Divisional Breakdown : AFC West Teams

Today’s feature: AFC West Teams. And off we go:

The Denver Broncos

History: The Broncos were created as part of the original AFL and kept their identity throughout the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Their most famous player is former quarterback John Elway, who led the Broncos to five Super Bowls, won two back to back, and is now the Executive Vice President of the team.

Current Players to Know: Peyton Manning, ousted from Indy, landed in Denver. His continuing career in Denver is without a doubt the biggest story of the season. DeMaryius Thomas is the wide receiver who caught the game-winning pass in overtime in last year’s playoff win against the Steelers. Von Miller is an outside linebacker who was selected to the Pro Bowl last year – in his rookie season.

Head Coach: John Fox

2011 Regular Season Record: 8-8

What to Watch For in 2012: Peyton Manning. Watch for his every move to be dissected relentlessly as everyone tries to figure out whether or not he’s still the player he once was.

The Kansas City Chiefs

History: The Chiefs were originally the Dallas Texans, and actually had considerable success under that moniker. However, after the move to Kansas City and the AFL-NFL merger, things started to go downhill. Their one and only Super Bowl win came right after the merger in 1970.

Current Players to Know: Matt Cassel was a standout backup quarterback for the New England Patriots when Tom Brady was injured in the 2008 season. That earned him a starting spot in Kansas City, where he was traded in the 2009 draft. Dwayne Bowe is the team’s best wide reciever by a landslide and an essential component of their offense. Dontari Poe holds down the defensive fort at nose tackle.

Head Coach: Romeo Crennel

2011 Regular Season Record: 7-9

What to Watch For in 2012: Matt Cassel will be starting at quarterback again after losing his spot last season to Kyle Orton, who was traded by the Broncos when Tim Tebow earned the starting job there. Orton has since left to assume the backup role in Dallas. Cassel will now have the responsibility of reclaiming the team and his former prowess.

The Oakland Raiders

History: Oakland was selected as the 8th AFL team even though they had no stadium, no ownership, and had not asked for a team. After holding a local contest, the new team was named the “Oakland Señors,” but after a few weeks the name was changed to the Raiders because…well…that’s so much better. The Raiders moved from Oakland to LA 1982 and then back to Oakland again in 1995. The team is synonymous with long-time owner Al Davis, who, though eccentric, was essential to the history and progress of the NFL.

Current Players to Know: Carson Palmer, former Bengals quarterback, will get the to start his first full season as the Raiders quarterback this year. When he’s healthy, Darren McFadden is an excellent running back. And the whole Defensive Line is of note for the Raiders, who dominate in this area.

Head Coach: Dennis Allen

2011 Regular Season Record: 8-8

What to Watch For in 2012: The Raiders have a new coach this year, but the Raiders have a new coach every year. Sometimes more often than that. Since they aren’t in the strongest division in the NFL they could have a decent shot at the playoffs if they could establish any kind of consistency.

The San Diego Chargers

History: The Chargers were part of the original AFL. They spent one season in Los Angeles before moving to San Diego in 1961. Surprisingly, since they are often playoff contenders, the Chargers have only been to the Super Bowl once (in 1963) and have never won.

Current Players to Know: Phillip Rivers has been the team’s quarterback since 2004. Ryan Matthews is an up-and-coming running back. Melvin Ingram was selected by the Chargers in the first round of this year’s draft and is expected to work wonders at the linebacker position as a pass rusher.

Head Coach: Norv Turner

2011 Regular Season Record: 8-8

What to Watch For in 2012: In the 2000’s the Chargers won five divisional titles in six years. They are always good. But they’re rarely good enough, especially in the past few years. It’ll be tougher for them this year with wide reciever Vincent Brown out with a broken ankle for at least half of the regular season and star running back Ryan Matthews out with a broken clavicle for 4-6 weeks.

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