Posted by SB Nation's Jason Garrison.
The AFC West is usually the worst division in the conference but that title probably should go to the AFC South this season. The West is filled with talented quarterbacks, especially now that Carson Palmer is a member of the Oakland Raiders, and each one is capable of leading his team to the post season, but this is the most muddled division in the AFC.
Here is how the AFC West breaks down as they head into Week 9 of the 2011 season.
1. San Diego Chargers (4-3)
2. Oakland Raiders (4-3)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (4-3)
4. Denver Broncos (2-5)
The Chargers have struggled offensively more than usual through the first half of the 2011 season, mostly thanks to interceptions thrown by Philip Rivers. They have a tough defense but it wouldn't be surprising to watch them drop important games in the second half of the season.
The Raiders, who were one of the teams involved in the biggest trade of the year, have a new franchise quarterback in Carson Palmer and they feel that he's the guy that can lead them into the playoffs. They may be right. Even though their new signal caller threw three interceptions in his debut with the Raiders, they'll be coming out of the bye in Week 9 and Palmer should have a firm grasp of the offense by now. Palmer's arm and experience could combine with Darren McFadden's legs to make the Raiders the team to beat in the division.
After starting the season with an 0-3 record, the Chiefs have won four straight games, including a huge Monday Night Football overtime win over the Chargers. If the Chiefs continue this hot streak and Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe continue to make the highlight reals, the Chiefs could win the division.
The Broncos started with Kyle Orton and then turned the ball over to Tim Tebow. Tebow helped the team with their second game of the season over the Dolphins in Week 7 but he also played terribly in the team's 45-10 loss to the Detroit Lions. This team won't succeed until they turn Tebow into a starting quarterback or until they pay a new one.
The Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders are all equally able to win the division. It will all come down to how each team does within the division and which teams win the important non-division games. Right now the winner could practically be decided by a coin toss.
The Denver Broncos either need a new quarterback or they need to turn Tim Tebow into the quarterback that they want. Until they do, the Broncos don't have a chance.
Predicted Division Winners: Right now it would be hard not to say that the Raiders or Chiefs aren't the division favorites based on the Chiefs recent win streak and the Raiders' new quarterback. However, you still have to pick the Chargers at this point. I wouldn't expect any wildcards out of this division either.