What to Watch for in Week One: AFC West Style

I could care less about the preseason. I hate watching it. I don't get excited for it. And while I guess it tells me that the regular season is close, it's just annoying to get all geared up over guys that will never, ever make any real difference. Opening weekend's what I really live for so last night provided a heaven-on-earth moment that only comes once a year.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share some things I'm looking for heading into this weekend. While I think I could surmise a decent guess at each of these questions, it's obviously what happens on the gridiron that counts:

Will the Broncos overly dramatic off-season really make a difference on-field?
Before any of the chaos ensued over Jay Cutler's departure and Brandon Marshall's tantrums, the Broncos were bringing in every FA available and hired an offensive coordinator considered a hot property in Josh McDaniels. This was beginning to look like Oakland East if the offseason were to continue, but something tells me things could become stable again once the players hit the field.

I find some 'experts' predicting a decent run by the Broncos this year, while many others have them at the bottom of the AFC West. That's a testament more to the lameness of our division than anything else, but it goes to show that nobody really knows what to make of this team. We'll begin to find out how game-ready they can be this Sunday against Cincinnati. It's a winnable game and the easy schedule continues early, so if they flop, this could get ugly.

Will the Raiders offensive potential ever impact a football game?

It's way too easy to make fun of the Weekend at Bernie's owner, the totem pole at quarterback, the New World Order of a coaching staff and financial dealings that make MC Hammer look like a monetary genius. And the results should be predictable... "should" being the key word. If the Raiders ever put it all together (again, highly unlikely), things could get nasty for every other team.

After all, remember that all of these underachievers have blazing speed. If Jamarcus Russell's cannon of an arm could ever really connect with Darrius Heyward-Bey on deep routes, if Darren McFadden and Michael Bush were ever used effectively and coached well, if... well, you get the point. This team should be an offensive juggernaut and instead they're laughable. But some season, this has to come together, right? *snicker*

Will the Chargers be their own worst enemy again?
Last season, the loss of Shawn Merriman for the year to a devastating knee injury resulted in a middling year for the AFC West's most talented team. Now, Merriman's issues are different, but nonetheless might affect his ability to be on the field for the Chargers. If I'm A.J. Smith, the best money I can spend at this point is for a four month abduction of Tila Tequila (not that I condone such behavior). Seriously, the Chargers proved last year they weren't nearly as effective without him and that was with Phil Rivers finding his inner Drew Brees.

The draft pick of Larry English will help, but who knows if that translates to rookie success. The Chargers, simply put, need Shawn Merriman to be a player on the level of the Patriots, Steeler, Titans et al. And we begin to see how the player and team responds on Monday against the Raiders.

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