Denver Broncos 3-13
Keys to Defeat: This team is a complete mess. I can't help but wonder if Pat Bowlen's nightmares consist of seeing genius football coach Mike Shanahan's face and hearing the worse "You're fired" come out of his own mouth. Bringing in "wonder child" Josh McDaniels has turned a playoff contender into a complete joke of a team, and just might be COMPLETELY INSANE. Knowing full well that he has one of the best young QBs in the league, coming off a pro bowl season, Josh decides to go after Matt Cassel with only one year of success under his belt in a much superior offense than Denver's. This causes the entire soap opera that led to the blockbuster Cutler-to-Bears trade which brought noodle arm QB Kyle Orton to start for the Broncos. What could have been the second highest powered offense in the league after New England now just looks like a joke. Hopefully, early pick Knowshon Moreno gives the running game the spark it sorely needs, but if Orton can't open up the passing game, well.. I don't to state the obvious. The defense isn't much better than last year, Brian Dawkins was a great acquisition, but the secondary, while skilled, is ancient, the youngest starter being 30 years old. I don't think the linebackers they're trying to use are going to fit with Mike Nolan's new defense either. In the end, the only games I think the Broncos can win at this point in time are teams with offenses as bad as their own; Oakland and Cleveland. Though to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't be too surprised if either teams came away with a win over this miserable team.
Kansas City Chiefs 6-10
Keys to Defeat: Though Denver flirted with Matt Cassel, it was the Chiefs who got him. It was believed that Cassel would be the uncontested starter, pushing promising youngster Tyler Thigpen into the backup spot, but word is that forgotten man Brodie Croyle could be under center in week one. Obviously, this isn't going to happen, they didn't give Cassel franchise money to sit on the bench. It does make it interesting, though. Was Cassel worth the money? He's coming off a good year, yes, but he had one of the best groups of WRs in the league to work with, a great offensive line, and a solid enough defense to keep him from constantly playing from behind. He doesn't have any of that in KC. And to make things worse, playing behind NE's dominant line, with most of his snaps in the shotgun, Cassel still took 47 sacks. He'll now be playing under center of a much weaker line. The running game is interesting at least, as Larry Johnson is looking to redeem himself after some legal and motivational issues, but finds himself in a competition to start with speedster Jamaal Charles. All in all, if the line can pass protect, the team is beyond doomed, because the defense isn't going to hold anyone off.
Oakland Raiders 4-12
Keys to Defeat: Al Davis.
San Diego Chargers 12-4
Keys to Victory: You can honestly mark them down for a free 6-0 right now. They'll sweep the division. Easily. Beyond that, Merriman is back, and it's going to be noticeable. With the pass rush element back, there is going to be a lot more shaky throws for the Bolts' talented secondary to take advantage of. And for an extra boost, they brought in LB prospect Larry English who could make a pretty decent impact right away, and may even step in to Merriman's shoes in a year or two. The defense should be back to it's dominant form, perhaps even more so now that it'll be in full swing with defensive guru Ron Rivera this year. On the offensive side of the ball, Philip Rivers is now filthy rich, being paid, deservedly, as one of the top QBs in the league. He may not have a ton of weapons after Gates and Jackson, but he's skilled enough to work with what he has, and is quite possibly the toughest QB in the game today. It'll help him that Tomlinson is out to prove that age is nothing but a number, and may do just that with the "Lightning Bug" Darren Sproles ready to take on a slightly increased role, which will help keep LT fresh and healthy longer. The Chargers will coast easily into the play offs and, once again, knock on the door of the Super Bowl as one of the most solid franchises in the league.