By Zack Kelberman (247SPORTS) – NFL.com disagrees with John Elway’s notion that the Los Angeles Chargers are the team to beat in the AFC West.

The media outlet on Thursday compiled of list of NFL clubs that could go from worst to first in their respective divisions in 2018. The Broncos check in among the “favorites,” with a “legitimate chance” to become the best in the West.

Writer Dan Hanzus says:

Case Keenum might not have been John Elway’s first choice behind center this offseason (no matter what Elway says), but he represents a solid addition who will serve as a huge upgrade over the pu pu platter Denver rolled with last season. First-round pick Bradley Chubb is a fascinating piece of the puzzle, a guy hyped up with LT-like game-changing abilities … and now he joins a front seven that already has Von Miller on it? Denver’s D — while not a perfect beast — has the potential to blow up opposing game plans this autumn.

Also working in the Broncos’ favor is the division they play in. The defending AFC West champion Chiefs traded away their top cornerback (Marcus Peters) and their rock-steady quarterback (Alex Smith). Turning the reins over to second-year man Patrick Mahomes at QB could absolutely end up making Kansas City better (I’ll never doubt Andy Reid in this realm), but it’s equally possible that growing pains are on the way. If the Chiefs do indeed take a step back, can you really say the Chargers or Raiders should be seen as overwhelming favorites over the Broncos? This division feels wide open.

Even the most pessimistic of Broncos fans would be hard-pressed to disagree with this assessment.

Elway absolutely crushed the offseason, filling every major roster hole with targeted free-agent spending and the best draft haul of his tenure. There is no area where the Broncos have not improved; Keenum is a monster upgrade on Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, while Chubb’s presence makes an already elite defense downright terrifying.

Indeed, Los Angeles, on paper, is Denver’s direct competition. They showed their mettle last season, rallying from an 0-4 start under rookie head man Anthony Lynn to win six of their final seven games and finish 9-7, coming this close to a wildcard berth. Armed with a young nucleus of defensive studs and captained by possible future-Hall-of-Fame quarterback Philip Rivers, the Chargers will stick as a thorn in the sides of the entire division.

Which prompted Elway’s comments.

“It’s the wild, wild West,” he said. “I thought the Chargers did a really nice job with the draft. They’ve got the settled quarterback, even though the Raiders do too. Looking at it, [the Chargers] may be the ones to beat. As I stand here, looking at it, the Chargers might be the team to beat.”

But if the Broncos’ talent melds together and Vance Joseph settles in on the coaching side — a big “if” until proven otherwise — it’s they who may retake their place atop the proverbial mountain.

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