Denver is being tipped as a huge NFL betting favorite to win the AFC West but they have a few issues to deal with going into the season, with one major concern taking precedence. Here is how one player can help them overcome that problem, along with three other x-factors for the rest of the AFC West clubs.
Denver Broncos – Shaun Phillips, Linebacker
The Broncos lost pass-rush specialist Elvis Dumervil to Baltimore, and now linebacker Von Miller has been suspended for the first six games of the season due to banned substances. The onus is on Phillips to step up, and at least he isn’t new to the division as he spent his first nine seasons in the NFL with San Diego. The 32-year-old Phillips had 9.5 sacks last season and he has a lot to prove; if he plays like it, that softens the blow of losing Miller.
Kansas City Chiefs – Alex Smith, Quarterback
The Chiefs absolutely whiffed on the Matt Cassel signing and have turned the team over to Smith, who lost his job in San Francisco to Colin Kaepnerick when he was injured, so he also has a lot to prove. Kansas City also has a new head coach in Andy Reid, who runs a West Coast-type of offense that Smith has played under before, so he should put Smith in positions to be successful. The Chiefs have a lot of tools for Smith to take advantage of, and everything is set for the former No. 1 overall pick to have a big year. They might even be a good bet on the football betting lines each week as they appear to be undervalued.
Oakland Raiders – Charles Woodson, Safety
Woodson returns to the Raiders, the team that drafted him with the fourth pick in the 1998 draft and where he spent his first seven seasons before going to Green Bay, where he became a Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and won a Super Bowl. At 36, he isn’t the dynamic cornerback that he was before, but Woodson is now a free safety, where he can read and react and he can also help coach the Oakland secondary. The Raiders definitely definitely needs it. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver can do a lot with Woodson if he uses him correctly.
San Diego Chargers – Mike McCoy, Head Coach; Ken Whisenhunt, Offensive Coordinator
It is now rebuilding time in San Diego with a new head coach in McCoy, who was the offensive coordinator in Denver for three years, and for his offensive coordinator, he selected Whisenhunt, who won a Super Bowl in Pittsburgh and took Arizona to the big game as a head coach. These men will be the ones that evaluate Philip Rivers, who has gone completely downhill over the last couple of seasons. Some think that Rivers is hurt, which is why he can’t throw the deep ball anymore. It could be something else altogether. It is up to McCoy and Whisenhunt to help Rivers through his struggles via playcalling and encouragement, or this regime may have to consider looking for a new pivot.