2016 AFC West Previews & Predictions

The real reason Osweiler may have left the division.

The real reason Osweiler may have left the division.

What is it about the Denver Broncos winning Super Bowls and having quarterbacks retire?? This of course wouldn’t mean as much had Brock Osweiler stayed around. Now they have Mark Sanchez and highly regarded 1st round pick Paxton Lynch. This time around there won’t be a Mike Shanahan brain fart going with untested Brian Griese over veteran Bubby Brister. Hopefully Coach Kubiak will opt for the veteran and bring his prized rookie along slowly.

However an autumn wind is billowing in from the west. Its always fun to watch a team as it starts growing before your very eyes. Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, and Amari Cooper headline a young star studded group out in Oakland. The question is will it grow to a point to challenge for supremacy in the AFC West this season??

raiderfanlogo2016 AFC WEST PREDICTIONS

Oakland Raiders 10-6 *

Kansas City Chiefs 9-7

Denver Broncos 7-9

San Diego Chargers 4-12

Most will scoff at the notion of the Raiders overtaking the Chiefs until you realize Alex Smith is still their starting quarterback. We have seen the best of his abilities and he will just keep you in ball games. At times he plays scared of throwing the football down the field. Jamaal Charles just made it off the PUP list but when will he gain his original explosiveness??  Now with LB Justin Houston returning from knee surgery also can we expect the same production there?? They were 11-5 with the 7th best defense in the NFL and OLB Tamba Hali is coming back from a broken thumb. This team will slide back in 2016.

Anderson will breakout n 2016.

Anderson will breakout n 2016.

In Denver the preseason has played out exactly as The Chancellor thought, no one is taking control at the quarterback position. Mark Sanchez’s penchant for turnovers has come back to haunt him in both preseason games. We still don’t have a starter named going into week 3 of the preseason. First rounder Paxton Lynch still needs grooming. He’s taken a few more sacks than you’d like but could become the starter by mid season if the offense sputters. His arm has shown zip. Now he needs to develop touch and throw the ball on time.

For a team that was 6-1 in games decided by 6 points or less the one thing they can ill afford is turnovers. Turning the ball over 3 & 4 times a game will get a defense in trouble. Even a #1 ranked defense. Go ask the ’85 Bears, 2000 Ravens and ’02 Bucs why they didn’t repeat. So expect Coach Kubiak to lean on RB CJ Anderson who should breakout with a 1,400 yard season. However the ball doesn’t bounce a team’s way 2 years in a row and QB instability will lead to 3 or 4 close losses this season.

Carr will lead Oakland to the playoffs in 2016.

Carr will lead Oakland to the playoffs in 2016.

It won’t be enough to hold off the growing Raiders under Coach Jack Del Rio. Look no further than the stunning development of Derek Carr. Last year’s performance (350 of 573  3,987 yds 32 TDs / 13 ints) marked him as an up and coming superstar and this will be the year he cements that notion. Both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are back as his main receivers along with 1,000 yard rusher Latavius Murray.

The improvement has to come from last year’s 22nd ranked defense. Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr did get LB Bruce Irvin from Seattle this year and signed S Reggie Nelson to replace Charles Woodson. Both are coming from winning organizations which should provide veteran leadership to help a young team learn how to win. First round draft pick Karl Joseph has Nelson to groom him for the pro game.

Circle the week 6 match-up with Kansas City, where the Raiders could be sporting a 4-1 record against a 1-3 Chiefs team. The knockout blow that could ignite an AFC West Championship for the Oakland Raiders.

The Chancellor & Super Bowl LI Trophy at the Hall of Fame.

The Chancellor & Super Bowl LI Trophy at the Hall of Fame.

