NFL 2013: AFC West preview capsules
DENVER BRONCOS (13-4)
NEW FACES: WR Wes Welker, RG Louis Vasquez, RB Montee Ball, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DT Sylvester Williams, OLB/DE Shaun Phillips.
KEY LOSSES: DE Elvis Dumervil, RB Willis McGahee.
STRENGTHS: QB, CB, WR.
WEAKNESSES: OL, RB, LB.
EXPECTATIONS: Von Miller started buzz February when he guaranteed Super Bowl title. Then he got suspended for first six games for violating NFL’s drug-abuse policy. Broncos let Dumervil get away in free agency. Those two accounted for 29½ of Denver’s league-leading 52 sacks last season. How Broncos make up for that will go long way toward determining if they’re going to meet Super Bowl expectations. Peyton Manning looks stronger and more comfortable in Year 2 and said losing to Ravens in playoffs will push team.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (7-9)
NEW FACES: LT King Dunlap, LT Max Starks, OLB Dwight Freeney, ILB Manti Te’o, RT D.J. Fluker, RB Danny Woodhead.
KEY LOSSES: CB Quentin Jammer, OLB Shaun Phillips, RG Louis Vasquez, LB Takeo Spikes, SS Atari Bigby, DT Antonio Garay, TE Randy McMichael, DE Vaughn Martin, CB Antoine Cason, LB Antwan Barnes.
STRENGTHS: QB, TE, FS, OLB, RB.
WEAKNESSES: OL, CB, WR, special teams.
EXPECTATIONS: Up to rookie coach Mike McCoy and rookie general manager Tom Telesco to rebuild team that could miss playoffs for fourth straight season. Quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Ryan Mathews looking to rebound from disappointing seasons behind offensive line that remains suspect at best. Telesco jettisoned veteran depth in defensive front seven in offseason, but one of his acquisitions, pass rusher Dwight Freeney, has looked good in exhibition games.
OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-12)
NEW FACES: QB Matt Flynn, DB Charles Woodson, CB Tracy Porter, CB Mike Jenkins, CB D.J. Hayden, LB Nick Roach, LB Kevin Burnett, LB Sio Moore, DT Pat Sims, DT Vance Walker, LT Alex Barron, WR Bryce Butler.
KEY LOSSES: QB Carson Palmer, DT Richard Seymour, DT Tommy Kelly, DT Desmond Bryant, DE Matt Shaughnessy, LB Philip Wheeler, LB Rolando McClain, DB Michael Huff, P Shane Lechler.
STRENGTHS: K, DBs.
WEAKNESSES: OL, DL, QB, TE.
EXPECTATIONS: With about 40 percent of salary cap tied up in “dead money” to players no longer in Oakland, Raiders still clearly in rebuilding mode in Year 2 under GM Reggie McKenzie, coach Dennis Allen. Team appears more likely to contend for No. 1 pick in draft than playoff spot. Key measure of success will be finding players who can be part of foundation next season, when team has more money and more draft picks to build around. Big questions at quarterback, where Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor are fighting for starting job. Might not matter who plays QB if RB Darren McFadden can’t stay healthy and OL missing LT Jared Veldheer for at least half season can’t block.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (2-14)
NEW FACES: QB Alex Smith, CB Dunta Robinson, CB Sean Smith, LB Akeem Jordan, TE Anthony Fasano, RT Eric Fisher, OL Geoff Schwartz, WR Donnie Avery, coach Andy Reid.
KEY LOSSES: G/C Ryan Lilja.
STRENGTHS: RB, LB, CB.
WEAKNESSES: WR, OL, DL.
EXPECTATIONS: Chiefs watched from afar last season as Colts upgraded at QB and went from two wins to playoffs. Now, they’ll try to follow example. Trade for Alex Smith gives KC stability at marquee position for first time in years. New coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey, formerly of Packers, know how to win. Upgrades in defensive backfield should shore up porous pass defense while freeing up three Pro Bowl LBs in Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Playoff team? Chiefs seem to think so. Many others do, too.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org