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2013 AFC West Preview

AFC: East | North | South | West         NFC: East | North | South | West

2012 Common Opponents: AFC North, NFC South
2013 Common Opponents: AFC South, NFC East

The Broncos are clearly the favorites in the AFC West by a wide margin, and along with the Patriots should be among the safest picks to win their division. But at least the Chargers and Chiefs should be improved in 2013, and both have some chance of making things interesting.

Denver Broncos

2012 Record: 13-3
2012 Rating: 6.6 (2nd of 32)
2012 Deserved Wins: 11.5
2013 Division Rank Opponents: NE & BAL
2013 Preliminary Rating: 3.1 (1st of 32)
2013 Wins by Preliminary Rating: 9.8

Projected Changes to Starting Lineup:
RB - Willis McGahee / 80 / FA >>> Montee Ball / 78 / rk
WR - Brandon Stokley / 79 / FA >>> Wes Welker / 88 / NE
TE - Joel Dreessen / 81 / - >>> Julius Thomas / 79 / -
C - Dan Koppen / 81 / inj >>> G Louis Vasquez / 81 / SD
DT - Justin Bannan / 83 / DET >>> Terrance Knighton / 82 / JAC
DE - Elvis Dumervil / 89 / BAL >>> Robert Ayers / 80 / -
LB - Keith Brooking / 78 / FA >>> Nate Irving / 77 / -
CB - Chris Harris / 83 / - >>> Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie / 81 / PHI
S - Mike Adams / 80 / - >>> Duke Ihenacho / 76 / -

The 6-game suspension of LB Von Miller and free agency loss of his counterpart Elvis Dumervil will likely hurt Denver's pass rush and cause the defense to regress slightly. However, with the addition of Wes Welker, the offense has a chance to actually be even better than last season. With the tough offseason for the Patriots, and our data showing that other top rated teams from 2012 like the Seahawks and 49ers are more likely to regress, the Broncos have as good a chance of winning the Super Bowl as any other team in the NFL.

Kansas City Chiefs

2012 Record: 2-14
2012 Rating: -5.9 (31st of 32)
2012 Deserved Wins: 4.4
2013 Division Rank Opponents: BUF & CLE
2013 Preliminary Rating: -2.5 (31st of 32)
2013 Wins by Preliminary Rating: 6.4

Projected Changes to Starting Lineup:
QB - Matt Cassel / 80 / MIN >>> Alex Smith / 82 / SF
WR - Jon Baldwin / 77 / SF >>> Donnie Avery / 79 / IND
TE - Tony Moeaki / 79 / - >>> Anthony Fasano / 83 / MIA
C - Ryan Lilja / 83 / DEN >>> Rodney Hudson / 79 / inj
T - Eric Winston / 83 / ARI >>> Eric Fisher / 82 / rk
DE - Ropati Pitoitua / 78 / TEN >>> Mike DeVito / 86 / NYJ
LB - Jovan Belcher / 77 / dec >>> Akeem Jordan / 79 / PHI
CB - Javier Arenas / 79 / ARI >>> Sean Smith / 80 / MIA

The Chiefs defense fell apart in 2012, but it was the anemic pass offense that played the bigger role in them falling to 31st in our final ratings. The pass offense was poor under Cassel, and then much worse under Brady Quinn. However, there is hope for Kansas City because the acquisition of Alex Smith randers the 2012 offensive rating and poor 2013 preliminary rating somewhat irrelevant. If Smith can match his 2012 performance, the Chiefs could jump to a league average passing team. Most likely, Kansas City should find themselves back near the middle of the league in 2013, with a chance at the playoffs if all goes well.

