Losing Von Miller ... not that big a deal?
All four of us pick the Denver Broncos to win the division. Two of us have Denver earning a playoff bye. That's what Miller's six-game suspension could be all about. The Broncos aren't just competing with the lackluster AFC West. They're competing with the New England Patriots, Houston Texans and other top-shelf AFC teams for playoff positioning.
Still, two of Denver's six games during Miller's suspension are home games against Jacksonville and Oakland. Four of the six games are at home. This team should survive just fine, but there are real concerns that a sensational defense will fall back to the bottom this season. The defensive line is full of question marks, with middle linebacker a potential weak spot. Champ Bailey is 35 years old and might not be ready for Week 1.
Chiefs in position to surprise
Marc Sessler and I put Kansas City into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. My case for the Chiefs:
1. Andy Reid is underrated as an offensive mind. He creates yardage, and getting out of Philadelphia should be liberating to one of the NFL's better coaches.
2. When looking for surprise teams, I always look to the schedule. The division schedule is easy, and the Chiefs face the AFC South out of division. There aren't many weeks where the Chiefs should get overwhelmed by opposing talent. Speaking of which ...
4. There needs to be new playoff blood every year, and I had too many other repeating teams. So there's that.
Surprising lack of faith in the Chargers
The Chargers are a decent bounce-back candidate for the same reasons as the Chiefs above. The schedule is favorable, and they have underrated defensive talent. I'm also not ready to declare Philip Rivers done as an effective starting quarterback.
I thought someone would pick San Diego as a surprise team, but it went the other way. My 6-10 record for the Chargers was the best of the group. Wesseling had the Chargers in the Jadeveon Clowney race with just three wins. It's hard to imagine Rivers, Corey Liuget and Eric Weddle making that happen.
Six wins would be a miracle in Oakland
General manager Reggie McKenzie says the Raiders are far ahead of where they were one year ago. I want to believe in Dennis Allen as a quality head coach, but it's hard to see the talent on the roster. There are too many new starters and random free-agent pickups. The team's best player -- left tackle Jared Veldheer -- is out for a few months. Chris Wesseling and Marc Sessler made a bet: If the Raiders win six games this season, Wesseling must eat his own softball pants.
If that happens, Allen deserves Coach of the Year consideration.