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Styles Make Great Fights: Kansas City Chiefs v. Denver Broncos Week 11

Now the rest of the sporting press has come to recognize what Taylor Blitz Times readers already knew. The Kansas City Chiefs were going to be a force in the 2013 campaign as we predicted they would win the AFC West. Well, not so fast. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to go into Invesco Field and stop Peyton Manning’s 8-1 Denver Broncos. However the Chiefs come in as the NFL’s last unbeaten team and a perfect 9-0 record.

Tamba Hali has 9 sacks in the Chiefs 9 games. Did you know that is only good enough for second on the team??

Tamba Hali has 9 sacks in the Chiefs 9 games. Did you know that is only good enough for second on the team??

The obvious match-up pits the #1 offense of the Broncos with the Chiefs 9th ranked defense. In all 9 games Kansas City hasn’t given up more than 17 points in any game this season. They lead the league with 36 sacks, twenty between Justin Houston (11) and Tamba Hali (9) alone. The Chiefs are also 6th against the pass having intercepted 12 passes and giving up the 3rd fewest passing touchdowns with 9.

Hosting this big time match-up is the NFL’s “point a minute” offense. Peyton Manning has 33 touchdowns in only nine games. Thirty three?? Yikes… The Broncos have scored 371 points so far this season. How significant is that? Last year’s Super Bowl champion Ravens scored 398 the entire season. You were staring at one of history’s finest scoring teams. With five of their last seven being played outside in colder weather, their scoring should slow some.

Moreno has had a big 2013 and may need to be a bigger factor down the stretch.

Moreno has had a big 2013 and may need to be a bigger factor down the stretch.

The real question comes when the Broncos two backup tackles have to line up and take on Hali and Justin Houston. Will they decide to run the ball with Knowshon Moreno (521 yds / 8TDs) to keep the defense honest?? The Chiefs are only 19th against the run and Nose Tackle Dontari Poe (36 tackles /4.5 sack /3 passes defensed) is on the short list of defensive linemen up for Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year. Will Denver stay committed enough to the run??

They have to get the ball out of Manning’s hands quick with the Chiefs rush coming at them. Kansas City needs to press the Denver receivers and forcing Manning (nursing a high ankle sprain) to hold onto the football for close to 2 seconds before the ball can be thrown. If they do all of these things, the Chiefs have a big chance to win this game.

To win this game, the Chiefs have to rope them into a defensive slugfest and possess the football. Right now the best the Chiefs can do is a low scoring affair won 20-17 or 17-14. If manning can get to 20 first, the game is over and Kansas City will have to wait for the rubber match in two weeks. Alex Smith can’t turn the football over and the line needs to open holes for Jamaal Charles (726 yards / 6 TDs) and a big play is needed from Dexter McCluster.

Funny how folks shape their arguments huh?? Last year when The Chancellor of Football said the Denver Broncos ran out to a 13-3 record and won the AFC West, they hadn’t played anybody. The rest of the AFC West was mired in a 17 game losing streak. Now Bronco supporters are saying the same thing about Kansas City and they might be right. Yet did you know Denver hasn’t beat a team with a winning record in 2013?? That’s right they were beaten in Indianapolis and are 0-1 against a team with a winning record. They were 1-3 last year against playoff teams.

Let’s face facts…. Peyton Manning and the Denver offense could be off for 50 minutes, then poof score 28 and are well ahead in a rout. The Chiefs coming out party is one where they have to play a grind it out game for all 60 minutes. Possess the football and run it at Denver and keep Manning off the field.

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2013 Kansas City Chiefs Preview – Tools for A Resurgence

The Chiefs new Head Coach Andy Reid figures to provide an offense the Chiefs have been missing for the past two years.

The Chiefs new Head Coach Andy Reid figures to provide an offense the Chiefs have been missing for the past two years.

If you are a fan

of the Kansas City Chiefs, the 2012 year couldn’t end fast enough. The team had just struggled through a 2-14 season which was one of the worst in the history of a proud franchise. From all the losing to a suicide in front of Head Coach Romeo Crennel, all they could do was start from scratch. Enter new Head Coach Andy Reid.

