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San Diego Chargers

Having finished one step away from the Superbowl a year ago despite several key players being hurt, anything less than a trip to the Superbowl will be considered a disappointment.

Yes, both the Patriots and Colts stand in their way. But the Chargers have already proven that they can beat the Colts on the road and should have beaten the Patriots as well.

This year, the Chargers have the opportunity to gain an advantage over both the Patriots and Chargers as they play both at home. This should enable the Chargers to gain any tie breakers and consequently earn the #1 seed throughout the playoffs.

The Chargers only main area of concern this year is the health of all pro LB Shawne Merriman. Merriman who is vowed to play and put off surgery is really rolling the dice on his career and possibly the Chargers season.

Predicted Record: 13-3

Playoffs: Yes

Denver Broncos

If you cannot stop the run in the NFL, you simply won’t win. The Broncos who ranked 30th in the NFL against the run last year giving up 143 yards per game hope things turn around in 2008. The Broncos traded for DT Dewayne Robertson and signed LB’s Boss Bailey and Niko Koutouvides hoping that they can assist a unit that needs all the help it can get. My guess is the Broncos will be better, but not drastically better. This will result in the Broncos being a middle of the pack team just on the playoff cusp.

On offense, expect QB Jay Cutler to emerge as one of the best young QB’s in the league this season. Cutler has all of the intangibles that you would like a QB to possess, he just needed the experience. Now with the experience, Cutler should turn the corner and open up some eyes. Helping Cutler on offense will be RB Selvin Young who will take over the starting role for the troubled Travis Henry and WR Brandon Marshall and TE Tony Scheffler to round out a nice quartet of young talent on offense.

In the end it will come down to the Broncos run defense. And if a few players step up their games, the Broncos could sneak into the playoffs. But while they should improve, I see the gap to becoming a playoff team as too much to overcome in just one year. Consequently, the Broncos should finish just outside of the playoff picture.

Predicted Record: 9-7

Playoffs: No

Oakland Raiders

I know every year; many say that this is the year the Raiders will improve. And for the last five years it has not happened with season win totals of 4, 5, 4, 2 and 4. I will go on record as saying that the Raiders will finally give the “Black Hole” faithful something to look forward to for years to come.

Rookie RB sensation Darren McFadden will give the Raiders an electric boost every week as he is capable of taking it to the end zone every time he touches the ball. McFadden along with Justin Fargas will provide the Raiders with a great 1-2 punch in the backfield.

The underlying question to the Raiders success though will be just how well QB JaMarcus Russell plays. Russell who is a big armed QB has looked well in the pre-season and should gradually improve from week to week this season.

Helping Russell on the other side of the ball will be a very good defensive unit which is highlighted by an outstanding secondary. This secondary consists of a great CB duo of Nnamdi Asomugha and DeAngelo Hall and hard hitting safeties Gibril Wilson and Michael Huff.

Due to their defense and now having some play makers on offense, the Raiders will definitely improve this season. However, expecting them to go from one of the worst teams to a playoff team in just one season is simply asking too much. But there is finally hope in Raider land.

Predicted Record: 6-10

Playoffs: No

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs I thought had the best draft in the NFL this past April where they addressed various areas of need. DT Glenn Dorsey will instantly help against the run in the middle , G Branden Albert will solidify the offensive line, CB Brandon Flowers will bolster the secondary, RB Jamaal Charles will add depth at RB, and WR Will Franklin will add to the WR position. These draft picks in combination with the other current play makers in RB Larry Johnson, TE Tony Gonzalez, WR Dwayne Bowe and LB Derrick Johnson now give the Chiefs a team who will compete each week.

The only problem is the Chiefs need a leader at the QB position. And while both Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle should see time this season behind center, they are simply not the answer. They need to find a leader to compliment the young talent on the roster and until they do so, the playoffs will just be a dream.

Predicted Record: 5-11

Playoffs: No

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