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Mile High Morning: After big offseason moves, The Ringer evaluates the outlook for the 'all-in' AFC West 


The Lead

The Broncos' primary meeting room has one simple message: "The Team. The Ball. The West." The Ringer’s Lindsay Jones pointed to this vision board as an indication that the Broncos intend to compete with the Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders and earn a division title for the first time since 2015. 

"Denver hasn't been shy about its Super Bowl aspirations since trading for Russell Wilson back in March, but including 'The West' on its literal vision board is far more telling about the franchise's immediate goals," Jones wrote. "Before the Broncos can even dream about Lombardi, they need to contend with Mahomes, Herbert, and Carr to be competitive in the NFL's toughest division." 

Each AFC West team made massive moves in the offseason to boost their rosters, and Jones recounted Broncos General Manager George Paton telling her that he felt like he was in an "arms race" with the other teams in the division. Paton's acquisition of Wilson was quickly followed by the Chargers bringing in linebacker Khalil Mack and the Raiders trading for wide receiver Davante Adams, and the Chargers added cornerback J.C. Jackson soon after free agency began. 

Jones noted that for the Broncos, their ability to be competitive in the AFC West all comes down to Wilson. 

"The Broncos are betting big on their new 33-year-old quarterback and hoping the rest of the roster is good enough that simply adding a proven, high-end starting quarterback will enable them to close the gap with the rest of the division," Jones wrote. 

Garett Bolles told Jones that the AFC West "is going to be a bloodbath," but that he looks forward to the challenge. 

"You want to come out of a division like this and go into the playoffs, because you know you're battle tested and ready to roll," Bolles said. "I can tell you this, one of these teams in the AFC West will probably win the Super Bowl because of the caliber of teams we have here. I'm not saying the rest of the league isn't great, I'm just saying our division is, from top to bottom, stacked at all positions and all aspects of the game."

Below the Fold

There are a number of position battles to watch in Saturday's final preseason game, but to’s Eric Edholm, one stands out from the rest. On his list of one thing to watch for all 32 teams this weekend, he encouraged viewers to pay attention to the Broncos' backup quarterback competition. 

"First-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett said that QB Brett Rypien would start against the Vikings on Saturday, with Josh Johnson getting the second half," Edholm wrote. "Plainly put: QB2 honors appear to be on the line. It was hard to find too many silver linings from last week's 42-15 loss to the Bills, but Rypien playing well in the second half (after Johnson struggled early) was one. Against the Cowboys the week before, Johnson was the better performer. Of the two, Johnson has received the better opportunities, but it's clear that Rypien bought himself some time with his second-half performance last week. Can a strong showing against the Vikings win him the job behind Russell Wilson?"

The Unclassifieds

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