, they'll have to rely on the kicking game to win important ballgames. Two of the team's last three games on the road (at Indy and Kansas City, no less), plus a home date with the Broncos to close out the season on New Year's Eve, the kicking game could be a factor. I was all set to put these guys at 11-5 or 12-4 for the season, then I took a good look at their schedule. Will San Diego make the playoffs? Nope. Prediction: 7-9.
Denver: Can the Broncos make it past the first round of the playoffs?
They can, but this has gotta be the year. Receivers like Ashley Lelie and Darius Watts have got to step it up, because Jerry Rice is not the answer. Rice will get his reps, and he'll have chances to score; he might even make a difference in one or two contests. But a legitimate threat he isn't. Jake Plummer absolutely, positively must step up and prove that he's going to be the guy for the next five-to-seven years, or I'll be leading the call to replace him with first-year sensation Bradlee Van Pelt. This has to be the year; Mike Shanahan can't make any more excuses to pay this guy Brady money for Harrington performance. As for the defense, that's going to be the Broncos' biggest asset this year. Ian Gold is back, making ours the best linebacking corps in the league, and Champ Bailey is one of those guys who hears criticism and then steps up to prove people wrong. If Lenny Walls can stay healthy on the other side, and our safeties continue to put licks on people, and if any of the Cleveland imports make an impact (it's a lot of ifs, but what do you want? There's no formula to apply here) this could be one of the best defensive seasons in team history. And we all know that defense wins championships.
As for the schedule, well I like it a lot more than I like, say, San Diego's. An opening day win at Miami to start the season, then two games at INVESCO against the Chargers and Chiefs (which should both end in W's for the good guys). The first real challenge of the year comes when the Broncos visit Jacksonville on October second. I withhold my verdict on the outcome of that one until I see how the beginning of the season goes. Washington at home should be a breeze, but the Super Bowl Champion Patriots pay a visit on October 16th, a game that we'll probably lose (you know how Mike Shanahan owns the Raiders and Jon Gruden? Well, old Bill Belichick seems to own Shanny recently, not to mention the rest of the league, and until that changes…). We'll get healthy at the Meadowlands against the Giants, then take on Philly at home (a win) before the bye week. We take on Oakland in the Black Hole, a classic trap game, but one we should win provided we hook Randy Moss up with some of Boulder's famous sticky-icky-icky (sorry. I swear that's the last joke about Randy's bong… probably). The Jets roll in and take a tight game from us, followed by us beating the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day (four days? FOUR? Seriously? Who came up with this schedule, Moss's dealer?). That's followed by a trip to KC (loss), Baltimore at home (win), a loss to the Bills in Buffalo, and a win over Oakland at home. Looking towards the playoffs (which we've already clinched), the Bronco scrubs take a loss at San Diego in the final week of the season, finishing 11-5 or 10-6.
AFC West Prediction:
1. Broncos 11-5 (or 10-6)
2. Raiders 8-8
3. Chargers 7-9
4. Chiefs 6-10
One more thing: Did you hear Randy Moss is changing his name? Yup, looks like you'll have to buy a number 18 jersey with "Grass" on the back. (Wait for it… wait for it…)
Okay, you can laugh.
Sam DeWitt is a regular contributing columnist to BroncosUpdate.com and is Randy Moss' pot hookup in Denver. Questions for future mailbags or comments can be directed to email@example.com.
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AFC West - Beauty and The Bong
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