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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 7:00 PM

The Denver Broncos disappointed in the AFC Playoffs last year…but are still being picked by many as a Lombardi Trophy favorite in 2013 as they prepare to kick off their Preseason Thursday Night against Super Bowl loser San Francisco. Peyton Manning is one of the all-time greats…while all the other top conference contenders have question marks entering the new campaign. And, in Denver’s AFC West division, every other team has HUGE question marks!

*San Diego pilfered Denver’s offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to replace Norv Turner as head coach of the team. Is McCoy ready for the big time? Did quarterback Philip Rivers peak early, given his fade to irrelevance last year?

*Kansas City hired Andy Reid to run their franchise after the Philadelphia Eagles let him go. Reid is the kind of guy that generally gets results…but it may take him awhile with this current collection of talent. The Chiefs brought in Alex Smith to be their new quarterback. Smith had some moments for the San Francisco 49ers…but was most commonly seen walking off the field when it was time to punt!

*Oakland will either be led on the field by Matt Flynn, a system quarterback as a backup at Green Bay who has struggled badly when not protected by a system…or by Terrelle Pryor, who’s reportedly matured after a tumultuous period at Ohio State.

Talk about volatility! McCoy could be just what Rivers needed in San Diego. Reid and Smith will at least inspire dramatic improvement for what had been a horrible Chiefs team last year. And, who knows? Maybe Terrelle Pryoe is the next Colin Kaepernick. Or…maybe Denver goes 12-4 and everyone else goes 4-12!

Let’s review some key numbers from last season…


2012 AFC West Standings (turnover differential/strength of schedule)

Denver: 13-3 (-1 turnovers, #24 schedule)

San Diego: 7-9 (+2 turnovers, #31 schedule)

Oakland: 4-12 (-7 turnovers, #21 schedule)

Kansas City: 2-14 (-24 turnovers, #17 schedule)

The AFC was a lousy conference…so most everyone in the conference played easy schedules. Denver didn’t look like a 13-3 team in its loss to eventual champion Baltimore. San Diego may have gone 5-11 or 4-12 against a league average schedule. Oakland and Kansas City were closer to league average schedules and struggled badly. That’s why so many changes were made in the offseason.


2012 Yards-per-Play

Denver: 5.8 on offense, 4.6 on defense

San Diego: 4.8 on offense, 5.2 on defense

Oakland: 5.3 on offense, 5.7 on defense

Kansas City: 5.0 on offense, 5.9 on defense

Keep strength of schedule in mind when you study those numbers. Denver had a great differential…one that would still be playoff caliber against a tougher slate. Everyone else was dismal in context. The good news for fans of those teams is that all the changes should yield better stats. That sure makes it tricky for oddsmakers and handicappers though.


2012 Third Down Conversions

Denver: 45% on offense, 31% on defense

Oakland: 35% on offense, 39% on defense

San Diego: 38% on offense, 42% on defense

Kansas City: 33% on offense, 39% on defense

Peyton Manning knows how to move the chains. Philip Rivers should, but didn’t have the ability last year. One of the early signs for pending success for any of the three teams beneath Denver THIS season will be production on third downs. If Oakland, San Diego, and Kansas City are posting good third down differentials early…then they’re going to cover several pointspreads before the market adjusts.


2013 Projected Win Totals in Las Vegas

Denver: 11.5 wins

San Diego: 7.5 wins

Kansas City: 6.5 wins

Oakland: 5.5 wins

From the outside looking in…you have to assume that at least one of the new head coaches is going to make a run at a Wildcard…while at least one of last year’s also-rans hits more bad luck and plummets way off the scene. Any ideas?

JIM HURLEY has a lot of ideas about this division, the AFC as a whole, and the entire NFL. He’s been waiting all summer for this first FULL weekend of NFL action to arrive…and now it’s time to GET THE MONEY! You can purchase daily BEST BETS in both football and baseball right here at the website with your credit card. Great seasonal rates are also available. The earlier you sign up, the bigger your profit! If you have any questions, call us in the office during regular business hours at 1-800-323-4453.

Our summer series of divisional previews continues Friday. Here’s the rest of this weekend’s schedule:

Friday: AFC East to get you ready for New England vs. Philadelphia

Saturday: AFC North to get you ready for Pittsburgh vs. the NY Giants

Sunday: AFC South to get you ready for Indianapolis vs. Buffalo

We’ll finish off the NFC next week. If you missed our look at the NFC East on Hall-of-Fame day, please check our archives.

Will NETWORK have a big play this weekend with an AFC West team? Denver (at San Francisco) and San Diego (vs. Seattle on the NFL Network) play tonight…Kansas City (at New Orleans) and Oakland (vs. Dallas) are on the Friday slate. Don’t miss a single BIG, JUICY WINNER from the undisputed WORLD CHAMPION of football handicapping…JIM HURLEY!

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