The season is here, so naturally it is time to look ahead to the playoffs. No? This eight-part series takes a look at each division and discusses the outlook for every team in the NFL — in both the regular season and playoffs.
TEAM: San Diego Chargers
RECORD: 12-4 | Win the Division
REASON: Although the Chargers appeared to be a team on the decline last year, that should change in 2010. Their defense is still respectable, although they do have some concerns along the defensive line. Offensively, the Chargers have lost LaDainian Tomlinson, once the best rusher in the league, but one who seems to have lost his legs. They drafted running back Ryan Matthews to replace Tomlinson, who should reinvigorate their ground game, so long as their offensive line can hold up. The biggest advantage for the Chargers over the rest of their division is the play of quarterback Phillip Rivers.
TEAM: Kansas City Chiefs
RECORD: 8-8 | No Playoffs
REASON: The Chiefs are getting better, but it is a slow process. This off-season they upgraded the defense by picking up safety Eric Berry in the NFL Draft. Offensively the Chiefs have big holes at tight end, wide receiver, and quarterback. They will need to find a go-to receiver to help out quarterback Matt Cassel who they added from the Patriots last year. While the Chiefs expected Cassel to give the team a real life, he failed to live up to expectations in 2009.
TEAM: Denver Broncos
RECORD: 6-10 | No Playoffs
REASON: The Broncos are a difficult team to forecast. They have an average quarterback who is capable of winning but if last year is an indication, he tends to fall off halfway through the season. The Chiefs have an impressive stable of running backs, which would promise a strong ground game, but they are all starting the season injured. Their biggest off-season acquisition came through the draft, when head coach Josh McDaniels opted to select Tim Tebow in the first round. The only problem is that he is not projected to have an immediate impact this season. Unable to get players who will immediately upgrade the team in the first round it is hard to think this team is destined to improve.
TEAM: Oakland Raiders
RECORD: 5-11 | No Playoffs (though they may improve)
REASON: The Raiders have improved a lot in the off-season, with the release of quarterback Jamarcus Russell and the trade to get quarterback Jason Campbell from Washington. Campbell is capable of taking Oakland to eight or more wins. Since Campbell’s arrival, Darrius-Heyward Bay has caught almost everything thrown to him, which foretells a vast improvement over nine receptions in 2009. The Raiders have built a solid defense but still have big questions along the offensive line.