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Where Does Oakland Stand in the AFC West Now?

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 23:   Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders checks on teammate Carson Palmer #3 after Palmer was knocked out of the first half of the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Jeff SpiegelContributor IIMarch 29, 2013

As the end of the 2012 NFL season drew to a close, fanbases across the league eagerly anticipated the uncertainty that the offseason provided.

But not in Oakland.

Faced with a dire salary cap situation and low on draft picks, this offseason was going to be anything but exciting for Oakland. With multiple big-name players owed massive amounts of money, promising young players wanting more than Oakland could afford and few NFL players wanting anything to do with a cellar-bound Raiders squad, there wasn't much for Oakland fans to look forward to.

To make matters worse, the Broncos and the Chiefs did the exact opposite.

So as we stand just under a month away from the 2013 NFL draft, the question remains of where Oakland stands among the AFC West at the moment.

Just a year and a half removed from nearly stealing the division in 2011, Oakland faded in 2012 to third place. In 2013, however, it appears things are still getting worse.

At the top of the division are Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, fresh off a trip to the divisional round of the playoffs, where they lost by three points in double overtime to the eventual champs, the Baltimore Ravens.

If Denver had done nothing this offseason they would have remained in comfortable control of the division, but John Elway and the Denver front office had other plans.

The centerpiece of their offseason was wide receiver Wes Welker, who makes a dynamic offense featuring Manning, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas even more dangerous.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos parted ways with Elvis Dumervil and DJ Williams, but added versatile defensive back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Rumors are also circulating that Dwight Freeney could be the next player to sign in Denver.

As far as the AFC West is concerned, the other three teams are all fighting for second.

The two teams really engaged in that battle are the still-fading Chargers and the upstart Chiefs.

The Chargers, who finished 2012 with a 7-9 record have had one of the quietest offseasons in the league, with their most notable move being the signing of Danny Woodhead.

In reality, however, the most important move they made this season was the firing of Norv Turner—a decision that could push this franchise to finally reach the full potential of the talent on their roster.

Next up is the Chiefs, who will put a lineup on the field in 2013 that resembles very little of what anyone saw last year.

The biggest change will be under center, where new quarterback Alex Smith will take the reins after coming over in a trade from San Francisco. Other notable moves were the signings of Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson, immediately giving the Chiefs one of the most feared defensive backfields in the league.

Lastly, with the No. 1 pick, the Chiefs are sure to add another impact player to their team, most likely along the defensive front of their team.

With all that said, it brings us full circle back to the Raiders.

As has been mentioned in countless places on this site, the Oakland offseason has had anything but a positive impact.

With the loss of guys like Phillip Wheeler, Desmond Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Richard Seymour, the Oakland roster is going to be even more bare than the one that finished 4-12 last season.

So where does that leave Oakland amongst their divisional rivals heading into 2013?

Unfortunately, there's no rational expectation other than the bottom.

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