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Jeff Sauer
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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September 4, 2012
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Broncos have the talent to win AFC West again, should be favorites

Sometimes, a facelift can go hideously wrong. Just ask Bruce Jenner or Kenny Rogers.

Other times, a single alteration can noticeably improve your overall appearance for the better. Ask the Broncos about Peyton Manning.

While Denver is fast becoming an attractive option for a lot of football fans this year, the Broncos still have plenty of work cut out for them within the tightly contested AFC West, a division in which a single victory separated first place from last place among the four teams a season ago.

Here's a quick glance inside the unpredictable division as a new season begins to unfold:

Already the sexy pick amongst many prognosticators, the Chiefs still have one glaring weakness, and his initials are Matt Cassel. Tom Brady's former clipboard carrier in New England still looks like ... well ... a clipboard carrier in Kansas City with a $62 million contract. The return of injured running back Jamaal Charles and safety Eric Berry make the "Chefs" relevant again, and the addition of running back Peyton Hillis gives them a nice 1-2 punch in the backfield. Still, this looks like an 8-8 team to me, only because they're stuck with a quarterback incapable of slinging it in a shootout situation if need be, which will cost the Chiefs a couple of wins along the way.

I'm going against the grain on this one. As much as I hate to say it, this is a team that might play over their heads and shake things up in the west for a change, though most of the pundits completely disagree. A healthy Darren McFadden is the key. The oft-injured running back changes the entire makeup of what the Raiders are capable of doing offensively, which is smashing the ball down their opponent's throat in the running game. There are serious question marks on the defensive side of the ball, and they enter the season banged up at several key starting positions. That said, each new season brings forth a few surprise teams, and against every ounce of moral fiber in my body, I consider this team to be a dark-horse threat in the West.

The end of the Norv Turner era is in sight. From the penthouse to the outhouse is what I'm thinking here. Offensively, Philip Rivers is still a gunslinger; he just doesn't have anyone to fire bullets at. With the wide receiver corps thin, an aging defense and horrendous special teams, the Chargers' better days are behind them. If the Bolts come out of the gates like a herd of turtles again, just put the infrared dot on 'em and put 'em outta their misery.

The predominantly orange are getting close. Close enough to compete for a Super Bowl? They're inevitably going to hit some bumps in the road transitioning from the Tebow era into the Manning era, so the answer is probably not. Will they win the division despite having what some folks around here are calling their toughest schedule in the past 15 years? They should, and here's why: They have more talent than the rest of the division, at the wide receiver position, in the pass rush, at the cornerback position and, most importantly, they now have a quarterback far superior to any team in the west.

The Giants gave us a good reminder last year: Get through your division by the skin of your teeth and anything can happen.

The new-look Broncos can't afford to get caught up in all of the Manning hype and Super Bowl aspirations. They need to focus on winning their division instead.

It's ripe for the picking.

Jeff Sauer is a longtime western Colorado resident and former Roaring Fork Valley resident. He can be reached at soprisjeff@yahoo.com.


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The Post Independent Updated Sep 4, 2012 01:06AM Published Sep 4, 2012 01:06AM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.