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AFC West Preseason Prediction: Chargers Keep Division Title after Coaching Change

AFC West
Chargers Maintain Winning Ways under Turner

San Diego Chargers (13-3)

If San Diego doesn't win the division, will Charger fans second-guess parting ways with Marty Schottenheimer? There's little chance they'll need to worry about it. This team is stacked, and the NFL blessed them with only the 14th toughest schedule in the league. Well, there's nothing the league could do about Oakland being in the division, but the Chargers also face Houston and Detroit.

There's no need to run down the list of top-tier players. It's all about whether Norv Turner can improve on what Schottenheimer built.

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Denver Broncos (12-4)

Denver, unlike San Diego, doesn't change coaches every couple years, and after 12 years at the Broncos helm Mike Shanahan keeps producing winners. This year he's trying to do it with second-year quarterback Jay Cutler and veteran newcomer running back Travis Henry. Cutler has weapons, including former Green Bay Packer wide receiver Javon Walker (2nd year in Denver) and former Patriots tight end Daniel Graham, and the Broncos have always had one of the best offensive lines in the league.

The defensive line is the glaring problem with Ebenezer Ekuban out for the season and a mix of journeymen and inexperience expected to make a stand. But Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly on the corners legitimize the defensive effort.

The Broncos share the 14th toughest schedule with San Diego, and if Denver can win a few big games early while that reshuffled defense gels, they'll be in good shape for a playoff run.

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Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)

If the Chiefs were in any other division, they'd have a pretty good shot at the playoffs. As it is, they're going to have to hope Arrowhead's home field advantage gives them that extra edge in the big games (i.e. - against San Diego and Denver).

The defense is in pretty good shape -- consistent from top to bottom and with reasonable depth. Despite having the 5th toughest schedule in the league, the defense should keep them in most games, and thus the playoff hunt. I have a lot of confidence in Damon Huard. I always have. I think it was a huge mistake to replace him with season-opening starter Trent Green in the playoffs. The Chiefs have a couple good receivers, a great tight end, and a pair of dangerous running backs.

But K.C. are lacking two things: an offensive line and a head coach, neither of which is NFL-worthy. If the line breaks down, Larry Johnson will have a hard time running, and if Johnson can't run, Huard will have a hard time throwing, and if Huard can't throw, K.C. will have a hard time scoring, and you kind of have to do that to win games. Why the Chiefs hired Herm Edwards, I'll never understand. And the Chargers fans thought Schottenheimer was bad.

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Oakland Raiders (2-14)

Oakland may be reminiscent of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost the first 26 games in their franchise history. The league's toughest schedule won't help. Best chances to avoid futility: Week 1 vs. Detroit, Week 3 vs. Cleveland, Week 9 vs. Houston, and Week 17 vs. San Diego, unless they're still playing for a seed.

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