Every team has a reason to feel good about their chances in 2012. The AFC West is a winnable division, and every team within it has its positive points to look toward for the 2012 NFL season. But if the Kansas City Chiefs are able to lure Peyton Manning as a free agent, the division becomes a lost cause for everyone else.
The Denver Broncos certainly have a reason to be hopeful. They made a great turnaround last year, but a closer look reveals a weaker schedule, a string of lucky last minute wins and plenty of holes still on the roster. They have some great young players for sure and they will be players, but they’re not good enough to win twice in a row.
The Oakland Raiders are going to have a hard time filling roster holes with salary cap issues and a lack of draft picks to utilize along the way. Losses in free agency are going to set the team back, and it’s unknown at this time what the new GM/head coach tandem of Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen will bring. Armed with Carson Palmer, it’s not likely to bring a division title.
The San Diego Chargers are also dealing with a lot of holes to fill and the likely losses of Mike Tolbert, Vincent Jackson and others. The offensive line is a mess with Kris Dielman retiring and injury concerns for many others. Phil Rivers will always keep the Chargers competitive, but they’re not the elite division winners they once were.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, came within a win of the division title in a season that they fired their own head coach. They never had impact players like Jamaal Charles or Eric Berry for the whole season, and many others were lost due to injury. If the Chiefs had been willing to pick up Kyle Orton for a seventh round choice before the trade deadline, it’s likely they are winners of two AFC West titles in a row.
If you add Manning to the mix and even take his health questions into account, suddenly the Chiefs become a complete offense to go with a strong defensive unit. The Chiefs are likely to invest heavily in the offensive line through the draft, which would give Manning a solid unit up front. He also has Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jon Baldwin as targets along with the returning Tony Moeaki from injury. Jamaal Charles will anchor the backfield.
The AFC West is weak compared to other divisions. If the Chiefs can lure Manning, they should be an easy grab as the division champs next year and they would also give Peyton a quick ride to the playoffs. It’s a great match if both sides are interested, yet it’s one partnership the rest of the AFC West is hoping to avoid.