Even with quarterback concerns and a defense that lost a couple of key starters, Denver will enter the season as the favorites for the fifth consecutive year. The difference this year is a clear sense that the Chiefs and Raiders are gaining ground and might finally be ready to topple the Broncos. There's ample reason to believe the Chargers will bounce back to .500 or above after succumbing to a string of bad luck in last year's 4-12 campaign.
The 2016 Broncos will join the 2001 Ravens as the only Super Bowl winners to enter the season without the top two quarterbacks from the championship team. The clock is ticking on Peyton Manning's five-year wait for the Hall of Fame while Brock Osweiler absconded to Houston with $37 million in guarantees, leaving Mark Sanchez atop the depth chart.
The NFL's dominant defense took a hit with defensive tackle Malik Jackson landing in Jacksonville and linebacker Danny Trevathan rejoining former Denver coach John Fox in Chicago. On the bright side, general manager John Elway matched the Dolphins' offer for running back C.J. Anderson and managed to restructure DeMarcus Ware's contract to ensure his return.
» Ensure that the football watching world isn't tuning into to the sight of Sanchez at the helm of the offense in the 2016 NFL Kickoff game. Whether it's a trade involving Colin Kaepernick or Mike Glennon or waiting for a capable veteran such as Josh McCown or Brian Hoyer to be released, the Broncos desperately need competition at professional sports' most valuable position.
»Super Bowl MVP Von Miller is under team control via the franchise tag, but there is incentive to secure his future via a long-term deal that will make him the league's highest-paid defensive player. Miller isn't the only key defender in need of a new contract. Restricted free-agent inside linebacker Brandon Marshall is reportedly considering skipping the offseason program if he doesn't land a new deal.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs didn't need wholescale renovations after closing out last season with 10 consecutive victories. The secondary did experience a shakeup, though, with veteran cornerback Sean Smith defecting to Oakland, safety Tyvon Branch now in Arizona and Husain Abdullah retiring. The front office also tinkered with the offensive line, as former Browns right tackle Mitchell Schwartz replaced Donald Stephenson while versatile guard Jeff Allen signed with Houston.
» Although the offense improved in the second half of the season, the strength of this roster is the defense. The pressure is on general manager John Dorsey to work out new contracts for franchise player Eric Berry and behemoth nose tackle Dontari Poe. Even if the team's brass has high expectations of second-year cornerback Steven Nelson, the secondary will need attention in the coming draft.
»Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West were rewarded with new contracts after holding down the fort in Jamaal Charles' absence late last season. Charles is said to be well ahead of schedule in his recovery from a second ACL tear. It will be interesting to see if he participates in any of the offseason practices, even if it's only on a limited basis.
» With so much quality backfield depth, Dorsey might be working the phones leading up to the draft. While he insists De'Anthony Thomas' name has yet to surface in trade talks with Chip Kelly's 49ers, Dorsey is trying to unload fourth-string tailback and kickoff returner Knile Davis, a source told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.
On the field, the Raiders are a franchise on the rise, adding a trio of impact starters in the prime of their careers with the signings of guard Kelechi Osemele, cornerback Sean Smith and outside linebacker Bruce Irvin. Building a solid foundation with quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Amari Cooper and pass rusher Khalil Mack has enabled general manager Reggie McKenzie to lure respected veterans in free agency.
» Even with the upgrades on defense, the Raiders still have holes on that side of the ball. Del Rio's defense struggled to cover tight ends last season and were susceptible to big plays in the secondary. McKenzie is under pressure to find a successor to future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson at safety.
» McKenzie has acknowledged "we'll get some help" in the backfield. Will he pull the trigger on Ezekiel Elliott if the Ohio State stud running back falls to No. 14 overall in the draft? Adding Elliott would give Oakland one of the most talented young offensive nuclei in the league.
San Diego Chargers
Former Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt has replaced Frank Reich as the offensive coordinator while head coach Mike McCoy was signed to a one-year extension.
» Whisenhunt has made it clear that his top priority will be to jump start the running game after a disappointing rookie campaign from Melvin Gordon. To that end, general manager Tom Telesco must stabilize the offensive line after a litany of injuries ravaged the ground attack in 2015. In addition to finding a successor for franchise icon Antonio Gates, a new center should be on Telesco's draft shopping list.
» Wide receiver Keenan Allen was streaking toward a Pro Bowl selection prior to a season-ending kidney injury in Week 8. Edge rusher Melvin Ingram closed out the season with a flourish, racking up nine sacks in the final nine games. Both players will be candidates for contract extensions following the draft.