1. Los Angeles Chargers
Sure, they play in the smallest stadium in the league, but they almost clinched a playoff spot without overwhelming support.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
The time has come to see if the Chiefs heavy investment in QB Patrick Mahomes pays off.
3. Oakland Raiders
The return of ‘Chuckie’ aka Jon Gruden has Raider Nation abuzz.
4. Denver Broncos
John Elway is trying to salvage a broken roster with another veteran QB not named Peyton Manning.
Head Coach: Anthony Lynn
Key Position: Defensive Line
They boast one of the best defensive end duos in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. However, their run defense was awful. They ranked 31st in the league last year and they can’t allow even average teams to run for over 100 yards on them if they want to make the playoffs this year.
Key Acquisitions: C Mike Pouncey (Miami Dolphins), K Caleb Sturgis (Philadelphia Eagles)
Key Rookies: S Derwin James, LB Uchenna Nwosu, DT Justin Jones
Head Coach: Andy Reid
Key Position: Quarterback
You knew what you were going to get with Alex Smith as your quarterback. Patrick Mahomes has a better arm than Smith and frankly almost every other quarterback does. The key with the Chiefs is will they take more shots down field with Mahomes’ arm strength or take it easy since this will be his first year as the starter?
Key Acquisitions: CB Kendall Fuller (Washington Redskins), LB Anthony Hitchens (Dallas Cowboys), CB Orlando Scandrick (Washington Redskins), WR Sammy Watkins (Los Angeles Rams), DL Xavier Williams (Arizona Cardinals)
Key Rookies: DE/LB Breeland Speaks, DT Derrick Nnadi
Head Coach: Jon Gruden (ESPN)
Key Position: Wide Receiver
Not a single receiver had over 60 catches last season. Amari Cooper was almost non-existent and that can’t happen again with Derek Carr as your quarterback. That will be the most significant change with Gruden at the helm. Expect Cooper to get at least 80 catches and close to 1,200 yards. Throw in 10 touchdowns and we’ll call it good.
Key Acquisitions: DL Tank Carradine (San Francisco 49ers), S Marcus Gilchrist (Houston Texans), LB Derrick Johnson (Kansas City Chiefs), LB Emmanuel Lamur (Minnesota Vikings), RB Doug Martin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), QB A.J. McCarron (Buffalo Bills), CB Rashaan Melvin (Indianapolis Colts), WR Jordy Nelson (Green Bay Packers), K Mike Nugent (Chicago Bears), LB Tahir Whitehead (Detroit Lions)
Key Rookies: OL Kolton Miller, DT P.J Hall
Head Coach: Vance Joseph
Key Position: Running Back
Aside from the struggles at quarterback which should be alleviated with the addition of Case Keenum, who will be the feature back? C.J. Anderson wasn’t brought back after rushing for over 1,000 yards. Devontae Booker hasn’t exactly wowed anyone in his first two seasons. Enter Royce Freeman, a third round pick out of Oregon. History has shown that the Broncos have had success with running backs in the mid to late rounds of the draft.
Key Acquisitions: CB Tramaine Brock (Minnesota Vikings), CB Adam Jones (Cincinnati Bengals), QB Case Keenum (Minnesota Vikings), T Jared Veldheer (Arizona Cardinals)
Key Rookies: DE/LB Bradley Chubb, WR Courtland Sutton, RB Royce Freeman