They're a safe bet for the playoffs this year, as long as Rivers isn't any worse than mediocre, which would be difficult simply because of the tools he has to work with: LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, and so forth.
The coach, Marty Schottenheimer, and the GM, A.J. Smith, absolutely loathe each other but have common cause in that the owners, the Spanos family, are looking to see a playoff victory or else. What that "or else" amounts to we don't know, but it's my understanding that Stewie Griffin has been brought in as a consultant.
Kansas City Chiefs +3723 ~37/1
The Chiefs story appears to be roughly the same as it has been for a while. They love points, and they seem to have only a minor preference that the points be theirs. Just like always right?
Well, no. There are two big problems. 1) Willie Roaf retired. It would be hard to underestimate how much he was responsible for the seamless morph from Priest Holmes to Larry Johnson. 2) The big names are all perfectly justified in addressing opposing players as "young man".
I can't see playoffs for KC. In fact, I would take an under on total wins for 8.5 or higher. (But I'm not betting.)
Baltimore Ravens +4771 ~48/1
Here's a good dark horse. No I don't think the Ravens will win the Super Bowl, but nothing unreasonable has to happen for them to get a into the playoffs. Considering the talent on both sides of the ball (new running back Musa Smith looks wicked good), considering what a remarkable QB McNair can be, and considering that thankfully Ray Lewis is no longer the face of this team, the Ravens are a decent sleeper (and probably a good bet for the over if the total wins is 8.5, which I think it is). As long as nothing bad happens, I can see them in the hunt.
Of course, we all know Steve McNair's injury history. I'd like to see McNair hang with this club until he gets a ring. Few deserve one more. He is a proven ace QB, but also a proven casualty. Still, with the improved offense around him, even a fall back to Kyle Boller might not be a death sentence. (Important note: Don't say the words "death sentence" in the Ravens locker room. Riots have started over less.)
Best line of the off-season came from D.J. Gallo at ESPN, about Ray Lewis: "...while he has lost foot speed, it should not affect his ability flee a crime scene in a speeding limousine."
Jacksonville Jaguars +5264 ~53/1
The Jags pre-season standout has been receiver Matt Jones. Several folks have written of him as being ready for monster break-out year based on what sources in training camps say. Blah blah blah. At this point in the season, it's as if sportswriters are all putting together trailers for opening day — picking out the best scenes and presenting them as if that's the whole movie. Well, to quote Jack Nicholson, what if this is as good as it gets?