Kansas City Chiefs - Knowing the challenge of knee injuries from first-hand experience, I am concerned for the Chiefs this fall. A large part of their future rests on the surgically repaired knees of Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki. Furthermore, we don't know how they will handle the rigors of the season. Perhaps it is overly optimistic to believe Jamaal will retain his trademark explosiveness that has led to a career rushing average of 6.1 yards per carry, but I think that even in a rotational work-share type of role, that Jamaal Charles will once again terrorize opposing defense, starting in 2012.
San Diego Chargers - I think that for a long time A.J. Smith has been given too much credit, and perhaps kept his job for too long. The talent erosion in San Diego over the last five years has been awful, and the personnel decisions in the draft and free agency have primarily backfired on a once loaded team. The Chargers are a team with a mix of the oft-injured and aging players, that appear to be on the decline. That is why I think it is amazing that Philip Rivers gets so little credit for what he continues to do with this team. Yes we saw him struggle last year, but he helped this team make a strong push at the end of the season, it was just too little too late. I expect this team to continue to struggle as their defense will still be their Achilles heal. They will still struggle on offense too, but Rivers will carry this team on his shoulders yet again as one of the lone bright spots in San Diego.
Denver Broncos - To think that there will be any one player that will be more impactful to the Broncos than Peyton Manning is probably foolish, but there is one other guy that we should keep our eye one. The San Diego State product, Ronnie Hillman could have a huge impact in Denver as a rookie. He is now moving past the hamstring injury that set him back during the preseason, and is now showing the explosiveness that they saw when they drafted him. I expect the Broncos to ease the young back into the rotation slowly at first, but as they see his big play ability and the match up nightmares that he creates, it will become harder and harder to keep him sidelined. If any of the early comparisons to Darren Sproles carry any weight, Hillman will be a Game Changer in 2012.
Oakland Raiders - I love watching Darren McFadden run the ball. Over the last two years he has become more physical and has shown the ability to run roughshod over the league's best defenses. Unfortunately we continue to see him ride the pine on the injured list too. With McFadden's inability to stay healthy, it is hard to not focus on the depth chart at running back. That is why I believe people around the country will begin to know the name Taiwan Jones in 2012. Jones is a dynamic speedster that is entering his second season with the Raiders. Jones also has recovered from a sore hamstring and has looked great in the preseason as he locked up the number two spot behind DMC. While it is not often that you label a back up player a Game Changer, I have to in Oakland. DMC's health just can't be truster, and neither can Carson Palmer. So the Raiders will be forced to rely on the utilization of the running backs, regardless of who is healthy. Watch out for Taiwan Jones in 2012.