After running the numbers, ESPN.com pro football writer John Clayton arrived at a win total for every team in the division for 2012. Is the figure too high, too low or spot on?
DENVER BRONCOS: I’m not surprised Clayton has Denver pegged to win the most games in this division. I think the Broncos will be the favorite to win the division nationally. That’s what happens when a team adds a legend like Peyton Manning.
I think it is a fair number, because the team around Manning is getting better. John Fox is a premier coach and this program is on the rise. I can see Manning being the difference from an 8-8 team in 2011 to a 10-6 outfit in 2012.
The biggest challenge is Denver’s schedule. It is the second-toughest schedule in the NFL, behind the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
More or less? I think this a fair number.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: The Chargers have been a difficult team to gauge. They have been considered a Super Bowl contender the past several years, but have failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons.
Because of that, they have fallen off the national radar. I don’t think much more than an 8-8 season is expected from San Diego. But I like Clayton’s number.
Any team with Philip Rivers at quarterback has a puncher’s chance. The Chargers were aggressive in free agency and they had a productive draft. If the defense can bounce back, Clayton’s number is attainable.
More or less? I can’t complain about this number, either.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: I have to respectfully -- but vehemently -- disagree with Clayton on this one. While Manning overshadowed the Chiefs this offseason, I think Kansas City had a top-five offseason in the NFL. This roster is stacked.
I know why Clayton went low on this one. He probably doesn’t believe in quarterback Matt Cassel. But the Chiefs are so strong around Cassel that I think he should be able to succeed. If this team isn’t decimated by injuries, I see it having a winning record and making a strong playoff run.
More or less? This is way too few wins.
OAKLAND RAIDERS: From 2003 to 2009, the Raiders lost at least 11 games each season, an NFL record for futility. However, in the past two seasons, Oakland has finished a respectable 8-8. I have a difficult time thinking the Raiders will revert to their 11-loss days.
The Raiders have lost some talent, and their additions have been modest. Overall, they are on track for the long-term, though they may have taken a step back in the meantime. Yet I don’t think they will be 5-11. There is too much talent on the roster for that.
More or less? I’d go a game or two higher.