Hawk’s 2014 NFL Preview: AFC West Edition

NFL-Preview-AFC-West

San Diego Chargers
Three AFC West teams made it into the playoffs last season (Broncos, Chiefs and these Chargers), making it one of the toughest divisions in football. Phillip Rivers leads the charge (pun intended) again this year for a team that had the 5th best offense in the league as far as yards gained.

Rivers thrived under offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who as I stated earlier has a good history with quarterbacks. Whisenhunt left for the head coaching job at Tennesse so we will see how much he had to do with Rivers throwing 4,478 yards (5th most yards of all QB’s) and 32 TD’s to only 11 Int’s.

Leading receiver Keenan Allen seemed to come out of nowhere and become one of Rivers’s favorite targets. Antonio Gates had yet another big year as well catching 77 balls for 872 yards, proving that even after 11 years in the league he is one of the best ends in the game. Rivers never seems to have the biggest names at receivers other then Gates but seems to be able to get it done anyway. Somehow his funky back foot, side arm like throws works for him.

Running back Ryan Mathews had his healthiest season yet, running for over 1200 yards, vastly improving an offense that had a history of being one dimensional. Matthews hopes to get more help improving that running game this year with the free agent signing of Colts leading rusher Donald Brown. Leading rusher or not Brown only ran for a little over 500 yards with the Colts so I don’t expect him to eat into Matthews carries too much.

A glaring weakness of this team last was the passing defense that ranked near the bottom of the league. Free safety Eric Weddle was their leading tackler last season. With the signing of cornerback Brandon Flowers, who was unexpectedly released by the Chiefs, San Diego hopes to correct that weakness, but they still more guys to step up and toughen up a defense that plays Peyton Manning twice a year.

I don’t think the Chargers will be even close to overtaking the Broncos in this tough division. But I think they can win 10 games. If the Chiefs take a step back this year like I think they will, San Diego could sneak into the playoffs for a second straight season.