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WEST DIVISION

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September 02, 2002|BY NEWSDAY IN PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH BY DIVISION

OAKLAND RAIDERS

Coach: Bill Callahan, first season.

Last season record: 10-6, first in AFC West. Lost to Patriots in second-round playoff game.

Who's in: DT Sam Adams (Ravens), DT John Parrella (Chargers), LB Bill Romanowski (Broncos), CB Terrance Shaw (Patriots), S Rod Woodson (Ravens).

Who's out: Coach Jon Gruden, DT Grady Jackson, QB Rodney Peete, S Marquez Pope, DT Darrell Russell (suspension), CB Terrance Shaw, LB William Thomas, G Steve Wisniewski.

Outlook: The loss of Gruden is huge, but Callahan is fortunate to inherit a veteran team that can help ease the transition. Jerry Rice and Tim Brown still get it done, and Rich Gannon remains an efficient and elusive quarterback. The defense is iffy, although the acquisition of Adams and Parrella will help against the run. The rest of the division is beatable, so Oakland should manage to repeat as AFC West champs. They don't get very far in the playoffs, though.

Parting shot: This thirtysomething team keeps getting older. That's not the way championships are won.

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SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Coach: Marty Schottenheimer, first season with Chargers.

Last season's record: 5-11, fifth in AFC West.

Who's in: TE Stephen Alexander (Redskins), LB Donnie Edwards (Chiefs), DT Jason Fisk (Titans), G Bob Hallen (Falcons), C Cory Raymer (Redskins), KR Tamarick Vanover (free agent).

Who's out: Coach Mike Riley, LB Gerald Dixon, WR Jeff Graham, LB John Holecek, TE Freddie Jones, DT John Parrella.

Outlook: Schottenheimer inherits a decent young team that has quarterback Drew Brees at the helm and running back LaDainian Tomlinson anchoring the rushing attack. The receivers are only average, but the line is decent. The defense is better than most, and Junior Seau is still at the top of his game. A cushy early schedule should get the Chargers out of the gate quickly.

Parting shot: Looking for a surprise team this season? How about the Chargers.

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DENVER BRONCOS

Coach: Mike Shanahan, eighth season with Broncos.

Last season's record: 8-8, third in AFC West.

Who's in: T Blake Brockermeyer (Bears), DT Lional Dalton (Ravens), S Izell Reese (Cowboys), T Ephraim Salaam (Falcons), TE Shannon Sharpe (Ravens).

Who's out: CB Eric Brown, RB Terrell Davis (injured), QB Gus Frerotte, FB Howard Griffith, DT Leion Lett, LB Bill Romanowski, FB Detron Smith.

Outlook: The Broncos sustained a major blow when Davis went down with his latest knee problems, although there is depth at running back with tailbacks Olandis Gary and Clinton Portis, and fullback Mike Anderson. Quarterback Brian Griese is coming off an ineffective season, and his leadership is being questioned. The defense, which was so-so last season, hasn't gotten appreciably better.

Parting shot: If Griese doesn't show improvement, this could be Steve Beuerlein's team before long.

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KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Coach: Dick Vermeil, second season with Chiefs.

Last season's record: 6-10, fourth in AFC West.

Who's in: K Morten Andersen (Giants), WR Marc Boerigter (CFL), WR Johnnie Morton (Lions), T Willie Roaf (Saints).

Who's out: WR Derrick Alexander, LB Donnie Edwards, K Todd Peterson, T Victor Riley.

Outlook: Vermeil came out of retirement a second time and quickly realized he had another massive rebuilding project. Only this time, he doesn't have Kurt Warner to do the heavy lifting. Quarterback Trent Green was horrible last season, and the nasty holdout of tight end Tony Gonzalez didn't help matters. The defense is decent, but needs to be better.

Parting shot: Vermeil could have walked off into the sunset with a Super Bowl trophy under his arm. Instead, he's headed for more misery.

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