The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 6, 2008

AFC West Preview

AFC West Preview

 

With this preview, I will reveal the PiRate Ratings for each of the four teams in the AFC West Division.  Following those ratings are the Mean Ratings and my own biased opinion (last year’s final PiRate Rating combined with how much stronger or weaker I personally think each team is compared to last season).  That will give you three different ratings for the teams.

 

When all three ratings predict the same side to win a game against the spread, then that is a playable line.  If all three ratings agree on the winner of the game, and the Las Vegas Line is single digits, then that becomes a playable game on the Money line.  The reason for not playing any double digit spreads is that the Money line odds would be too prohibitive for a double digit favorite, where just one loss could result in a losing season.  During the season, I will also supply a list of games to be played with an imaginary bank account.

 

The predicted records are not tied to the PiRate or Mean Ratings; they are strictly from my biased ratings.

 

This is a three-tiered division.  San Diego is on the top tier; Denver is on the middle tier; Oakland and Kansas City are on the bottom tier.  The Chargers should cruise to another division title and contend for a Super Bowl berth.  Denver has an outside shot at a wildcard bid.  The Raiders could win a game or two more than last year.  As for the Chiefs, they will be lucky any week they win a game this year.

 

Denver Broncos

 

PiRate

94.3

Mean

101.5

Biased

97.6

Run Offense

C

Pass Offense

B+

Run Defense

D

Pass Defense

B

Special Teams

F

Predicted Record

8-8

Offense: Jay Cutler should show vast improvement this year following a 2007 season in which he played with an undiagnosed case of Type 1 Diabetes.  He lost 30 pounds and lacked his usual strength.  The amount he improves will be muffled to some extent if the Broncos don’t come up with a better running game.  Neither Selvin Young nor Andre Hall strike fear in opposing run defenses.  I doubt either one can play all 16 games.  When Cutler passes, he’ll have to hope his new receivers fit better in Coach Mike Shanahan’s system than they fared with their former teams.  Darrell Jackson and Keary Colbert were disappointments last year.

 

Defense: The Broncos couldn’t stop the run last year, and they haven’t improved much to indicate they will be any better against the run this season.  Tackle Marcus Thomas is the only front four defender who is a decent run stuffer.  His mate at the other tackle, Dewayne Robertson, comes over from the Jets.  He might help with the run some, but I expect the Broncos to yield about 2,250 rushing yards this season.  The pass defense is a different story.  Denver has a decent pass rush and a rather good secondary.  Of course, teams don’t have to throw the ball all that often when they can run the ball down the Broncos’ throats. 

 

Special Teams: This is the worst unit in the NFL.  To start with, Jason Elam left via free agency.  The new kicker, Matt Prater, is no Elam.  Punter Brett Kern is an untested rookie.  Rookie Eddie Royal will handle the return duties.  There just isn’t any experience in the special teams, and that is a concern.  The Broncos could lose a game or two because of this inexperience.

 

Summary: Denver might score 50 more points in 2008 than they did in 2007, but they Broncos could easily give up 50 more points.  I have a hunch that this will be Shanahan’s last season in Denver.  The Broncos last made the playoffs in 2005, and they won’t be going this year with a shoddy run defense and special teams.

 

Kansas City Chiefs

PiRate

91.9

Mean

97.2

Biased

93.3

Run Offense

B-

Pass Offense

C-

Run Defense

C-

Pass Defense

C-

Special Teams

D

Predicted Record

2-14

Offense: Any chance for Kansas City to have a successful offense this year rests in the legs of Larry Johnson.  Johnson missed half of 2007 and rushed for just 559 yards last year.  Quarterback Brodie Croyle registered a 69.9 passer rating last year, and it’s debatable whether he’ll develop into the player scouts believed he could be.  It doesn’t help that he has a mediocre set of receivers to catch his passes.  Dwayne Bowe could become a 1,000 yard receiver, but he isn’t going to win many games with his catches.  The offensive line is one of the weakest, if not the weakest, in the NFL.

 

Defense: Kansas City’s defense was rather decent last year, but it’s going to head south this year; the weaker offense is going to force the stop troops to stay on the field much longer as well.  Losing Jared Allen makes the pass rush go from being a plus to a minus.  Allen led the NFL with 15½ sacks, but he is now a Viking.  With a weaker pass rush, the secondary will give up at least 30 and maybe as much as 70 more passing yards this year.  It’s going to get ugly at Arrowhead Stadium.

 

Special Teams: As weak as the offense and defense are, special teams are even worse.  Kicker Nick Novak isn’t going to win games with his leg, and he is a candidate for getting cut during the season.  Punter Dustin Colquitt may lead the league in total number of punts, but his net average is going to drop due to punt coverage weaknesses.  B.J. Sams gets first crack as the return specialist.  He was decent with the Ravens last year.

