The AFC West as a whole appears to be a division set to succeed down the road. I could see all four teams being competitive by the time 2014 rolls around.
The Chargers have a strong program, and as long as Philip Rivers, who turns 30 this December, is the quarterback, San Diego will be relevant. Oakland snapped a seven-year streak of losing at least 11 games by going .500 last season and has a good core of young players. Denver has new leadership and some interesting young pieces. If Denver can draft well and figure out its quarterback situation soon, it can be on the right track by 2014.
But the team I have to go with is the Kansas City Chiefs.
How can I ignore the surprise 2010 AFC West champions?
The Chiefs remind me of the Green Bay Packers. The young Packers won the Super Bowl last season probably ahead of their time. The same thing goes for the Chiefs’ division crown.
This team had won a total of 10 games in the three seasons previous to 2010. Yet the young club jelled and won 10 games in coach Todd Haley’s second season.
There are no signs that the Chiefs are going anywhere but up in the next few years.
As long as quarterback Matt Cassel, 29, continues to make positive strides, there aren’t a lot of question marks in Kansas City. If Cassel fails, the Chiefs have Ricky Stanzi, a fifth-round pick this year, waiting in the wings.
The Chiefs have young stars Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe and Tony Moeaki on offense and excellent youngsters such as Eric Berry, Glenn Dorsey, Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr on defense. The team has drafted well in recent years and appears to have drafted well in 2011. Rookies such as Jon Baldwin, Rodney Hudson, Justin Houston and Allen Bailey seem as though they have a chance to contribute right away.
It is a very well-coached club, so player development should come quickly.
This appears to be a team that has a strong master plan. In fact, the Chiefs are further along than the Scott Pioli-Haley tandem expected. So there is no reason to think Kansas City shouldn’t be a team to reckon with in the middle of this decade.