The AFC West: Trying To Get Back To Its Winning Ways.

William BakerContributor IMay 6, 2009

SAN DIEGO - MAY 03: Defensive end Luis Castillo #93 of the San Diego Chargers smiles during a break in minicamp practice at the team's training facility on May 3, 2009 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kevin Terrell/Getty Images)

Who knew an 8-8 record would get you this far in 2008?

It took until Week 17 for Charger fans and Bronco fans to find out which team would represent the AFC West in the playoffs.

Both teams were coming in with a poor 7-8 record. The Chargers bounced back to win their last three games while the Broncos were tried to save face after losing their last two games.

What probably should have come down to the wire didn't as the Chargers ran away with a victory 52-21 over the Broncos in San Diego in Week 17 stamping them in as the last official team to complete the final six of the AFC.

Surprisingly without LT's help, a 5'6'' former Kansas State running back, Darren Sproles, helped the Chargers upset the highly favored Indianapolis Colts in the Wild card round 23-17 in OT at home.

Unfortunately it was the end to a wild run the Chargers had as they lost to the Pittsburg Steelers 35-24, but can you blame them? They would go on to win the Super Bowl in one of the most highly praised games of the past 10 years.

Now with the draft behind us and the regular season less than four months away, the AFC West needs to step up. With all three divisional winners having 11+ wins, the AFC West is looking to not be the joke of the AFC by barely squeezing into the playoffs with only a .500 record.

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Just think back to the 2006 season. San Diego was the leader of not just  the AFC West, but the whole NFL League with 14 wins. And they are in the AFC West? Didn't seem like it in the 2008 season, not just for the Chargers, but for all the other three teams as well.

However, in order for these four teams to have more than .500 record, there are some questions that each team need to answer.

For the Kansas City Chiefs: Will new QB Matt Cassell be able to solidify the quarterback position? What will they do now that veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez is now a Falcon? And with drafting a defensive end, a defensive tackle, and a cornerback, can the Chiefs finally get a defense going that can get them from being dead last in the AFC defensively?

For San Diego, the age old question: Can LT stay healthy enough through the regular season that he can wow us all in the postseason? Will we see the return of "Lights Out" Shawn Merriman? And can Phillip Rivers throw for another 4,000+ yards again?   

For Denver: Will they regret the day they thought about trading Jay Cutler? Like Kansas City, can they get their defense to step up from being in the bottom? And what will new head coach Josh McDaniels do to make people forget about losing Mike Shanahan?

For Oakland: Will head coach Tom Cable be able to run this team without Al Davis over his shoulder? Speaking of Davis, can he by the end of the season be able to say, "I told you so!" with his first round pick of Darrius Hayward-Bey over Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin?

You're just going to have to wait 'til September to find that out.

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