Major Additions:
TE Kris Wilson, OT/G Chris Bober, G John Welborn, DT Junior Siavii, OLB Keyaron Fox.
Major Subtractions:
OT John Tait.

Offense This Year: Kansas City's second ranked offense was downright unstoppable in 2003. Trent Green has developed into a premier NFL quarterback, throwing for over 4,000 yards. His primary target, Tony Gonzalez, is the best tight end in the NFL. However, the key to the Chiefs' offense is Priest Holmes. During each of the last three seasons, Holmes has registered over 2,000 total yards and even set the NFL record for rushing touchdowns in 2003. Kansas City had the best offensive line in professional football last season, but the departure of John Tait could slow down the Chiefs offense a bit. Tait, an All Pro offensive tackle, has been replaced by talented lineman Chris Bober. Nevertheless, chemistry is an important factor for any offensive line, and it may take a while for Bober to assimilate himself into this group. Another problem the Chiefs may face are the dropped passes by their wide receivers. Johnnie Morton and Eddie Kennison are nothing but mediocre wide outs, who dropped a gargantuan number of throws intended for them in their playoff contest against the Colts. All things considered, Kansas City will still have a top five NFL offense, but they will not be as dominant as they were last season.
Defense This Year: Although the Chiefs defense seemed dominant at times during the regular season, they were a fraud waiting to be exposed. Peyton Manning and the Colts did just that, scoring at will against Kansas City in a playoff contest. It's not surprising that their defense suffered such a meltdown. If any given team in the playoffs can not stop the run, they are quickly vanquished. Kansas City was dead last against rushing attacks, allowing 5.2 yards per carry during the regular season. At fault are underachieving defensive tackles Ryan Sims and John Browning and lackluster linebackers Scott Fujita and Mike Maslowski. A team so terrible against the run has to be decent against the pass, right? Wrong. The Chiefs weren't last, but they were ranked towards the cellar of the NFL. Lack of pressure on the quarterback (Vonnie Holliday led the Chiefs in sacks with just 5) and an awful secondary that couldn't even cover themselves at night are the reasons for Kansas City's futility against aerial offenses. Idiotically, the Chiefs did not add a single significant defensive player this offseason. What are they thinking? Someone they did acquire was former Chiefs coach Gunther Cunningham, will be the new defensive coordinator, replacing Greg Robinson. However, Kansas City's defensive problem was not coaching; it was their talent level.
Schedule and Intangibles: Dante' Hall could go down as the best kick/punt returner of all time. He had four magnificent returns last season; two even decided the outcome of their respective games. Hall would have scored more if opposing punters chose to kick it to him, rather than out of bounds. Kansas City has the largest disparity of weather in the NFL. In September, it is scorching hot and dry, while in December, it is very cold and wet. These factors add up to an outstanding 73-23 home record since 1992. It is also why they are at their best in September and December (30-15 and 28-20 since 1992, respectively). Unlike their soft schedule in 2003, Kansas City has a number of tough non-divisional foes to deal with in 2004. They include Carolina, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Tennessee, New England, Baltimore and Jacksonville.

Analysis: Even if Kansas City is able to return to the playoffs, they will quickly be eliminated, thanks to their woeful defense.

Projection: 10-6 (1st in the AFC West).


Denver Broncos (Last Year: 10-6).
Major Additions:
RB Garrison Hearst, RB Tatum Bell, TE Byron Chamberlain, TE Jed Weaver, DT Luther Elliss, LB D.J. Williams, CB Champ Bailey, CB Jeremy LeSueur, S John Lynch.
Major Subtractions:
QB Steve Beuerlein, RB Clinton Portis, WR Ed McCaffrey, TE Shannon Sharpe, OT Ephraim Salaam, OT Blake Brockermeyer, DE Bert Berry.

