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AFC preview: West


Big questions: How will they adjust to two big contract holdouts, left tackle Marcus McNeill and receiver Vincent Jackson? Can the team finally get off to a good start under Norv Turner? How much of a difference will it make swapping LaDainian Tomlinson for first-rounder Ryan Mathews? Can Philip Rivers turn some unknown receivers into stars?

Big moves: Letting Tomlinson go was huge, and initial indications are both the Chargers and Jets will benefit. No one is shedding tears about the departure of cornerback Antonio Cromartie. What could haunt the Chargers is letting Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jamal Williams go to the Broncos.

Bottom line: The Chargers still have the upper hand in the division, but that's not enough for a team that is prone to laying eggs in the playoffs.


Big questions: What type of specialty packages will the Broncos create to get Tim Tebow on the field? Will Knowshon Moreno shift gears in his second season and be more than an adequate back? The distraction of Brandon Marshall is gone, but so is the production. Will Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney, rookie Demaryius Thomas or somebody else step in and pick up that slack? Who can replace the injured Elvis Dumervil on defense?

Big moves: The Broncos' run defense fell apart last season, so the addition of defensive tackle Jamal Williams is key. Question is, can he stay healthy? The most conspicuous departure was that of Marshall, although the team has high hopes for Thomas.

Bottom line: Last year, the Broncos became just the third team in the modern era to miss the playoffs after starting 6-0. The pressure is on Josh McDaniels to turn his players into finishers.


Big questions: Now that the Raiders finally have cut bait with JaMarcus Russell, can they get some consistency with Jason Campbell at quarterback? With rookie Rolando McClain directing the defense from the middle linebacker spot, will the Raiders improve against the run? Will Darrius Heyward-Bey make up for a throwaway rookie season and emerge as a receiving threat? Will Campbell get more pass protection than he got with the Redskins?

Big moves: Campbell was a good addition and played well at times for the Redskins. His confidence could use an overhaul, though, after the pounding he took last season. The most notable departure was middle linebacker Kirk Morrison, who led the team in tackles the last five seasons. He became expendable when the Raiders drafted McClain.

Bottom line: They might not be a playoff team, but the Raiders are good enough to break their streak of seven straight years with 11 or more losses.


Big questions: With ex- Patriots Charlie Weis at offensive coordinator, Romeo Crennel at defensive coordinator, Matt Cassel at quarterback and Scott Pioli at general manager, can the Chiefs locate a bit of the success those men enjoyed in New England? Can the Chiefs settle on a third receiver — heck, can they find two highly productive starters? On defense, can the team finally realize some return for its investment in linemen Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey?

Big moves: The Chiefs bolstered their ground game with the addition of running back Thomas Jones and guard Ryan Lilja. The club hasn't had a playmaking safety for a while, and rookie Eric Berry should be just that. The offensive line loses Wade Smith, a part-time starter who could fill in at any of the five spots.

Bottom line: Even with their celebrated staff and big-money quarterback, the Chiefs remain a team under construction.

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