Athlon Sports is going division by division, asking and (trying to) answering the biggest question for every team in the league entering the 2015 season.
Denver: How do Gary Kubiak and Peyton Manning mesh?
The former Houston Texans head coach brings a run-first offense to Denver after John Elway fired John Fox and many wonder how his system meshes with the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer. Two things that will help, Manning will be significantly healthier than last year and the offensive line should be better than it finished. Manning will be much stronger, more durable and ready for one last run. Losing Ryan Clady in the summer hurts the O-line but this team addressed the issues by using two of their first four picks in the draft and signing two interior blockers in free agency. If the line is better and Manning is healthy, he will work just fine in the system and Denver should be celebrating its fifth straight AFC West title.
Kansas City: How healthy is the star power on defense?
Alex Smith and the passing game needs to improve but Jeremy Maclin and an improved O-line figure to help that. Justin Houston posted the quietest 22-sack season in history but there remain question marks on what could be a good defensive unit. Up-the-middle stalwart Dontari Poe recently had back surgery, Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson and steady defensive end Mike DeVito both suffered torn Achilles last year in Week 1, superstar safety Eric Berry is battling back from lymphoma and rising corner Sean Smith will miss three games with a DUI-related suspension. Even first-round pick Marcus Peters was kicked off his team during his final season at Washington. Should all these pieces return to full health and stay focused; the defense could be one of the NFL’s best.
Oakland: How fast can this young team grow up?
Last year, the Raiders lacked any running game and were very old on defense. But in just two quick years, this team has added a lot of intriguing young talent. Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Gabe Jackson were all rookie standouts last year so general manager Reggie McKenzie and new head coach Jack Del Rio are hoping that trend continues with more rookies — Amari Cooper, Mario Edwards, Clive Walford — and some young free agents. This team appears to be at least a year away from competing in the AFC West but the front office has done a remarkable job stockpiling quality young players. How quickly they grow up will be key for the Bay Area in 2015.
San Diego: Where is Philip Rivers head?
The fiery and emotional San Diego quarterback is entering the final year of his contract and was at the center of two major offseason stories for the Chargers — a potential trade for Marcus Mariota and his desire NOT to play in Los Angeles. The 10-year vet is coming off two big seasons under coach Mike McCoy and both the O-line and running game have been upgraded. How balky is Rivers' back? Do the relocation rumors hurt the Bolts' contract negotiations? Does the longtime franchise quarterback want a change? This team has been on the verge for years, winning either eight or nine games in four of the last five years, so one has to wonder if this is the Chargers' last shot with their star quarterback.