Whenever a team hires in a new coach, the optimism of a franchise is renewed. Yet why this much optimism?? The staple of the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia was his quarterback development. We’re not just talking Donovan McNabb, think back to the 2002 NFL season. In that year he coached AJ Feeley and Ty Detmer to a 5-1 record while McNabb recovered from a fractured ankle. That year they made the NFC Championship Game. In 2006 he coached an aging Jeff Garcia to a 5-1 record when McNabb was lost for the season and they made the playoffs winning a wild card game.

All this before we talk about the resurrection of Michael Vick’s career and the possible Hall of Fame career of McNabb, Reid develops quarterbacks and don’t forget his role in the ascension of Brett Favre’s career. Every quarterback that has associated with Reid has performed above expectations. He is the replacement to develop quarterbacks the Chiefs have sought since Charlie Weiss’ departure. He may be the best to develop quarterbacks in the last 25 years. Look at what he did last year with a rookie in Nick Foles??

Alex Smith for the first time in his career doesn't have to look over his shoulder. The Chiefs are committed to him.

Alex Smith for the first time in his career doesn’t have to look over his shoulder. The Chiefs are committed to him.

Quarterback: What is strange about the odyssey Alex Smith has led is how easily he was dismissed. It’s been documented how he had six offensive coordinators in seven years however before he was traded he had turned a corner. Although his former 49er team made it to the Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick under center, he was 19-5-1 in the last two years. His play had matured while he ran a play action offense that played to his strengths.

For 2012, A. Smith completed 70% of his passes for 1,737 yards 13 TDs with 5 interceptions vs 62.4% for 1,814 yards 10 TDs and 3 interceptions for Kaepernick. An uneducated fan will say “Yes, but they made the Super Bowl with Kaepernick” which is true but a total misnomer. They were already on their way there. In 2011, totally under Smith’s control, they were 13-3 and lost in overtime in the NFC Championship Game. In that game he did not throw an interception. The same could not be said for the 11-4-1 49ers that played in Super Bowl XLVII as Kaepernick did throw a 2nd quarter interception that held up comeback efforts.

For the first time in his career he is going to have big play receivers in their prime. Dewayne Bowe was re-signed and last year’s top pick Jonathon Baldwin are big targets. Face it, Michael Crabtree finally panned out last year. He was on his way to bust status that even the most ardent 49er fan would care to admit. All Smith has to do is produce a little offense and this team could win. Did you know this team only scored 423 points in the last two seasons combined?? Over the past two seasons, Chiefs quarterbacks threw for only 21 touchdowns as compared to Smith’s 31 in a season and a half.

What does that mean?? Well during an 8 game stretch after beating New Orleans in overtime last year, the Chiefs lost 4 of those 8 games by 10 points or less. If you factor in those 10 additional touchdowns of Smith v. Cassel and Brady Quinn this team could have had a 6-5 record going into week 12 instead of a demoralized 1-11. He was a winning quarterback when he had a running game when we last saw him and he should be playoff caliber this year for Kansas City. Why not just average?? Andy Reid is a quarterback coach and they play the 5th easiest schedule. Only a .473 winning percentage. Add to that there is little to study of Smith in a true West Coast offense.

Do you realize Jamaal Charles has rushed for over 1,000 yards 3 times in a 5 year career??

Do you realize Jamaal Charles has rushed for over 1,000 yards 3 times in a 5 year career??

Offensive Backfield: The saving grace for the Chiefs offense last year was former Texas Longhorn Jamaal Charles. Last year he ran with enough power to break tackles and have a Pro Bowl season with 1,509 yards. He had a whopping 5.3 yard average and don’t forget he was a Pro Bowl performer in 2010, when he rushed for 1,467 yards and an even better 6.4 yard average. This is no fluke. He’s only going into his sixth season and Reid hasn’t had a running back of this quality in any of his years in Philadelphia.

