Chargers in charge again?

Despite regularly getting off to slow starts, the Chargers have won four consecutive AFC West titles.

Is this the season that changes?

By all indications, the division is tougher, especially now that Oakland has cut ties with quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

Denver has blown chances to run away with the division the last two years and is looking to close the deal.

The Chiefs are trying to recreate the New England model with several former Patriots fixtures, among them general manager Scott Pioli, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. Anything to jump-start a franchise that has won no more than four games in any of the past three seasons.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers thinks play will be more competitive within the division this season.

"I think all four teams are going to be a little closer throughout the season," he said. "It's going to take longer for the picture to take shape. You knew going in years past who had a chance and who didn't."

San Diego Chargers

Can the Chargers finally get off to a good start? Is the team better off without LaDainian Tomlinson? Can receivers Malcom Floyd, Buster Davis and Legedu Naanee make up for the absence of Vincent Jackson? Who is going to step in and play left tackle if Marcus McNeill isn't there? Can the Chargers stop the run?

ROOKIES: Sunday.

VETERANS: Friday in San Diego.

Denver Broncos

How will the Broncos use Tim Tebow in the early going, and is there a good chance he'll wind up under center? Will defensive tackle Jamal Williams make San Diego pay for letting him go? How will the offensive line fare with two rookies starting? Who will fill the receiving void left by Brandon Marshall?

ROOKIES: Monday.

VETERANS: Saturday in Englewood, Colo.

Oakland Raiders

Does Jason Campbell have solid blind-side protection with John Henderson (who had a shaky 2009)? How much can Michael Bush's power running help what figures to be a better passing game? Can rookie linebacker Rolando McClain help a 29th-ranked run defense, and will he come off the field in passing situations?

ROOKIES AND VETERANS: Wednesday in Napa, Calif.

Kansas City Chiefs

Will Matt Cassel be more of the quarterback he was with the Patriots? Linebacker Derrick Johnson finished 2009 strong (two interceptions for touchdowns against Denver). Will he carry that momentum into this season? Will Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles be a formidable running back tandem?

ROOKIES AND VETERANS: Thursday in St. Joseph, Mo.

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