Can the Chiefs defend their title or is this the year the Chargers finish back on top? Our roundtable takes a look at who will be crowned champion in the AFC West and who will make the playoffs out of the division.
Jeff Legwold, Denver Broncos reporter: At first blush, the Chiefs appear well-stocked on offense but may not get a chance to show their full power if a thin defense isn't up to the challenge. Meanwhile, the Raiders may need more time to build the roster under Jon Gruden and the Broncos are digging out from a 5-11 crater. The Chargers likely will open training camp as the division's most complete team. If quarterback Philip Rivers does his usual Philip Rivers things and the team's defense performs at least to last season's level (No. 3 in scoring defense and tied for No. 5 in sacks), they are poised for their first division title since 2009. The Broncos still have the guts of a championship defense with the likes of Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. as well as newcomer Bradley Chubb. If quarterback Case Keenum -- along with a rookie infusion at wide receiver (Courtland Sutton and Daesean Hamilton) combined with former Pro Bowl selections Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders -- can get the Broncos offense back into the league's top 10 in scoring, Denver can be the second playoff team from the division. If the Broncos' offense looks too much like 2017, then it's the Chiefs as the second team.
Eric Williams, Los Angeles Chargers reporter: The Chargers have not made the playoffs since 2013 or won the division since 2009, but they are the trendy pick to win the AFC West this year. Behind a stingy defense and prolific offense, the Bolts prove the prognosticators correct and take the division. With Alex Smith now plying his trade with the Washington Redskins, the Chiefs likely will take a step back. However, Kansas City has too much talent on offense and should be improved enough defensively to sneak in as an AFC wild card. The Raiders and Broncos are in the midst of rebuilding or retooling projects and will struggle to finish at the .500 mark this season.
Adam Teicher, Kansas City Chiefs reporter: Despite the arrivals of Jon Gruden in Oakland and Case Keenum in Denver, the AFC West again will be a two-team race between the Chiefs and Chargers. I have reservations about both teams. Kansas City is going through a season of change, though it's not a rebuild. The Chiefs have enough offensive talent around new quarterback Patrick Mahomes to score plenty of points. But they'll need a ton of scoring to overcome what should again be a shaky defense. The Chargers aren't as solid as they looked toward the end of last season, when they won nine of 12 games but beat just one eventual playoff team. Their 17-point December loss to the Chiefs in effect decided the division race and kept the Chargers out of the playoffs. Still, the Chargers have a more balanced roster, so I'll take them to go 10-6 and end Kansas City's two-year run of division titles. The Chiefs will go 9-7 and reach the postseason as a wild-card entrant.
Paul Gutierrez, Oakland Raiders reporter: Consistency is key here. The Broncos and Chiefs are breaking in new quarterbacks while the Raiders have a new/old face at coach in Jon Gruden. The Chargers? They have a potential Hall of Fame QB in Philip Rivers, who only seems to be getting better with age, the top-ranked passing game in the NFL, an upgraded O-line with free-agent center Mike Pouncey and the division's best one-two pass-rushing punch in Joey Bosa (23.0 combined sacks the past two seasons) and Melvin Ingram (18.5 combined sacks). And oh, yeah, the Chargers won nine of their last 12 games, including six of their last seven. An 0-4 start last season had the Bolts looking more like Dolts and slow starts have doomed the Chargers of late. Only one of the Chargers' first four games is against an AFC West foe this season. The Chiefs promise to have an offense as explosive as the Broncos' defense can be dominant, while the Raiders will be an interesting case study in an old-school coach trying to connect with today's high-tech game with young talent on the roster and grizzled vets on prove-it contracts. A certain, shall we say, cannibalism in the AFC West could make getting more than one team into the playoffs a reach.