Oakland Raiders

2012 Record: 4-12
2012 Rating: -2.9 (26th of 32)
2012 Deserved Wins: 6.4
2013 Division Rank Opponents: NYJ & PIT
2013 Preliminary Rating: -0.3 (21st of 32)
2013 Wins by Preliminary Rating: 7.8

Projected Changes to Starting Lineup:
QB - Carson Palmer / 83 / ARI >>> Terrelle Pryor / 78 / -
WR - Darrius Heyward-Bey / 79 / IND >>> Rod Streater / 76 / -
TE - Brandon Myers / 80 / NYG >>> Jeron Mastrud / 75 / MIA
G - Cooper Carlisle / 77 / FA >>> Lucas Nix / 72 / -
T - Jared Veldheer / 80 / inj >>> Menelik Watson / 77 / FA
DT - Desmond Bryant / 84 / CLE >>> Vance Walker / 80 / ATL
DT - Tommy Kelly / 82 / NE >>> Pat Sims / 79 / CIN
DE - Matt Shaughnessy / 80 / ARI >>> Jason Hunter / 78 / DEN
LB - Phillip Wheeler / 82 / MIA >>> Kevin Burnett / 82 / MIA
LB - Rolando McClain / 78 / FA >>> Nick Roach / 81 / CHI
LB - Miles Burris / 74 / - >>> Sio Moore / 77 / rk
CB - Michael Huff / 81 / BAL >>> D.J. Hayden / 81 / rk
CB - Joselio Hanson / 80 / - >>> Mike Jenkins / 78 / DAL
S - Matt Giordano / 78 / STL >>> Charles Woodson / 81 / GB

DE Lamarr Houston and S Tyvon Branch will likely be the only 2 defensive starters from 2012 who will start again for the Raiders in 2013. That ought to be a good thing considering Oakland finished dead last in our defensive ratings a year ago, but the list of replacements doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Worse yet, the loss of Carson Palmer means the Raiders' only capable unit in 2012, pass offense, could see a decline. The only positive for Oakland is that with a totally new defense and unknown quantity in QB Terrelle Pryor, plenty of variation from our expectations is possible. The Raiders could realistically finish anywhere from the middle of the pack to dead last in 2013, but the latter is more likely.

San Diego Chargers

2012 Record: 7-9
2012 Rating: -1.1 (22nd of 32)
2012 Deserved Wins: 7.5
2013 Division Rank Opponents: MIA & CIN
2013 Preliminary Rating: -0.3 (20th of 32)
2013 Wins by Preliminary Rating: 7.8

Projected Changes to Starting Lineup:
WR - Danario Alexander / 80 / inj >>> Vincent Brown / 78 / inj
G - Louis Vasquez / 81 / DEN >>> Chad Rinehart / 81 / BUF
G - Tyronne Green / 77 / NE >>> T D.J. Fluker / 80 / rk
T - Michael Harris / 69 / - >>> King Dunlap / 80 / PHI
DT - Vaughn Martin / 78 / MIA >>> Cam Thomas / 81 / -
LB - Takeo Spikes / 81 / FA >>> Manti Te'o / 78 / rk
LB - Shaun Phillips / 82 / DEN >>> Dwight Freeney / 84 / IND
CB - Antoine Cason / 79 / ARI >>> Derek Cox / 80 / JAC
CB - Quentin Jammer / 78 / DEN >>> Shareece Wright / 78 / -

The Chargers got rid of a good amount of their subpar starters from 2012, but their replacements aren't very proven either. San Diego is one of the most difficult teams to handicap this season. Their win totals have declined to a mediocre level the last 3 seasons, but our ratings show they were still a very good team up until last season. The Chargers 2012 season was one of the very few instances where a team with a great passing offense suddenly dropped off dramatically with the same QB they had in previous years. To analyze if it was a fluke or the new norm in San Diego, we have to look at the reasons for the regression. First, Philip Rivers was working with a less effective receiving corps due to the loss of WR Vincent Jackson and the decline of aging TE Antonio Gates. Second, the offensive line was terrible due to injuries to already suspect starters. Finally, there is some speculation that Rivers is breaking down despite being younger than many still thriving QBs. The pass protection should certainly be a bit better in 2013, but the receiving corps will again be nothing special. If Rivers isn't fundamentally declining though, the offensive line alone should be enough for a bit of a rebound this season. The range of possibilities for the Chargers in 2013 is large, but most likely they will bounce back to at least an average team with a real chance but not an expectation of making the playoffs.

AFC: East | North | South | West         NFC: East | North | South | West

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