The competition between the three teams in the AFC West not located in Denver looks to be more exciting in the offseason than it has been in the 2012 regular season.
So while Bronco fans can start focusing on playoff seeding and how much rest Peyton Manning might get in the final few weeks of the season that does not mean that fans of the remaining divisional teams have nothing to pay attention too. In a few different ways the competition between the Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders is just getting ready to heat up.
In the race for draft slotting the Chiefs currently hold a half game lead over the Raiders with a head to head matchup next weekend between the two squads. It is obviously a secet to no one that the Chiefs absolutely must draft a quarterback early on in the 2013 NFL draft but the Raiders might feel similarly inclined. Their current starting quarterback, Carson Palmer, will turn 33 years old later this month and he has not shown any glimpses of returning to his previous Pro-Bowl caliber form he showed when playing for Cincinnati. The fact that the Raiders gave up a first round pick for him in last year's draft and a second rounder in the upcoming draft has to be something that makes Raiders fan sick to their stomach to think of.
Added in to the mix of Palmer's poor play on the field is the fact that the Raiders new administration of General Manager Reggie McKenzie and Head Coach Dennis Allen were not the men who made the decision to bring Palmer in. It is entirely possible that the only reason they decide to show any loyalty to Palmer is that by releasing him following the season it would cause a massive cap hit. Even if they do choose to keep him around for next year it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Raiders take a quarterback with their first overall pick.
It was obvious to everyone that the situation that McKenzie took over in Oakland was an absolute mess and will take a massive rebuilding job. Unlike a team like the Broncos, the Raiders have to be thinking more about two or three seasons down the road and not so much on the immediate results. With the lack of a second round pick in the 2013 draft, McKenzie and Allen may decide to be bold and and reach on a quarterback knowing that all the top qb's will be gone by the time they are on the clock again.
Since first round picks do not cost near what they did when the team selected JaMarcus Russell they can afford to allow someone like Geno Smith or Matt Barkley time to sit behind Palmer and get acclimated to the NFL. If the Raiders do manage to select ahead of Kansas City there is a chance that Scott Pioli, or whomever is running the Chiefs at that time, have one less signal caller from which to choose from in an already frowned upon quarterback class.
The competition between the Chiefs and the Chargers is not so much related to the draft as San Diego has two more wins than the Chiefs currently and with both head to head matchups in their column. Where the two organizations will square off is likely in the battle for a new head coach and maybe for a new general manager.
The situation in San Diego is very similar to the one in Kansas City in many ways. Each team has a general manager, Pioli in Kansas City and A.J. Smnith in San Diego, who at one time seemed like a great hire but now their mistakes in player personnel are starting to stick out the field. Both men also made head coaching decisions that have shown to be disastrous and the fans in both cities are publicly trying to urge their owners to fire them.
It is obvious to everyone that Norv Turner is a dead man walking on the sidelines and he will most definitely be gone after the season is finished. The bigger question was if Smith would survive and be able to hire another head coach. A recent report by Kevin Acee in the San Diego Union-Tribune says that sources have told him that Smith definitely will be let go following the season. We will have to wait and see if this is definitely the case though since before the season started the same writer said that Smith would retain his job even if the Chargers missed the playoffs for the third straight season. Obviously though things can change greatly over the course of 12 games, look no further han Pioli.
One would have to expect that Romeo Crennel will also be let go in Kansas City following this year. If you believe that Clark Hunt is also going to fire Pioli it sets up a possible offseason battle between the Chargers and Chiefs for new head coaches but maybe general managers as well. Although if you believe Acee in his recent article mentioned above the Chargers may decide to go in house on their next general manager.
If the Chargers do make their decision quickly on their next general manager it could possibly give them a leg up on their head coaching search over Kansas City as they could begin to try and get interviews started. Clark Hunt has shown before that he will take his time in making decisions and if he waits to fire Pioli and then deliberates long on his replacement the Chiefs could miss out on some top candidates.
This is naturally all hypothetical at this point as no one quite knows exactly what will happen, maybe not even the owners of the teams yet. At least it seems like the offseason will provide more excitement and competition within the AFC West than the regular seaso has provided.