Add to that when Charles is spelled, the even quicker Dexter McCluster is the out of the backfield pass receiving complement. These two combined are Brian Westbrook 4.0. Last year he pitched in with 52 receptions for 452 yards and 1 touchdown. He can help with first downs between the 20’s. Charles also contributed with 35 receptions for 236 yards and a touchdown as a safety valve.

For battering at the goal line or short yardage situations, we have to see if Peyton Hillis will do it. Or if Reid will have Charles follow a FB into the line. This group needs more touchdowns. This group should be productive to a Super Bowl quality grade.

You have to believe Reid promised to get Bowe the football. He re-signed pretty quick in Kansas City.

You have to believe Reid promised to get Bowe the football. He re-signed pretty quick in Kansas City.

Receivers: Here is where Andy Reid will feel like an adopted kid spending his first Christmas with a new family. So many toys he won’t know which to play with first. Before they acquired Smith, the first priority was to re-sign WR Dewayne Bowe. At 6’3, 230 lbs, Bowe is a muscular receiver that will go over the middle. He isn’t a burner and he can be an X or a Z in Reid’s offense. He’s not the most fluid in the hips and will most likely line up as the X. Nevertheless, he caught 59 passes last year for 801 yards and just 3 touchdowns. Expect these numbers to go up in a better structured offense.

New Wide Receiver Coach David Culley, your mission should you choose to accept it, is to further develop second year receiver Jonathon Baldwin. The 6’4, 225 lbs former Biletnikoff Award winning receiver from Pitt had a modest rookie season. In 6 starts he caught 20 passes for 325 yards and a touchdown. Promising is the fact that he averaged 16.3 yards per reception. This will be the break-out year for Baldwin and the offense as a whole will take off. No secondary in the AFC West will be equipped to cover them.

Chiefs brass has also signed free agent receivers Mardy Gilyard and Donald Avery to challenge for the slot positions. At tight end Anthony Fasano was signed as a free agent and Travis Kelce was drafted in the 3rd round. Incumbent TE Tony Moeaki (33 rec./ 453 yds / 1TD) had better be ready for the challenge and pick up this offense quickly or he will be the odd man out. A playoff caliber group.

Top draft pick Eric Fisher at rookie camp. Its imperative that the line comes to camp healthy and ready to compete.

Top draft pick Eric Fisher at rookie camp. Its imperative that the line comes to camp healthy and ready to compete.

Offensive Line:  One of the places the team is looking to improve is on the offensive line. Here the Chiefs have drafted T Eric Fisher with the first pick of the draft. Then went on to select Eric Kush in the 6th round while designating T Branden Albert the team’s franchise player. To add to the mix the Chiefs have another six offensive linemen signed and will be brought to camp. With draft pick Kush already signed, the priority is to get Fisher into camp on time.

Are the Chiefs making wholesale replacements on a line that gave up 40 sacks or are they making moves to fit Reid’s style of offense?? Either way we have to give this group an incomplete until we know who is starting and where. Even Tackle Eric Winston, a starter in all 16 games last year, was released.

Defensive Line: After being burnt by the drafting of former LSU DT Glenn Dorsey, the Chiefs didn’t draft any defensive linemen even though they needed them. However three Defensive Ends were signed in Ridge Wilson, Josh Martin, and Rob Lohr to team with Tyson Jackson (43 tackles /3 sacks) and Ropati  Pitoitua (51 tackles /2 sacks). This group only reached the quarterback 5 times in 2012. Horrible.

Kansas City was 27th against the run last year and the only interior lineman returning is Dontari Poe. He needs to push the pass pocket more as he didn’t record a sack last year. Along with the offensive line this will line will have open competition with a new coaching staff. They will need to sign another DT or two this summer. Until then, this group is definitely below average.

Justin Houston is a wrecking ball of a linebacker, and at 23 years of age, has just scratched the surface.

