AFC West Q&A: Can the Chargers go from worst to first in the AFC West?

Today's question: Can the Chargers go from worst to first in the AFC West?

Jeff Legwold, Denver Broncos reporter: The Chargers are walking a difficult line in trying to balance how much they ask franchise quarterback Philip Rivers to do and how much help they give him. Rivers is still playing at a high enough level to anchor a playoff team. But 661 attempts -- that's how many times he threw in 2015 -- that’s out of whack. Only one of the six quarterbacks who finished with at least 600 attempts last season was in the playoffs -- Tom Brady. And any chance the Chargers have of escaping the AFC West basement to the top of the division hinges on what kind of support system they can produce. Yes, Rivers slinging it around makes for pretty stats, but the team hasn’t posted double-digit wins in a season since 2009. There are plenty of personnel executives around the league who look at the Chargers roster and see the let-Rivers-handle-it approach happening again. If they are going to turn their fortunes around, they just might have to ask their quarterback to do less. Their fortunes don’t really rest on Rivers, they rest on how well they protect him, how well they run the ball when he doesn’t throw it and how well they play defense. The Chargers aren’t going anywhere in the division until they build a roster that reflects a commitment to all those things.

Adam Teicher, Kansas City Chiefs reporter: When a team has Philip Rivers at quarterback, nothing is impossible. As long as he’s in their lineup, the Chargers will be competitive. But San Diego has to make up too much ground on too many good teams for it to win the division title in 2016. A more reasonable goal is for the Chargers to catch just one of the three teams that finished ahead of them last season. For the Chargers to do that, they can’t get swept in their six divisional games, as they did in 2015. Even that meager prospect sounds like a stretch at this point. Perhaps they can steal one from the Broncos, who face the Chargers twice within a three-week period in October. Both of San Diego’s final two home games are against AFC West rivals, on Dec. 18 against the Raiders and Jan. 1 against the Chiefs. If the Chargers can’t get it done by then, there’s always 2017.

Paul Gutierrez, Oakland Raiders reporter: Knee-jerk response? No. But this is the NFL, which, as we all know, stands for Not For Long. So sure, anything can happen, I suppose. But it is not likely. Consider: The Bolts were winless in the division last season for the first time since 1984 and have only two total wins in the AFC West the past two seasons. Plus, it would appear as though the rest of the division improved more than the Chargers did this offseason. Adios, Eric Weddle, hola, Joey Bosa? The Chargers are counting heavily on receiver Keenan Allen to return to form after missing the last eight games of last season with a lacerated kidney. Plus, the next time second-year running back Melvin Gordon scores a touchdown or has a 100-yard rushing game will be his first. And he’s coming off knee microfracture surgery. Still, with Peyton Manning retired, Philip Rivers is the most accomplished quarterback in the division. And while he may have one more ride left in him, it’s hard to see the rest of the roster coming along. Especially with so many unanswered questions over the team potentially leaving San Diego for Los Angeles should a November ballot initiative fail.