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    AFC preview: Broncos look like favorites

    Wes Welker  adds a new layer of depth to Peyton Manning’s Broncos offense.
    Jack Dempsey/AP
    Wes Welker adds a new layer of depth to Peyton Manning’s Broncos offense.

    A look at how the teams in the AFC shape up this season (Teams listed in predicted order of finish; new players in bold; *denotes injured players expected to start when healthy):

    AFC EAST

    1. New England

    Coach: Bill Belichick (14th year, 151-57)

    Last year: 12-4, first

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    Outlook: It has been quite a tumultuous offseason for the Patriots, but with Belichick and Tom Brady there’s little reason to think they won’t win their 11th division title in 13 years. The wide receivers, tight ends, and defensive backs will be under the most scrutiny.

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    WR impact rank: 25th. Really need Danny Amendola to stay healthy, because there’s not much depth or experience in this unit.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBTom BradyDERob Ninkovich
    RBStevan RidleyDTVince Wilfork
    RBShane VereenDTTommy Kelly
    WRDanny AmendolaDEChandler Jones
    WRJulian EdelmanOLBJerod Mayo
    TE*Rob GronkowskiMLBBrandon Spikes
    LTNate SolderOLBDont’a Hightower
    LGLogan MankinsCBAqib Talib
    CRyan WendellCBAlfonzo Dennard
    RGDan ConnollySSteve Gregory
    RTSebastian VollmerSDevin McCourty
    KStephen GostkowskiPRyan Allen

    2. Miami

    Coach: Joe Philbin (2ndyear, 7-9)

    Last year: 7-9, second

    Outlook: The Dolphins spent $98 million guaranteed in free agency to surround Ryan Tannehill with better weapons and make the defense younger. TE Dustin Keller’s knee injury is a big blow, but if Tannehill can progress in Year 2, Miami should be in the wild-card hunt.

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    WR impact rank: 20th. Mike Wallace got big money, but can he be a No. 1 receiver?

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBRyan TannehillDECameron Wake
    RBLamar MillerDTRandy Starks
    FBTyler CluttsDTPaul Soliai
    WRBrian HartlineDEOlivier Vernon
    WRMike WallaceOLBPhilip Wheeler
    TECharles ClayMLBDannell Ellerbe
    LTJonathan MartinOLBKoa Misi
    LGRichie IncognitoCBBrent Grimes
    CMike PounceyCBDimitri Patterson
    RGJohn JerrySChris Clemons
    RTTyson ClaboSReshad Jones
    KCaleb SturgisPBrandon Fields

    3. Buffalo

    Coach: Doug Marrone (1st year)

    Last year: 6-10, fourth

    Outlook: Buffalo is once again making a fresh start under Marrone and first-round pick EJ Manuel, but already disaster has struck with Manuel’s “minor” knee surgery and Kevin Kolb’s concussion. The Bills have decent talent on both sides of the ball, but incompetent QB play could once again hold them back.

    WR impact rank: 12th. A lot of young talent and speed here, including rookie Robert Woods.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBEJ ManuelDEMario Williams
    RBC.J. SpillerDTMarcell Dareus
    FBFrank SummersDTKyle Williams
    WRStevie JohnsonDEAlex Carrington
    WRT.J. GrahamOLBManny Lawson
    TEScott ChandlerMLBKiko Alonso
    LTCordy GlennOLBNigel Bradham
    LGColin BrownCBLeodis McKelvin
    CEric WoodCBRon Brooks
    RGKraig UrbikS*Jairus Byrd
    RTErik PearsSAaron Williams
    KDustin HopkinsPShawn Powell

    4. NY Jets

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    Coach: Rex Ryan (5th year, 34-30)

    Last year: 6-10, third

    Outlook: The Jets are a wreck already, with first-year GM John Idzik favoring rookie QB Geno Smith and Ryan preferring Mark Sanchez, who got injured in the third preseason game. With little talent on either side of the ball, the Jets could be playing for the No. 1 pick.

