DENVER (CBS4) – The Broncos had an unquestionably awesome regular season in 2013, ending with a record of 13-3.
That record looks even better after a glance at last year’s overall NFL standings and seeing that two other AFC West teams had winning records. Only one other division in the league (NFC West) had three teams above .500.
While the Broncos were surging, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers also put together stellar seasons and made the playoffs. Both teams — as well as the Oakland Raiders to a lesser degree — will present major challenges for the Broncos in 2014.
Here are the Top 5 reasons why things will be tougher for the Broncos in the AFC West in 2014:
1. Gunning For Denver. The Broncos have to face the Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders twice during the regular season. Each team will be giving it their all to knock down the team that has been the division’s king for the past three seasons. The Broncos only lost one of the six in-division games last season, a feat which might be tough to repeat.
Playing on a cold Sunday at the end of November at the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium looks like it will be a particularly tough game for the Broncos to win, plus an away game in San Diego two weeks later.
2. Phillip Rivers. The Chargers were one of only four teams who beat the Broncos last season, and they remain a danger to any opposing team as long as quarterback Phillip Rivers is leading the charge. Rivers had a fantastic season in 2013 and even led his team to a surprise victory against Cincinnati in the opening round of the playoffs.
3. Talented Veterans Join The Raiders. The Raiders were the fifth-worst team in the league last season, and they made moves that they hope will avoid a similar outcome this year.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew and quarterback Matt Schaub were producing big numbers for their respective teams as recently as two years ago, but they both had down seasons — Schaub particularly — in 2013 and now both veterans find themselves in Oakland. Schaub will compete for the starting spot with former Fresno State QB Derek Carr, who the Raiders picked up in the second round of the draft.
The Raiders also now have pass rushers Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley and cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers.
4. Versatile Opposing Running Backs. Kansas City Chiefs star Jamaal Charles continues to prove season after season that he is one of the league’s very best running backs. He ran for over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013, and he was also the team’s leading receiver with 70 catches and another seven TDs.
The Chargers feature a dangerous set of running backs in Ryan Mathews (1,255 yards, six TDs last season), Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown and the Raiders backfield includes veterans Darren McFadden and Jones-Drew.
5. Opposing Coaches. Mike McCoy of the Chargers and Andy Reid were both in their first years with their respective teams last year, and they should be even more effective with a year under their belts.
Reid is an offensive-minded coach, and the Chiefs were sixth-best overall in scoring last season. McCoy is also an offensive specialist, and he helped Rivers reach a career-high passer rating of 105.5 last season. He also focused on limiting turnovers. Dennis Allen of the Raiders enters his third year as head coach.