AFC West foes ready to challenge the champs

In 2006, the San Diego Chargers ran away with the AFC West title, finishing with a five-game margin of victory. As a result, the rest of the division was über-aggressive during the offseason, looking to close the gap on the defending champions. The following is a look at what the rest of the AFC West has done to prevent the Chargers from winning a third title in four years.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs were so impressed with the Chargers' talent that they decided to take some for themselves. Kansas City signed former Charger Donnie Edwards to a three-year contract, giving the tackling machine a chance to exact some revenge on the team that was trying to trade him at this time last year. The Chiefs landed another former Charger in left tackle Damion McIntosh, who signed a six-year deal.

The real point of interest in Kansas City is the quarterback position, where Brodie Croyle will compete with Damon Huard for the starting job – assuming Trent Green is eventually traded or released. If the second-year man Croyle wins the job, he will have a hard time experiencing immediate success, given his lack of seasoning and the Chiefs' mediocre receiving corps.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos' offseason gives Chargers fans real reason to fret. Denver added Travis Henry, Daniel Graham and Brandon Stokley to an offense that was already starting to gel under the guidance of impressive youngster Jay Cutler. On defense, the addition of Dre' Bly will prevent opponents from picking on the cornerback opposite Champ Bailey.

The Broncos made their share of questionable moves as well. They picked up another defensive lineman from the Cleveland Browns (Alvin McKinley); they inked a fat and obnoxious punter (Todd Sauerbrun); and they drafted two players with character issues (Jarvis Moss and Marcus Thomas). However, the Broncos still appear to be the Chargers' biggest threat.

Oakland Raiders

It is difficult to make the Raiders' transactions seem relevant to the race for a division title, but that's no reason not to try. Oakland drafted its franchise quarterback in JaMarcus Russell, giving the team hope for the future if nothing else. The Raiders also gave him some weapons to work with, trading for Mike Williams and signing Dominic Rhodes and versatile fullback Justin Griffith.

If that offense can even approach respectability, the Raiders will surprise some people. Oakland's defense was spectacular in 2006, ranking No.3 in the league. It is loaded with young stars, such as Derrick Burgess, Kirk Morrison and Nnamdi Asomugha. Under the tutelage of Rob Ryan, this aggressive unit will only improve. Can they improve enough to leap-frog the Chargers in the standings? Well, that's about as likely as Rosie O'Donnell gracing the cover of Playboy.

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