Offense This Year: Denver's 7th ranked offense suffered three critical blows this offseason. Quite recently, Shannon Sharpe announced that he will be joining CBS, replacing the flamboyant Deion Sanders. Sharpe caught 62 passes for 770 yards in 2003, and will be missed. Ed McCaffrey also announced his retirement, which means Jake Plummer's number of reliable targets have decreased by two. Ashley Lelie will attempt to step into McCaffrey's role, but the Broncos have no suitable replacement for Sharpe. The last two crushing blows are linked. Legendary offensive line coach Alex Gibbs has left Denver and has joined the Alanta Falcons. Gibbs, not head coach Mike Shanahan, is responsible for the slew of 1,000 yard rushers that the Broncos have possessed over the last eight years. Ephriam Salaam and Blake Brockermeyer have followed Gibbs out of Denver, which means the Broncos' offensive line will be the weakest its been in nearly a decade. Clinton Portis would have been able to salvage these significant losses, but he was foolishly traded to Washington; the Broncos' final crucial blow. Replacing Portis will be Garrison Hearst, Quentin Griffin and Tatum Bell. Currently, Hearst is listed as the starter, but Bell figures to be the best of the bunch. However, none will be as dominant as Portis, and all will struggle behind a dilapidated offensive line.
Defense This Year: Peyton Manning and the Colts are still scoring. Denver's defense looked downright pathetic against Indianapolis in last year's playoffs. That is why Mike Shanahan has made a few significant changes this offseason. Denver's chief acquisition was Champ Bailey, the best cornerback in the NFL. Bailey, 25, has been elected to the Pro Bowl the last four seasons. He will resurrect a lifeless secondary that couldn't stop anyone in 2003. John Lynch has also been added to the Broncos' secondary. Lynch will assist in halting opposing rushing games, in a division occupied by talented running backs (LaDainian Tomlinson and Priest Holmes). The Broncos have been prolific against the run in recent years, due to their three linebackers, John Mobley, Al Wilson and Ian Gold. The latter has joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he will be substituted by rookie D.J. Williams. Denver's defensive line is somewhat suspect. Gone is sack artist Bert Berry, who has not been replaced. The defensive tackle position is also questionable. However, all things considered, the Broncos should have one of the best defenses in the NFL this upcoming season.
Schedule and Intangibles: Freezing temperatures and thin air create a hostile enviornment for opponents, which explains why Denver has an AFC second best 72-24 home record since 1992. Like all the other AFC West teams, the Broncos will embark on an imposing schedule in 2004. Non-divisional foes include Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Miami.
Additional Reading: How Denver has been able to produce numerous 1,000 yard rushers.

Analysis: Denver's defense has improved, but are they good enough to hurdle the Colts? Can Jake Plummer survive without Clinton Portis, Shannon Sharpe, Ed McCaffrey and Alex Gibbs? No and no.

Projection: 10-6 (2nd in the AFC West).


Oakland Raiders (Last Year: 4-12).
Major Additions:
QB Kerry Collins, RB Amos Zereoue, RB Troy Hambrick, WR Carlos Francis, WR Johnnie Morant, TE Roland Williams, OT Robert Gallery, G Ron Stone, C Jake Grove, DE Bobby Hamilton, DT Ted Washington, DT Warren Sapp, LB Dwayne Rudd, LB Danny Clark, CB Ray Buchanan, CB Denard Walker, S David Terrell, S Stuart Schweigert.
Major Subtractions:
QB Rick Mirer, RB Charlie Garner, WR Tim Brown, OT Matt Stinchcomb, DE Trace Armstrong, DT Rod Coleman, LB Eric Barton, LB Bill Romanowski, CB Terrence Shaw.

Offense This Year: It's safe to say that this offensive unit will not be as futile as last year's group that was ranked 25th in the NFL. Out is ancient Rich Gannon, in is Kerry Collins. New head coach Norv Turner will disperse the West Coast Offense, replacing it with a vertical attack, which is why Collins was brought in. The ex-Giant can still throw the football 60 yards in the air. While Jerry Rice and Tim Brown have lost a step, the receiver who will benefit most from this is Jerry Porter. Contrary to his treatment in the Big Apple, Collins will actually be protected by his men up front. The Oakland offensive line has been revamped this offseason. Robert Gallery and Jake Grove were selected during the first two rounds of the draft, and Ron Stone was acquired via the free agent market. The one thing that the Raiders are missing from their offense is a star running back. Tyrone Wheatley, Justin Fargas, Troy Hambrick and Amos Zereoue will all be competing for the starting position. It will probably come down to Justin Fargas or Amos Zereoue, but neither compares to the other starting running backs in the AFC West.
Defense This Year: Oakland's 30th ranked defense has also been revamped. Newcomers Warren Sapp, Ted Washington and Bobby Hamilton will join John Parrella to create a very formidable defensive line. The Raiders will be playing a 3-4, which means Washington will start at nose tackle, and Warren Sapp will play defensive end along with Parrella. New linebackers have been acquired as well. Dwayne Rudd and Danny Clark will join incumbents Tyler Brayton, Napoleon Harris and Travian Smith. The linebacking corps are Oakland's weakest area on defense, even though Napoleon Harris is the second best player on the Raiders' stop unit. The best is Charles Woodson, who teams with Phillip Buchanon, Rod Woodson and Derrick Gibson in a very talented secondary. Denard Walker, Ray Buchanan, David Terrell and Stuart Schweigert are defensive backs who have been acquired this offseason to provide much needed depth. In 2003, Oakland was ranked 25th and 24th against the run and the pass, respectively. Both numbers will be in the top fifteen in 2004.
Schedule and Intangibles: Perhaps Oakland's greatest challenge in 2004 will be building team chemistry. The Raiders have eleven new starters this season. The Black Hole seems like an intimidating place to play, but the Raiders are surprisingly only 55-41 at home since 1992. Despite a miserable 4-12 record, Oakland still has to traverse a strenuous schedule. Non-divisional foes include Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Indianapolis and Buffalo.

