1. The Broncos’ title window looks to be closing. Denver has won four straight divisional championships and has gone 17-1 against its AFC West rivals in that time. The Broncos, though, made just one Super Bowl and lost to Seattle. They were eliminated at home in the Divisional Round last season, and subsequently parted ways with coach John Fox, replacing him with Gary Kubiak. Quarterback Peyton Manning is 39 years old and his play tailed off dramatically near the end of last season. If Manning can hold off Father Time for one more season, the Broncos could make one last push, but it certainly feels like the end of an era is near in the Rocky Mountains.
2. Kansas City’s defense looks loaded. Only the Seattle Seahawks allowed fewer points than the Chiefs last season. Kansas City could get better on that side of the ball after drafting cornerback Marcus Peters in the first round and getting safety Eric Berry back after he missed last season while being treated for lymphoma. Offensively, the Chiefs got the big-play receiver they needed by signing Jeremy Maclin away from Philadelphia as a free agent. It remains amazing that Kansas City didn’t have a wide receiver with a touchdown catch last season. Maclin should change that.
3. Philip Rivers is staying in Southern California. Bills fans dreaming of the chance to sign Rivers as a free agent were disappointed earlier this offseason when he elected to re-sign with the Chargers. Whether they make their home in San Diego or Los Angeles in the near future – the Bolts are one of the teams rumored to be interested in moving to La La Land – Rivers will finish his career out west. He’s coming off a season in which he threw for more than 4,200 yards, but was intercepted 18 times. The Chargers added Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon in the draft, which should help Rivers by giving them some more balance.
4. Derek Carr has a new No. 1 receiver in Oakland. Alabama’s Amari Cooper, who was drafted in the first round, gives Oakland the No. 1 receiver it lacked last year. Cooper is a polished route runner who made all the highlight shows against Arizona when he turned Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson around for an easy completion. Rookie receivers have shown in recent years they can contribute right away, and Cooper should be no different. Even though they haven’t had a winning season since 2002, the Raiders have done well at the top of the draft the past couple seasons. Carr and Cooper should develop together nicely.
5. Khalil Mack looks really, really good. A “monster.” A “beast.” Those were the types of words being used to describe the University at Buffalo product this preseason as Mack made it look effortless getting into the backfield. His performance against Arizona, when he had two sacks, a forced fumble and several other pressures, had members of the national media gushing.