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The Times Are Changing In The AFC West

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"For the loser now will be later to win/For the times, they are a-changin'"
-Bob Dylan

Truer words have never been spoken. The dominant become the weak. The oppressor becomes the oppressed. The same wheel spins 'round and 'round in both life and the life of the NFL. One look at the headlines coming out the AFC West will be enough to tell you that.

Generally this time of year, three teams are all laughing in one direction: Oakland's. My favorite nickname is the Jokeland Raiders. No matter what you've called them each season over the last decade or so, it's probably predicated on the sheer unpredictability of all things Al Davis. Whether it's coaches turning on each other, multi-million dollar investments showing up ridiculously out of shape, diva-like demands from ridiculous players or horrible trades that leave every pundit scratching their head, the Raiders off-season is always one based on poor personnel moves, a shaky front office and the leftover Bernie doll from Weekend at Bernie's.

But not this season. Things are different. The times are a-changin'. They dumped the players worth dumping, most notably admitting their worthless investment in JaMarcus Russell. They brought in a steady hand to replace him in Jason Campbell who should have a significant chip on his shoulder combined with the gratitude of a legitimate starting NFL gig. And I, for one, am convinced he'll do quite well for the Raiders.

Not only this, but the Raiders draft was considered by all to be quite successful. They didn't reach for players they shouldn't, but instead found such projects in rounds four and below (OT Bruce Campbell). They grabbed a quarterback for their defense (ILB Rolando McClain) and the rest of the team continues to get better, specifically with a new set of pass rushers and defensive linemen that should impress.

Yet look the other direction and all you find is drama. The Broncos have been a circus of the same unpredictability since Josh McDaniels arrived and he's moved out every piece of one of the best offenses in the NFL over the last two off-seasons. The demands of players like WR Brandon Marshall continued to keep the Broncos in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Now the media swarm continues with Tim Tebow's involvement and that should only persist the rest of 2010 (and beyond).

Worse yet, the Chargers find themselves playing Oakland's role this month. Contract demands from high profile (and talent) players like LT Marcus McNeill and WR Vincent Jackson are grabbing headlines and this comes after team hero LaDanian Tomlinson leaves. Surely the cloud over Shawne Merriman still lingers from last season from the battery charges filed in September as much as people continually brought up the Raiders incidents over time as evidence that something was amiss internally. It seems the Chargers are establishing something in-house that's quite unhealthy, and it's something that Dylan predicted would happen. After all, "the order is rapidly fadin'/And the first one now will later be last/For the times, they are a-changin'."