1st Place, Kansas City Chiefs: 11-5
Offense: QB Matt Cassel, RB Jamaal Charles, RB Peyton Hillis, WR Dwayne Bowe, WR Steve Breaston, T Eric Winston
Defense: DT Dontari Poe (R), LB Tambi Hali, LB Derrick Johnson, CB Brandon Flowers, CB Stanford Routte, S Eric Berry
The Chiefs look like one of the most improved teams in the NFL, and they didn't even have to make many adds in the offseason to get there. What they'll be relying on is the return of their offensive start, Charles, and their defensive leader, Berry. Both guys went down early in 2011 and KC never really recovered. Both are fully healthy now, and the Chiefs did bring in a few pieces that should help them out. Hillis could give the Chiefs one of the best 1-2 combo backs in the league and Routte will further improve an outstanding secondary. The one question I have with KC is their passing game. They have the weapons for Matt Cassel, but they need him to bounce back from last years 10 TD/1,713 Yard line.
2nd Place, Denver Broncos: 10-6*
Offense: QB Peyton Manning, RB Willis McGahee, WR Erick Decker, WR Demaryius Thomas, C J.D. Walton
Defense: DT Ty Warren, DE Elvis Dumervil, LB Von Miller, LB D.J. Williams, CB Champ Bailey, S Mike Adams
The Broncos surprised everyone last season when they not only made the postseason, but won a playoff game behind Tim Tebow. This year, they have a much more traditional QB under center, and he looks primed for a big comeback. Manning has looked great in the preseason, and has already built a rapport with the young receivers. It may be tough to get another big season out of McGahee, but they won't need him to do as much if Manning is Manning. Defensively, they have a the pass-rush and secondary to shut teams down, but need their run defense to perform.
3rd Place, San Diego Chargers: 8-8
Offense: QB Philip Rivers, RB Ryan Mathews, WR Malcom Floyd, WR Robert Meachem, TE Antonio Gates, T Jared Gaither
Defense: LB Shaun Phillips, LB Takeo Spikes, CB Quentin Jammer, S Atari Bigbi, S Eric Weddle
The Chargers again will rely on much of same formula they've used the past few seasons; a lot of offense and crossing their fingers on defense. The offense lost a big contributor this offseason though in Vincent Jackson, and I don't think they adequately replaced him. They'll need Gates to get back to 1000+ yards to help make up for the loss. Mathews looks like one of the best young backs in the league, especially behind this O-line, but he has trouble staying on the field. There defense has some players in the secondary, but not enough to make up for a lacking run D.
4th Place, Oakland Raiders: 6-10
Offense: QB Carson Palmer, RB Darren McFadden, WR Darrious Heyward-Bey, WR Denarious Moore, C Stephen Wisniewski
Defense: DT Richard Seymour, DT Tommy Kelly, LB Rolando McClain, LB Miles Burris (R), S Tyvon Branch,
The Raiders are in the same boat as San Diego. They're relying on their team improving with new philosophy instead of infusion of talent. They have largely the same cast that went 8-8 last season, but they finished the year terribly under Palmer. Getting a healthy season out of Run DMC will be huge and would help out the offense immensely, but is no given with his history. Their secondary is also in shambles right now as they're starting two castoffs at cornerback and the underachieving Michael Huff at strong safety.