    WR impact rank: 32d. Jeremy Kerley has talent, but their No. 2 receiver may be an undrafted rookie.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBGeno SmithDEMuhammad Wilkerson
    RBBilal PowellNTKenrick Ellis
    FBTommy BohanonDESheldon Richardson
    WRJeremy KerleyOLBGarrett McIntyre
    WRStephen HillILBDemario Davis
    TEJeff CumberlandILBDavid Harris
    LTD. FergusonOLBCalvin Pace
    LGVladimir DucasseCBDee Milliner
    CNick MangoldCBAntonio Cromartie
    RGWillie ColonSAntonio Allen
    RTAustin HowardSDawan Landry
    KNick FolkPRobert Malone

    AFC NORTH

    1. Cincinnati

    Coach: Marvin Lewis (11th year, 79-80-1)

    Last year: 10-6, second

    Outlook: The Bengals have made the playoffs and lost immediately in both years with Andy Dalton, but appear ready to take the next step. A.J. Green is a top-five receiver, rookie RB Gio Bernard has tantalizing abilities, and DT Geno Atkins is the best defender nobody knows about.

    WR impact rank: 8th. Green is a total stud, and there’s intriguing young talent behind him.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBAndy DaltonDECarlos Dunlap
    RBBenJarvus Green-EllisDTDomata Peko
    FBOrson CharlesDTGeno Atkins
    WRA.J. GreenDEMichael Johnson
    WRMohamed SanuOLBJames Harrison
    TEJermaine GreshamMLBRey Maualuga
    LTAndrew WhitworthOLBVontaze Burfict
    LGClint BolingCBLeon Hall
    CKyle CookCBTerence Newman
    RGKevin ZeitlerSGeorge Iloka
    RTAndre SmithSReggie Nelson
    KMike NugentPKevin Huber

    2. Baltimore

    Coach: John Harbaugh (6th year, 54-26)

    Last year: 10-6, first

    Outlook: The Ravens certainly got hot at the right time last season, but a drop-off is expected, especially with the heavy turnover of key players. An offense of Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and Torrey Smith is going to be productive, but the defense has question marks.

    WR impact rank: 24th. Smith is a budding (if not already blossomed) star, but there’s little behind him on the depth chart.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBJoe FlaccoDETerrell Suggs
    RBRay RiceDTHaloti Ngata
    FBVonta LeachDTArthur Jones
    WRTorrey SmithDEChris Canty
    WRJacoby JonesOLBJosh Bynes
    TEEd DicksonMLBDaryl Smith
    LTBryant McKinnieOLBElvis Dumervil
    LGKelechi OsemeleCBLardarius Webb
    CGino GradkowskiCBCorey Graham
    RGMarshal YandaSJames Ihedigbo
    RTMichael OherSMichael Huff
    KJustin TuckerPSam Koch

    3. Pittsburgh

    Coach: Mike Tomlin (7th year, 63-33)

    Last year: 8-8, third

    Outlook: The Steelers will always be competitive with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm, but the offensive line still appears shaky, they did little to replace Mike Wallace, and a once-dominant defense — which no longer has James Harrison — forced just 20 turnovers last year.

    WR impact rank: 17th. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders can be productive, but how will they perform without Wallace?

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBBen RoethlisbergerDEZiggy Hood
    RBIsaac RedmanNTSteve McLendon
    FBWill JohnsonDEBrett Keisel
    WREmmanuel SandersOLBLaMarr Woodley
    WRAntonio BrownILBLarry Foote
    TE*Heath MillerILBLawrence Timmons
    LTMike AdamsOLBJason Worilds
    LGRamon FosterCBCortez Allen
    CMaurkice PounceyCBIke Taylor
    RGDavid DeCastroSRyan Clark
    RTMarcus GilbertSTroy Polamalu
    KShaun SuishamPZoltan Mesko

    4. Cleveland

    Coach: Rob Chudzinski (1st year)

    Last year: 5-11, fourth

    Outlook: There’s actually a lot to like about the Browns, with great offensive coaches in Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner and exciting young players such as Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon, Cameron Jordan, and Joe Haden. The Browns are unfortunate to play in a tough division.

    WR impact rank: 19th. Young talent in Gordon and Greg Little. Just need a QB to get them the ball.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBBrandon WeedenDEAhtyba Rubin
    RBTrent RichardsonNTPhil Taylor
    FBChris OgbonnayaDEDesmond Bryant
    WRGreg LittleOLBPaul Kruger
    WR*Josh GordonILBD’Qwell Jackson
    TEJordan CameronILBCraig Robertson
    LTJoe ThomasOLBJabaal Sheard
    LGJason PinkstonCBJoe Haden
    CAlex MackCBBuster Skrine
    RGShawn LauvaoST.J. Ward
    RTMitchell SchwartzSTashaun Gipson
    KBill CundiffPSpencer Lanning

    AFC SOUTH

    1. Indianapolis

    Coach: Chuck Pagano (2ndyear, 11-5)

    Last year: 11-5, second

    Outlook: Andrew Luck literally carried the Colts to the playoffs last year as a rookie with a ton of young talent on both sides. Now that talent is a year older, the coach is healthy and ready to lead a nasty defense, and Luck is ready to break out as an elite quarterback.