Analysis: If the new-look Raiders can quickly gel together, they have a legitimate chance to win the AFC West.

Projection: 6-10 (3rd in the AFC West).


San Diego Chargers (Last Year: 4-12).
Major Additions:
QB Phillip Rivers, RB Michael Turner, WR Kevin Dyson, OT Roman Oben, DE David Ball, DT Igor Olshansky, LB Shaun Phillips, LB Steve Foley, LB Randall Godfrey, CB Jamar Fletcher, K Nate Kaeding.
Major Subtractions:
WR David Boston, TE Stephen Alexander, OT Damion McIntosh, OT Vaughn Parker, G Kelvin Garmon, C Cory Raymer, DE Marcellus Wiley, DE Raylee Johnson, P Darren Bennett.

September 1st Update:
San Diego has done an excellent job shutting down opposing running games this preseason. If their defense can maintain this level of play, the Chargers could upset quite a number of teams in 2004. Unfortunately, they'll have to grow through Phillip Rivers' growing pains. If Rivers pans out, San Diego could be a serious playoff threat in 2006, especially since they will most likely have two top five picks in April's draft.

Offense This Year: Even the best offensive player in the NFL couldn't save his team from the league's cellar. LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 1,645 yards, despite a brutal offensive line, a lackluster quarterback and a disgraceful defense. He also caught 100 passes; a record for running backs. Signal caller Drew Brees looked brilliant in 2002, but mysteriously degenerated into a pedestrian quarterback since then. If Brees can not reclaim his 2002 mystique, rookie Phillip Rivers will replace him. Rivers has the potential to become a Rich Gannon type of passer. However, a few problems with Rivers at the helm will be the lack of blocking from the worst offensive line in the NFL, and a decimated receiving corps, led by oft-injured Kevin Dyson and mediocre Tim Dwight. Promising young players Reche Caldwell and Antonio Gates will have to step up and become a reliable target for either Brees or Rivers.
Defense This Year: In 2003, San Diego was 19th against the run and dead last against the pass. They could be worse at preventing the run this season. Gone are defensive line mainstays Marcellus Wiley and Raylee Johnson, transforming an average group into one of the league's worst. In fact, the players up front are so bad, the Chargers are changing to a 3-4 defense, coached by coordinator Wade Phillips. San Diego's current starting defensive ends are Otis Leverette and Adrian Dingle. Ouch. Donnie Edwards leads a second-rate linebacking crew, which includes Ben Leber, Randall Godfrey and Steve Foley. Leber is an improving player, but Godrey and Foley are rejects from other teams, who have found a home with the league's worst stop unit. The strength of San Diego's defense is in their secondary. Quentin Jammer leads a quartette of capable cornerbacks, including Sammy Davis, Drayton Florence and Jamar Fletcher. Joining those four corners are two competent safeties, Kwamie Lassiter and Terrence Kiel. The Chargers' pass defense will improve in 2004, but they will not reach their full potential, thanks to an awful defensive line.
Schedule and Intangibles: It is difficult to win in San Diego, during the month of September and early October because of their scorching climate. Other than that, they don't have much of a home field advantage. The Chargers' taxing schedule will thwart their hopes of becoming an upstart team. Non-divisional opponents include Indianapolis, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and the New York Jets.

Analysis: LaDainian Tomlinson will once again have to carry the Chargers. The problem is, football is a team sport, which means that he can't do it by himself. However, if the new L.T. happens to get injured, San Diego might go winless.

Projection: 4-12 (4th in the AFC West).


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