By Marc Lawrence
When the Denver Broncos selected Tim Terrific with its second pick in the first-round of this year's NFL draft, they issued a statement.
It said last year's 8-8 record was not acceptable, not after rookie coach Josh McDaniels shot out to a six-lap lead before a frightful 2-8 finish.
San Diego's third straight 2-3 start under Norv Turner was just a warm-up en route an 11-1 rush through the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Kansas City and Oakland were simply stuck in neutral most of the season and both ended the campaign on the losing side of the ledger for the third straight year.
It makes Turner's Chargers an overwhelming choice as the team to take the checkered flag in this division and a major frontrunner to make it to Jerry's World in February.
In closing, this note of caution: Before revving up with home teams in this division, you would be best advised to throttle down as AFC West hosts went 20-39-5 ATS this past decade in games versus division opponents with losing records, including a mind-boggling 2-16-1 ATS in an anticipated low-scoring contest when the Over/Under total in the game was 40 or fewer points.
Note: Team writeups excerpted from the 2010 PLAYBOOK Football Preview magazine. Designated ‘Play On' and ‘Play Against' Best Bets follow each team's preview.
DENVER TEAM THEME: IN TIM WE TRUST
One of the best lines written about Denver drafting Tim Tebow in the first-round of the NFL draft this year was penned by Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote when he said, "I had not heard that many people talking about a white Bronco since Al Cowling was driving O.J. Simpson." Like him or not, the city of Denver is abuzz about Tebow wearing a Broncos uni. Whether he supplants Kyle Orton as the starting quarterback is an answer that only God knows at the moment. What we know is that Denver made huge forward strides on defense under first-year head coach Josh McDaniels last year, improving its numbers 60 YPG. The offense, though, slipped 54 YPG and took a hit when troubled WR Brandon Marshall was dispatched to Miami. The question is which Broncos team will we see in 2010? The one that started last season 6-0, or the one that finished up 2-8. Tim:15 just might end up having a say in the matter.
PLAY AGAINST: as favorite vs. Houston (12/26)
TEAM THEME: COLOR ME NEW
There is a massive rebuilding project going on in Kansas City these days and it's not limited to the new makeover at Arrowhead Stadium. Head coach Todd Haley and GM Scott Pioli made inroads on the field in 2009. The four wins (all as underdogs) last year doubled 2008's tally. They also outgained each of their final four foes to finish the season. Moreover, Haley contends QB Matt Cassel has grabbed the leadership reins of the 2010 Chiefs. "He's in here leading the pack every day," Haley said. "I mean, we can't keep him off the field. He's gathering the receivers any chance he can get. He has all the makings of being a solid quarterback in this league." Key offensive additions this year include RB Thomas Jones from the Jets and OG Ryan Lilja from the Colts. Meanwhile, S Eric Berry may prove to be the best pick in this year's draft. The fresh coat of paint may appear temporary but at least the peeling has stopped.
PLAY ON: as dog vs. San Diego (9/13) - *KEY + 4 pts or more
OAKLAND TEAM THEME: WHO'S MINDING THE STORE?
Let's do the math. 2009 7th overall pick WR Darrius Heyward-Bey: 9 receptions for 124 yards and 1 TD. 2008 4th overall pick RB Darren McFadden: 865 rushing yards, 5 TD's. 2007 1st overall pick QB Jamarcus Russell: 18 TD passes, 23 Interceptions and a QB Rating of 65.2. Those are the career marks of Al Davis' last three first round choices, with Russell (7-18 as a starter) being cut loose this spring. Folks, if Davis was a contestant on ‘The Apprentice' he'd hear Donald Trump shouting YOU'RE FIRED! So pathetic were the Raiders they became the first NFL team since 1960 to produce four straight sub-200 yard games. A positive was the acquisition of QB Jason Campbell from the Redskins. It should also be noted that the Raiders had some of the best off-season work this year that they've done in ages. And speaking of ages, if only Davis had taken the time to major in math, who knows where they'd be today?
PLAY AGAINST: vs. Kansas City (11/7) - *KEY as favorite
SAN DIEGO TEAM THEME: TURNER ROUND
We've got to admit, we were wrong on our assessment of Norv Turner. It was easy to take potshots at him when he came aboard three years ago. After all, here was a coach that, previously in his NFL career, was 21-44-1 SU and 23-41-2 ATS in division play. Since coming to San Diego, he's turned it completely around, as his Chargers averaged nearly 12 wins a season while going 15-3 SU and 11-6-1 ATS against division foes. And to set the table in 2010, the Bolts will benefit from a soft schedule when they take on the 3rd easiest slate in the league. A strong draft should go a long way in supplanting former Pro Bowlers LaDainian Tomlinson and CB Antonio Cromartie. Finally, keep this thought in mind when San Diego takes on their NFC counterparts this season: The visiting team in Chargers/NFC West games is 16-11 SU and 19-8 ATS. Don't get nervous. Norv is in charge.
PLAY ON: as dog at Indianapolis (11/28)