Denver Broncos: Coach Mike Shanahan's quarterback, Jake Plummer, is a shade better than Kansas City's Trent Green. Secondly, the Broncos are counting on a change of injury luck.
San Diego Chargers: After LaDainian Tomlinson, not enough players. And not enough coaching.
Indianapolis Colts: Always weak defensively, the Colts are still trying to win with offense alone. They don't even bring in reinforcements for the defensive starters they lose to free agency.
Tennessee Titans: Can challenge Indianapolis with Steve McNair and Jeff Fisher — their handy quarterback and a coach who has shown that he is one of the league's top defensive strategists.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Will ensure that promising young passer Byron Leftwich develops slowly if they continue with their old philosophy — "run and defense the run" — which resembles Tennessee's.
Houston Texans: After the Texans tied Jacksonville for third last year (5-11), the question now is whether they've gone as far as they can go until they get young passer David Carr more help.
Baltimore Ravens: One of the NFL's best all-around teams except at quarterback, the Ravens seem to have enough power to beat the others in this division.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Their quarterback of the future, first-round draft choice Ben Roethlisberger of Miami (OH.), has the talent to push veteran Tommy Maddox. New runner Duce Staley is a good fit.
Cincinnati Bengals: Another new quarterback, Carson Palmer of USC, is the centerpiece of Coach Marvin Lewis' impressive rebuilding program. Good receivers Peter Warrick and Chad Johnson and a good offensive line will help Palmer adjust to the NFL.
Cleveland Browns: This team hasn't come on under Coach Butch Davis (having lost seven of its last 10 last year in Davis' third year). But Kelly Holcomb and Jeff Garcia are quarterbacks enough.
New England Patriots: In an otherwise weak division, the Patriots can lap this field.
Buffalo Bills: Though the Bills don't figure in 2004, they have maybe the NFL's best longshot chance. With one of the AFC's good defenses, new Coach Mike Mularkey has the players to turn the Bills around if he plays Walsh-Unitas pass-first football with quarterback Drew Bledsoe and, later, J.P. Losman.
Miami Dolphins: With Coach Dave Wannstedt, this team will have a defense but not much else.
New York Jets: Coach Herman Edwards hasn't yet lived up to his great promise, but he has a bright quarterback, Chad Pennington, and some other talent here and there.
National Conference, by Division