    WR impact rank: 9th. Reggie Wayne is still The Man at 34 and there are young speedsters such as T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBAndrew LuckDECory Redding
    RBVick BallardNTJosh Chapman
    FBStanley HaviliDERicky Jean-Francois
    WRReggie WayneOLBErik Walden
    WRDarrius Heyward-BeyILBPat Angerer
    TEDwayne AllenILBJerrell Freeman
    LTAnthony CastonzoOLBRobert Mathis
    LGDonald ThomasCBGreg Toler
    CSamson SateleCBVontae Davis
    RGMike McGlynnSAntoine Bethea
    RTGosder CherilusSLaRon Landry
    KAdam VinatieriPPat McAfee

    2. Houston

    Coach: Gary Kubiak (8th year, 59-53)

    Last year: 12-4, first

    Outlook: The Texans will once again have one of the NFL’s most dynamic defenses. But Andre Johnson is a year older, Arian Foster (calf) and Ed Reed (hip) are banged up, and you have to wonder if the Texans’ window with Matt Schaub is starting to close.

    WR impact rank: 14th. Johnson scored only four TDs last year and DeAndre Hopkins and DeVier Posey are unproven.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBMatt SchaubDEJ.J. Watt
    RBArian FosterDTEarl Mitchell
    FBGreg JonesDETim Jamison
    WRAndre JohnsonOLBBrooks Reed
    WR*DeAndre HopkinsILBBrian Cushing
    TEOwen DanielsILBJoe Mays
    LTDuane BrownOLBWhitney Mercilus
    LGWade SmithCBKareem Jackson
    CChris MyersCBJohnathan Joseph
    RGBrandon BrooksSDanieal Manning
    RTDerek NewtonS*Ed Reed
    KRandy BullockPShane Lechler

    3. Tennessee

    Coach: Mike Munchak (3rd year, 15-17)

    Last year: 6-10, third

    Outlook: The offensive line has been bolstered by G Andy Levitre and the drafting of G Chance Warmack, and a defense led by Akeem Ayers and Michael Griffin forced a healthy 24 turnovers last year. But if Jake Locker can’t turn into a competent passer, this team will go nowhere.

    WR impact rank: 22d. Kenny Britt is talented when healthy, and their depth is decent but nothing special.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBJake LockerDEDerrick Morgan
    RBChris JohnsonDTSammie Hill
    FBQuinn JohnsonDTJurrell Casey
    WRNate WashingtonDEKamerion Wimbley
    WRKenny BrittOLBAkeem Ayers
    TEDelanie WalkerMLBColin McCarthy
    LTMichael RoosOLBZach Brown
    LGAndy LevitreCBJason McCourty
    CRob TurnerCBAlterraun Verner
    RGChance WarmackSBernard Pollard
    RTDavid StewartSMichael Griffin
    KRob BironasPBrett Kern

    4. Jacksonville

    Coach: Gus Bradley (1st year)

    Last year: 2-14, fourth

    Outlook: The Jaguars might not win many games, but they could be exciting with young offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. But the defense can’t get any pass rush, and Blaine Gabbert is one bad month from losing the starting QB job for good.

    WR impact rank: 21st. Good young talent here in Justin Blackmon (four-game suspension), Cecil Shorts, and Ace Sanders, but no one to throw them the ball.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBBlaine GabbertDETyson Alualu
    RBMaurice Jones-DrewDTRoy Miller
    FBWill Ta’ufo’ouDTSen’Derrick Marks
    WRCecil ShortsDEJason Babin
    WRAce SandersOLBGeno Hayes
    TEMarcedes LewisMLBPaul Posluszny
    LTEugene MonroeOLBRussell Allen
    LGWill RackleyCBDwayne Gratz
    CBrad MeesterCBAlan Ball
    RGUche NwaneriSJonathan Cyprien
    RTLuke JoeckelSDwight Lowery
    KJosh ScobeePBryan Anger

    AFC WEST

    1. Denver

    Coach: John Fox (3rd year, 21-11)

    Last year: 13-3, first

    Outlook: The Broncos were a fluke play from reaching the AFC Championship game, and enter this year as the AFC favorites after adding Wes Welker to a dynamic offense. But the pass rush, No. 1 in the NFL in sacks last year, could struggle without Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller suspended for six games.

