Welcome back to our NFL preview.  Today, we’re previewing the AFC West, where the Raiders and Chiefs look to recover from an injury plagued last season, the Chargers hope to avoid another poor start, and the the Broncos, who caused the biggest shake up in the offseason by signing some guy name Peyton Manning.

1. Denver Broncos 9-7

Fresh New Face: TE Joel Dreessen…Just kidding.  QB Peyton Manning-  Of all the fresh faces in the NFL, we think it’s safe to say that this one has the most attention.  It’s not everyday you sign a free agent who’s 3rd in the following categories: Touchdown Passes (399), Completions (4,682), and Passing Yards (54,828).  However, there is one other stat that Peyton Manning has that isn’t hall of fame caliber: 4.  That’s the number of neck surgeries Peyton had last year.  We all know how deadly Peyton is when he has time in the pocket.  The true test will be what happens when he takes a blind side hit.

Won’t Be Coming Back: Tim Tebow- We go from one media darling to another.  The biggest benefactor of Tebow’s departure will be the defense.  They were the unsung hero for the Broncos last year.  They put Tebow in the position where he could play like crap for 55 minutes and still lead the team to a game winning drive.

Season Prediction– The AFC West in general has a tough schedule, since all four teams will have to play the deep NFC South.  The Broncos should take the top spot, because their defense should now be able to rest, since that they have a quarterback that can lead the offense down for long drives.  It will all come down to division games and the arm and neck of Peyton Manning.

2. San Diego Chargers 8-8

Fresh New Face: WR Robert Meachem- With the loss Vincent Jackson in the offseason, the Chargers needed to get a decent wide receiver.  Enter Robert Meachem, who benefited from a pass heavy New Orleans Saints offense, catching 40 passes for 620 yards and 6 touchdowns.  But he was second fiddle to Marques Colston and now will have a chance to be the go to guy for Philip Rivers in the up coming season.

Won’t Be Coming Back: RB Mike Tolbert- While Vincent Jackson is the Chargers’ biggest offensive loss, another key loss the Chargers suffered was Mike Tolbert.  Tolbert was the Charger’s goaline running back and with his loss, Ryan Matthews will now have to be an every down back.  There’s one problem with that: Matthews is injury prone, and he proved that once again by breaking his clavicle in the Chargers first preseason game.  Although Matthews believes he’ll be ready for Week 1, he’s not a doctor.  And if he goes down, the Chargers will have to rely on Rivers to get their points.

Season Prediction- This has to be Norv Turner’s last chance, and he and the Chargers can’t afford another weak start.  Philip Rivers stuggled last year, and with the loss of Vincent Jackson, he’ll need a healthy Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd to help him get through a tough schedule that includes tough defenses like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and the New York Jets.

3. Kansas City Chiefs 8-8

Fresh New Face: RB Peyton Hillis– With Jamaal Charles’ season ending injury last year, the Chiefs decided to get an insurance policy in former Cleveland running back, Peyton Hillis.  Both players have something to prove.  Both players are looking to rebound from previous lackluster seasons due to injury.  If both can remain healthy, the Chiefs may have the biggest one-two punch at running back in the NFL, which would make things easier for Matt Cassel and the Chiefs’ passing attack.

Won’t Be Coming Back: QB Kyle Orton– Orton was only brought in because Matt Cassel had to have season ending surgery on his hand and their backup, Tyler Palko, played terrible.  Bradi Quinn is the Cheifs’ current backup, so Cassel better remain healthy this year, because while Quinn should be better than Palko, he’s hasn’t proven to lead a team to the playoffs.

Season Prediction– The Chiefs were decimated by injuries last year.  If they can remain healthy, the Chiefs may pull a surprise division win, like they did in 2010.  Their running game alone should keep them in games.  Their running defense will have to improve (26th against the run last year).  They have one of the best pass rushers in Tamba Hali, but he can’t do it by himself.

4. Oakland Raiders 7-9

Fresh New Face: Head Coach Dennis Allen- Although the Raiders have gone 8-8 for the past two seasons, both seasons ended with their head coach getting fired.  With the hiring of Dennis Allen, that makes it the seventh head coaching change in the past 10 years.  Don’t know how the Raiders can compete consistently if they have to go through a head coach carousel.  He better coach the Raiders to 9 wins if he wants to keep his job.

Won’t Be Coming Back: RB Michael Bush- Bush helped soften the blow of losing Darren McFadden after Week 7 of last season.  Now, Bush is gone, which means that McFadden will have to prove that he can go a full season without missing a game due to injury, something that he hasn’t proven yet.

Season Prediction– The Raiders’ success this season will come down to two things: the durability of their best player, Darren McFadden and discipline.  The Raiders were 29th in penalties last year.  Add that and their defense being 29th in both yards given up and points given up, and it’s a miracle they went 8-8 last season.  Maybe this coaching change will be the right one for once, or not.  Probably not.

That’s our coverage for the AFC West.  Will Peyton lead the Broncos to a division win? Let us know in the comments!