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Chargers a Super Bowl sleeper

Philip Rivers and the Chargers again project to have an excellent offense. Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Denver and New England. New England and Denver. Those were the top two teams in the AFC in the past two regular seasons, and they were everyone's preseason picks to be the top two teams in the AFC this year as well. (Whether anyone is having buyer's remorse on the Patriots after their Week 1 loss to Miami is a topic for another article.)

But there's another strong Super Bowl contender hiding in the AFC, a third team that has a reasonable chance to run neck and neck with Denver and New England all year. Believe it or not, that team is the San Diego Chargers.

There aren't a lot of people talking about the Chargers right now. After all, San Diego hasn't really been a serious Super Bowl contender since 2009. It went 9-7 last year and sneaked into the playoffs by barely beating a Kansas City team that was resting its starters. Yet our simulations have the Chargers winning the Super Bowl roughly once out of every 21 seasons, which ranks them ninth among the 32 NFL teams.