Why San Diego will win AFC West

Philip Rivers has big expectations for the San Diego Chargers this season. Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The general perception about the San Diego Chargers seems to be that their window of championship contention is closed. This mindset is so prevalent that ESPN.com AFC West blogger Bill Williamson recently noted, "The nation has become tired of the Chargers. [They have] been a perennial popular early Super Bowl pick but have fallen short of the playoffs the past two seasons. As a result, not much attention is being paid to the team anymore."

While the frustration with this club is certainly understandable, the Chargers shouldn't be dismissed as a playoff contender. In fact, the Chargers should be considered the favorites to win the AFC West.

Here are five reasons why:

Philip Rivers is the best quarterback in the division

The addition of Peyton Manning to the Denver offense has many believing that the Broncos have the best quarterback in the AFC West, but Rivers is still the king of passers in this division.

His perceived drop-off last year was nowhere near as precipitous as generally thought. As I pointed out in my 2012 fantasy football draft guide, Rivers still had over 600 pass attempts at a 7.9 yards per attempt (YPA) clip (ninth best in the league) and accounted for 28 touchdowns in 2011. His 216 vertical pass attempts tied for third with Cam Newton in that metric, and his 12.0 vertical YPA (VYPA, which accounts for passes thrown 11 or more yards downfield) was tied for ninth. He wasn't far from being an extremely productive quarterback.