The AFC West found its predominant leader when superstar quarterback Peyton Manning signed his lucrative deal with the Denver Broncos. His signing immediately placed Denver atop one of the NFL’s most enigmatic divisions and all other teams were forced to get on their level.
Aside from the Broncos, the AFC West holds the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, and the San Diego Chargers.
The Raiders have proven to be one of the league’s biggest surprises early on in the season. Dual-threat quarterback Terrelle Pryor has officially taken over the starting job from Matt Flynn and is torching teams with his passing ability and his speed and athleticism. The speedy signal-caller rushing for 112 yards in his first game of the season, and then lead his team to a home victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2.
With all the new additions and improved play, can the Raiders compete in the AFC West?
It depends on how you look at it. It will be hard for the Raiders to come close to winning the division, especially with the kind of season that Manning is having thus far. He has thrown for nine touchdowns in the first two games of the season and he has lead his team to two consecutive victories over quality teams.
But competing might mean finishing second in the division, and maybe stealing a Wild Card spot in the postseason. The Raiders currently hold a 1-1 record and are tied with their division rival Chargers., who are coming off a promising road victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Chiefs boast a 2-0 record, as new head coach Andy Reid and new quarterback Alex Smith have bonded nicely, stringing together impressive back-to-back wins.
The Raiders can definitely compete in the AFC West because their future is so bright. They won’t be strapped to the salary cap for much longer and that will play a big role in their rebuilding process. The more Pryor develops and improves then the more productive the team’s offensive can become. Pryor still needs to develop stronger connections with his receivers but he has done a terrific job thus far. One of his key signature plays thus far has been running the read-option and it has payed off very abundantly.
At the end of the day, it will be extremely difficult for the Raiders to steal the division crown from the Broncos. They simply are not as talented, effective, or experienced as they are, but that should not discourage Oakland. They have a bright future and some solid young pieces that have dividends to pay off. It will be interesting to see the AFC West competition in future years when the teams improve and shift phases.