1) San Diego Chargers – The story of the year for San Diego may end up being Billy Volek. I’m always reluctant to predict an injury, but I would consider Phillip Rivers somewhat vulnerable considering his knee issues. The Chargers may also have to deal with the shifty injury situation with Shawn Merriman. When he’s not 100% or he’s absent, this is a different team. They still have some monsters on their D (Shaun Phillips continues to be underrated), but his absence will alter their chances. They still have LT, the dynamite Darren Sproles (who will have a more significant role in the offense which will benefit the Chargers greatly), Chris Chambers and of course Antonio Gates. They still have too much fire power to totally chunk it this year, but look for the rest of the division (teams most experts expect nothing from), to keep it close. 11-5
2) Oakland Raiders – Crack pick alert. Oakland is my crack pick this year. JaMarcus Russell will be a beast. It will help him a great deal having the solid Justin Fargas and the spectacular Darren McFadden behind him. There may be some issues at receiver, though Ronald Curry is not bad (don’t expect much from Javon Walker). Oakland has the best cornerback in the NFL – aljqowhepohaspohapghp. He is very very good and even though I think DeAngelo Hall is not that good, he is the kind of player who makes QBs pay for mistakes – so at corner they are solid. Solid linebacking will also help this year. Again, it won’t be a full breakout year, but it will be a solid one. 9-7.
3) Denver Broncos – Denver will fall shy of expectations this year unless Jay Cutler busts out with a 110+ QB rating year. My guess is that it’s more likely Cutler will be just OK and unless Brandon Marshall goes nuts or Scheffler pulls an Antonio Gates, Cutler may not be totally at fault for not putting up big numbers. Selvin Young could be decent as most RBs are for Denver, but I get this feeling Mike Shanahan’s philosophy and job as coach will go down with the ship. Hard to pick against such a good coach – kind of like picking against Mike Holmgren, but I just don’t see the talent to get the job done. 6-10.
4) Kansas City Chiefs – Everyone knows KC and lead man Brodie Croyle will suck this year. This, even in the face of the reminders of encouragement from Brodie Croyle’s hammered frat brothers “Croyle dude, you’re like the best QB ever, not just for Bama, but in college and pro history. Dude, you are soooo incredible. Dude, no, no, don’t believe them, you’re not that skinny, you’re strong, like you kicked my ass, like in arm wrestling and in the like intramural tug-o’-war.” They will win 4 games because they could put 22 fat barbeque cooks out there and still win at least a few at Arrowhead. 4-12.