2013-2014 San Diego Chargers Preview

By: Evan

Projected Record: 4-12

AFC West Rank: 3rd

Will Ryan Mathews and Philip Rivers step up for San Diego? Courtesy of Yahoo Sports

The San Diego Chargers finished last year 7-9 with some ups and downs, including a four game losing streak stretching from week 10 to week 13 but also closing out the season winning 3 out of 4. With new coach Mike McCoy the Chargers look to improve but the road will be long with the improvements of Denver and Kansas City in the AFC West. The Chargers did make some solid acquisitions including veteran Dwight Freeney and drafting DJ Fluker, Manti T’eo and Keenan Allen. The most important part of San Diego’s success is Philip Rivers, who hasn’t really lived up to be a consistent franchise quarterback since signing a 6 year deal in 2009. This year will be big for both Rivers and the Chargers in determining if this is the right direction for the future.

Strengths: Run Defense and Depth at WR

Manti Te’o should help improve the San Diego linebacking core. Courtesy of Bleacherreport

The Chargers ranked 6th in run defense last year, giving up just over 100 yards per game but also ranked 1st in forced fumbles. With the addition of Manti Te’o, this ranking should either maintain or improve. Run defense is a very underrated part of football and this is a good way for the Chargers to build up their defense. The depth at WR is also a key for the Chargers rebuilding process as Keenan Allen joins a group of talented WRs, including Malcolm Floyd, Vincent Brown, and Eddie Royal. Depth is crucial when playing tough defenses, especially tough secondaries. This allows Philip Rivers to spread the wealth and take advantage of good match ups.

Weaknesses: RB and QB

No more funny faces Mr. Rivers. Your team needs you to lead them. Courtesy of Bleacherreport

This is not a good sign when you struggle both running and passing consistently. Ryan Mathews had more broken collarbones than touchdowns last year, which is frightening for a running back projected to follow in the footsteps of LT. Mathews still has potential and DJ Fluker should help, but he needs to step up and show why he was taken in the first round. Another problem for the Chargers is consistency at QB as Philip Rivers had 26 TDs and 15 Ints. These numbers need to improve if the Chargers have any shot at competing this year.

With the Chiefs’ acquisition of Alex Smith, the AFC West just got exponentially more difficult.             Courtesy of ESPN

Schedule Analysis:

vs Houston-L:

@ Philadelphia-L: I love Philly’s new offense and the defense looked pretty good as well. The Chargers are off to a bad start to the season.

@ Tennessee-W: Philip Rivers isn’t as bad as Jake Locker so the Chargers should get the win. The Titans run defense is putrid so Ryan Mathews should have a big game

vs Dallas-L: Dez Bryant cannot be stopped and even if you try to contain him Tony Romo can find other weapons. The Cowboys D is also improved so this game has blow out potential.

@ Oakland- W: In a battle of future relocating options, the Chargers should win out as the Raiders are just laughable.

vs Indianapolis-L: Andrew Luck doesn’t need a run game to support the explosive passing game and the should out muscle Philip Rivers. Watch out for Mathews again as the Colts have a terrible run defense that gave up over 100 yards running to Terrelle Pryor in Week One.

@ Jacksonville-W: The Chargers weak schedule continues as the Jaguars are in full Tank for Teddy mode.

Bye Week

@ Washington- L: RG3>Rivers. The Redskins also have improved their defense with the return of both Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.

vs Denver-L: Von Miller will be back in time for this game and should be amped and ready to attack a questionable offensive line that gave up 49 sacks last year.

@ Miami-L: Another tough day for the Chargers’ offensive line as they have to deal with both Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan, two ferocious pass rushers.

@ Kansas City-L: Kansas City has improved significantly since last year and have the weapons to attack the Chargers, including Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles.

vs Cincinnati-L: AJ Green is one of the best WRs in the game and is virtually unstoppable in single coverage. The Bengals also have Geno Atkins, a beast DT that can both rush and swallow up the middle.

vs New York-L: With a questionable secondary, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are a defensive coordinators worst nightmares. Cruz is a threat across the middle and Nicks can spread you out. The losing streak continues as this should be Philip Rivers’ last year in San Diego.

@ Denver-L:  Peyton Manning should also pick apart the San Diego secondary in a tune-up for Denver as they get ready for the playoffs. A terrible season continues.

vs Oakland-W: In a battle of potentially good draft pick teams, the Chargers have enough to beat the Raiders.

vs Kansas City-L: Alex Smith and the Chiefs need a win to make the playoffs and they do as the Chargers can’t spoil their rival’s season.