    WR impact rank: 1st. They already had Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, and added Wes Welker.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBPeyton ManningDEDerek Wolfe
    RBRonnie HillmanDTKevin Vickerson
    WRWes WelkerDTTerrance Knighton
    WRDemaryius ThomasDERobert Ayers
    WREric DeckerOLBNate Irving
    TEJulius ThomasMLBWesley Woodyard
    LTRyan CladyOLBDanny Trevathan
    LGZane BeadlesCB*Champ Bailey
    CManny RamirezCBD. Rodgers-Cromartie
    RGLouis VasquezSDuke Ihenacho
    RTOrlando FranklinSRahim Moore
    KMatt PraterPBritton Colquitt

    2. Kansas City

    Coach: Andy Reid (1st year)

    Last year: 2-14, fourth

    Outlook: Last year was a disaster for the Chiefs, but mostly because of terrible quarterback play, shaky coaching, and the Jovan Belcher tragedy. The Chiefs have a lot of talent on both sides, and should be one of the league’s most improved teams with Reid and QB Alex Smith now in tow.

    WR impact rank: 26th. Dwayne Bowe is still an elite receiver, but there’s nothing behind him.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBAlex SmithDETyson Jackson
    RBJamaal CharlesDTDontari Poe
    FBAnthony ShermanDEMike DeVito
    WRDwayne BoweOLBJustin Houston
    WRDonnie AveryILBAkeem Jordan
    TEAnthony FasanoILBDerrick Johnson
    LTBranden AlbertOLBTamba Hail
    LGJeff AllenCBBrandon Flowers
    CRodney HudsonCBSean Smith
    RGJon AsamoahSEric Berry
    RTEric FisherSKendrick Lewis
    KRyan SuccopPDustin Colquitt

    3. San Diego

    Coach: Mike McCoy (1st year)

    Last year: 7-9, second

    Outlook: The Chargers still expect to compete for the playoffs with Philip Rivers’s clock starting to tick (now 32). Only problem is this team is devoid of talent on offense — Antonio Gates is the only legit playmaker. On the plus side, they were stingy against the run last year (3.8 yards per carry).

    WR impact rank: 31st. There’s not much talent here to begin with, and the receivers are all banged up.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBPhilip RiversDECorey Liuget
    RBRyan MathewsNTCam Thomas
    FBLe’Ron McClainDEKendall Reyes
    WR*Malcom FloydOLBDwight Freeney
    WREddie RoyalILB*Manti Te’o
    TEAntonio GatesILBDonald Butler
    LTKing DunlapOLBJarret Johnson
    LGChad RinehartCBShareece Wright
    CNick HardwickCBDerek Cox
    RGJeromey ClarySMarcus Gilchrist
    RTD.J. FlukerSEric Weddle
    KNick NovakPMike Scifres

    4. Oakland

    Coach: Dennis Allen (2ndyear, 4-12)

    Last year: 4-12, third

    Outlook: The Raiders are in perpetual rebuilding mode and may be in for another long season that could cost GM Reggie McKenzie his job. Darren McFadden is the only playmaker on offense, and the defense is a refuge for veteran castoffs. At least QB Terrelle Pryor might be fun to watch.

    WR impact rank: 30th. Denarius Moore showed promise last year, but there’s little depth behind him.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBMatt FlynnDELamarr Houston
    RBDarren McFaddenDTVance Walker
    FBMarcel ReeceDTPat Sims
    WRDenarius MooreDEJason Hunter
    WRRod StreaterOLBKevin Burnett
    TEDavid AusberryMLBNick Roach
    LTJared VeldheerOLBSio Moore
    LGLucas NixCBTracy Porter
    CStefen WisniewskiCBMike Jenkins
    RGMike BrisielSCharles Woodson
    RTKhalif BarnesSTyvon Branch
    KSebastian JanikowskiPMarquette King