Justin Houston is a wrecking ball of a linebacker, and at 23 years of age, has just scratched the surface.

Linebckers: Here is where the Chiefs bread is buttered as a defense. Long time Chief Derrick Johnson turned in a career year with 125 tackles 2 sacks, and 4 passes defensed. He will bring the thump as he also forced 4 fumbles in a Pro Bowl year from his inside linebacker position. If the Chiefs switch to a 4-3, he would flourish as a sideline to sideline defender. We have to wait and see.

However a switch would be detrimental to Justin Houston’s game. He was the best pass rusher on the team from his outside linebacker flank as he recorded 10 sacks to go with his 66 tackles. He can always rush as a nickel defensive end.  At 23 he’s one of the active young defenders that can be built around. When he replaced Von Miller for the 2013 Pro Bowl, the Chiefs sent THREE linebackers to Hawai’i. Yikes!!

Tamba Hali is the Pro Bowl linebacker for the second time in as many years. He had another solid season with 51 total tackles and 9 sacks. He’s turning 30 this year and if the team moves to a 4-3 he can go back to a right end position on the line. As of now this is a Super Bowl quality set no matter how they line up for Kansas City.

Secondary: This group had mixed results in 2013 that may be more of a result from being constantly behind than their ability to play football. On one hand this group only garnered 5 interceptions the entire year. That’s awful. Yet if you think about it, teams could pass whenever they wanted to and weren’t forced to based on their porous 27th ranked run defense.

Yet this group did send SS Eric Berry to the Pro Bowl after an 86 tackle, 1 interception, and 10 passes defensed campaign. Eric Flowers led the team with 3 interceptions to go along with 48 tackles. Gone is underachieving CB Javier Arenas who was traded to Arizona for a fullback. A curious move that alleviated cap room if they cut the fullback instead of Arenas. Good move for cap space but that leaves journeyman Stanford Routt (21 tackles /2 ints) to man the nickle position. They did sign former CB Dunta Robinson, formerly of the Falcons and Texans, to man one corner spot opposite Flowers.

Despite their interception totals, Chiefs brass feels the move for Robinson is an upgrade at the corner. They don’t need that much improvement as they were 12th against the pass last year. If this team can generate some offense and play with a few leads they will be more productive. They’ll improve to be an average secondary from being a bad one.

McCluster will be a wild card for the Chiefs this year. Both as a 3rd down back and slot option and a special teams return man.

McCluster will be a wild card for the Chiefs this year. Both as a 3rd down back and slot option and a special teams return man.

Overall: Once you look at the sum of the parts on this roster, you’ll notice this offense is just in need of a catalyst at the quarterback position. Recent drafts have brought the receivers and two productive running backs and what type of message is team brass sending by releasing an under performing starting tackle and signing five offensive linemen and drafting two others?? This spirited competition on the offensive line this summer looks like the tonic this team needs to get off to a good start.

They are on the road in Jacksonville then come home to host Dallas, before the Andy Reid Bowl in Philadelphia in week 3. If the Chiefs can go into that game 2-0 and come out of it either 3-0 or a good looking 2-1, this team will be off and running.  Reid has never had these big receivers to run the middle routes necessary to make his offense go. He was short circuited in Philly by fleet receivers who wouldn’t.

When he did have bigger receivers they were older players on their last leg. When he had a prime receiver in Terrell Owens, he made it to the Super Bowl after three other trips to the NFC Championship Game. Are we saying he’ll make it that far in 2013?? Take a look at the open competition on the offensive line. Add to that a quarterback who wants to prove himself after being discarded in San Francisco. Now take an offensive minded coach wanting to prove he is still among the league’s elite coaches after being let go in Philadelphia. No shortage of motivational talks and a team that most wont be prepared to play. This team will challenge and may take the AFC West Title. A 10-6 record or 11-5 record will come from a team few see coming…however The Chancellor does.

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!