2013-2014 Denver Broncos Preview

By: Prad

 

Projected Record: 13-3

AFC West Rank: 1st

The Broncos improved tremendously in a course of a season, which is attributed to the quarterback change. Tim Tebow left and Peyton Manning came into a city that has a history of adoring their quarterbacks. They may have lost in the Divisional Round to the eventual champions, but… There is NO but, because Broncos fans had such high expectations and they were dashed because of blown coverage in double overtime. Nevertheless, they went 6-0 against opponents in their division and ultimately finished the season off 13-3, atop the AFC. This year, they will repeat as division champs with back to back seasons at 13-3. But this year, they will represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Peyton Manning has brought his winning ways to Denver Courtesy of NY Daily News
QB Peyton Manning has brought his winning ways to Denver
Courtesy of NY Daily News

Peyton Manning has ushered a new era of winning football in the city of Denver, something they haven’t seen consistently since John Elway in the ’80s and ’90s. Obviously, Peyton already has a few miles on his arm and at the age of 37 can’t start a new dynasty of Broncos football. However, nobody can argue with his credentials and winning ways. He’s got 4 MVPs (most ever), 12 Pro Bowls, and is about 500 yards shy of throwing 60,000 in the NFL. Oh yeah, and he’s won a Super Bowl with his former team, the Indianapolis Colts. Head Coach John Fox has clearly adopted a West Coast offense since Manning’s arrived in Denver and the aerial attack has transformed into one of the best in the league. Judging from last year, his favorite target seems to be Demaryius Thomas, who had a team leading 94 receptions and also led the team in reception yards (1,434). Yet, its very rare that you see one quarterback having two wide receivers who’ve attained over 1,000 yards receiving in a season as Eric Decker (1,064) did it a season ago as well. Decker also had a substantial amount of receptions (85) for a second receiver on a depth chart.

WR Demaryius Thomas and WR Eric Decker have made one of the most formidable receiver duos in the NFL Courtesy of SB Nation
WR Demaryius Thomas and WR Eric Decker have made one of the most formidable receiver duos in the NFL
Courtesy of SB Nation

These statistics allude to one fact: Peyton Manning has Hall of Fame accuracy who throws for an extraordinarily high completion percentage. He tied for the league lead last year at 68.6% with QB Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons. Improving this team’s passing game would be a difficult task for any GM. But, GM Andy Gorchov did it by signing WR Wes Welker, who has five 110 reception seasons (most in NFL history) under his belt. In short, Denver made a fantastic passing game become better by becoming the best in the NFL.  Welker has been the most consistent target alongside QB Tom Brady in the NFL during the past decade. He has caught 672 passes since 2007 alone, which is ridiculous when thought about.

WR Wes Welker will look to become Manning's favorite target Courtesy of Sports Illustrated
WR Wes Welker will look to become Manning’s favorite target
Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

Denver’s passing game is evidently the best in the entire sport but there rushing game has also improved drastically. They drafted RB Montee Ball who’ll look to become a goal line beast. At Wisconsin, he set the all time Division 1 FBS record for rushing touchdowns. Their rushing attack wasn’t bad by any standards last year. They had a combo that included Willis McGahee and Knoshown Moreno that rushed for a combined 1,256 yards last season. The Bronco’s rushing game was ranked 16th in the league last year, which is quite average. However, Willis McGahee was waived by the team this offseason. So, Ball will inevitably receive more rushes alongside Moreno. Knoshown Moreno thrives in an open field but cannot break too many tackles on inside rushes. With Montee Ball though, comes a grinder who can change the dynamic in the backfield. And Manning’s touchdown numbers may dip a bit as a result of Montee Ball’s goal line presence as a power rusher. If Denver can manage to add a certain element of surprise and distribute the rushing game evenly amongst Ball and Moreno, then this rushing game could be a lethal presence.

RB Montee Ball will become a TD machine in Denver Courtesy of ESPN
RB Montee Ball will become a TD machine in Denver
Courtesy of ESPN

The Denver Broncos have mastered the ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks and make offensive lines look far inferior. They led the league in sacks last year at 52, tied with the St. Louis Rams. They may have lost LB Elvis Dumervil, who signed with the reigning champs, the Baltimore Ravens, but they stayed relatively intact and added a key component to their secondary. Unfortunately, LB Von Miller, who led the team in sacks with a whopping 18.5, is suspended until Week 6 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Despite this, their defensive line and linebacker core can sustain the pressure that they’ve become known around the league for. Leading the league in sacks may not be feasible this season but they still can definitely be apart of the top 5 in the league. In addition, Denver’s secondary was bolstered by the offseason acquisition of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He adds to the cornerback crew that includes the veteran Champ Bailey. The Denver secondary allowed only 199.6 yards per game through the air last season, which ranked 3rd best in the NFL. Rodgers-Cromartie, an All-Pro caliber cornerback, adds to the already star studded defense, which makes the Bronco’s D, transition from a top tier defense into an even better defensive unit.

CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will make a potent cornerback combination with CB Champ BaileyCourtesy of Zimbio
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will make a potent cornerback combination with CB Champ Bailey
Courtesy of Zimbio

There is no doubt that Denver will capture the #1 seed in the conference. They haven’t lost anyone of significant importance on their offensive end and have added star power to the already talent laded roster. The same holds true with the defensive unit with the exception of the departure of LB Elvis Dumervil. The Bronco’s combination of offensive and defensive prowess is unparalleled in the AFC.