 

Summary: This is the start of a long rebuilding project in Kansas City this year.  The Chiefs only won four times last year, and they don’t have as much talent this year.  They should contend with their cross-state rivals for the first pick in the 2009 draft.  It could give them the rights to Tim Tebow or Jim Laurinaitis.

 

Oakland Raiders

 

PiRate

94.3

Mean

91.6

Biased

94.3

Run Offense

A-

Pass Offense

C

Run Defense

C+

Pass Defense

B+

Special Teams

C+

Predicted Record

6-10

Offense: Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden, and Michael Bush make up a terrific trio of running backs.  Fullback Justin Griffith is one of the better run blockers, and he can catch the ball coming out of the backfield.  JaMarcus Russell will take his lumps in his first full season under center, but he will have some games where he shows he belongs here.  The once excellent pass catchers are no longer wearing the silver and black.  Javon Walker is not the speedster he once was, and injuries will limit his ability to play every down.

 

Defense: Head coach Lane Kiffin planned on firing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but owner Al Davis stepped in and prohibited the action.  Now, there is speculation that Kiffin could be the former Raider head coach as early as the end of September if the team begins the year poorly.  Kiffin knew what he was getting into when he agreed to coach this laughingstock franchise.  The Raiders have a problem stopping the run, and that’s not a good thing when you must play San Diego and Kansas City twice each.  With a little better pass rush, the Raiders could have a fairly good defense against the pass.  Losing Warren Sapp to retirement will be tough, but Oakland brings in two new secondary starters in DeAngelo Hall and Gibril Wilson.  Hall and Wilson improve the back line and give the Raiders a chance to hold the opposition well under 200 passing yards per game.

 

Special Teams: The two Oakland kickers probably have the strongest combined leg strength of any unit in the NFL.  Punter Shane Lechler almost averaged 50 yards per boot last year, but he outkicked his coverage many times.  Kicker Sebastian Janikowski reaches the end zone with his kickoffs more than any other kicker in the league, but he doesn’t have the best accuracy, and that hurts the Raiders in field goal situations.  The return game stunk last year and will have new players manning those spots this year.

 

Summary:  Al Davis meddles with his team more than George Steinbrenner meddled with the Yankees.  While Davis actually used to coach the Raiders, this is neither a healthy atmosphere nor a winning one.  Oakland will struggle once again but should play a little better than last season.  Look for a game or two improvement. Whether that’s enough to save Kiffin’s job is up for debate.

 

San Diego Chargers

PiRate

108.1

Mean

106.1

Biased

103.1

Run Offense

A+

Pass Offense

B+

Run Defense

A-

Pass Defense

B+

Special Teams

B+

Predicted Record

12-4

Offense: The only thing keeping LaDainian Tomlinson from being a perennial 2,000 yard rusher is a passing game that is too strong to give LT enough carries.  It is a nice predicament to have.  Quarterback Phillip Rivers earned the respect of the football world last year when he played on a torn ACL.  Whether he can return to form following another injury is the key to the season.  If Rivers is healthy enough to pass for more than 3,000 yards again, then the Bolts could still be playing in February this season.  Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson, and Antonio Gates make a first-rate receiving corps, and they will force defenses not to jam the box.  That will allow LT to break a bevy of long runs.

 

Defense: The Chargers have allowed less than 20 points per game each of the last four years, and there’s no reason to think they won’t do so once again.  With an offense that should average about 26 points per game, the defense will allow Coach Norv Turner to sleep easily at night.  The strength of the stop side is an excellent secondary corps.  Cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer rank up near the top in the NFL.  Safety Eric Weddle has Pro Bowl potential.  Helping this unit is a brilliant pass rush.  Outside linebacker Shawn Merriman is a pass rushing beast, but he begins the season not 100% healthy.  Once he’s back to normal, expect the Chargers to make life miserable for enemy passers.  Shaun Phillips on the opposite side of Merriman could record double digit sacks this year, so it’s not a one-man show. 

 

Special Teams: Nate Kaeding played last year with a ligament injury in his non-kicking leg, yet the kicker had a rather good year.  Expect better numbers from him this year.  Punter Mike Scifres isn’t far behind Lechler at Oakland.  Return specialist Darren Sproles scored on both a kick and punt return last year.  This is a strong unit.

 

Summary: I expect San Diego to win seven of their eight intradivisional games, and that should be good enough for the Chargers to win this division by at least four games and possibly as much as six games.  The pieces are there for San Diego to go all the way.

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