2017 AFC West Betting Preview and Odds
Last year there were four teams that finished with 12 or more wins in the regular season in the entire NFL. Two of those teams reside here in the AFC West, and after scoring a dozen victories each last year, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs have their sights set high again this season. From top to bottom, this is the most complete division in the AFC, and possibly the entire league. The linesmakers call for the Los Angeles Chargers (we are still trying to get used to that) to come in last place, but they still have a respectable 7.5-win over/under. Oakland is the slight favorite to come out of the division, and after their great season was dashed late in the year when quarterback Derek Carr went down with a broken leg, the Raiders are the second choice behind the Patriots to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Broncos are still trying to figure out what to do on offense in the post-Peyton era, and will enter the 2017 season with many questions on that side of the ball. The defense will remain one of the best in the league, and last year’s 297 points allowed in the regular season was bested only by New England for the best mark in the conference. Broncos finished with a respectable 9-7 record but that wasn’t good enough to reach the playoffs. Not sure they will be able to match that win total again this year, and that 8.5-win spot is tempting to play the under. All of our concerns are on the offensive end of the field, as they will feature a below-average quarterback regardless of who wins the job playing behind a suspect offensive line. Denver won’t be able to win nine games with defense alone this season – certainly not in a stacked division. Broncos need a lot of things to go right in order to hit the .500 mark.
Kansas City Chiefs
Much like a college football team that had played underclassmen, the Kansas City Chiefs will look to build upon their 12-win regular season with virtually the same roster of starters. Winning in the regular season hasn’t been difficult for Kansas City – it’s been the lack of success (and mind-boggling disasters) in the postseason. And while Andy Reid’s style of game management and solid defense might not be the most exciting brand of football (certainly not for fantasy players), it has proved to be a winning formula through the first 16 games of the season. Very tempting to take the Over in victories given Reid’s history of success and the continuity of the roster. That being said, this isn’t a team that can challenge the Patriots once the postseason begins, and it’s telling they have the same Super Bowl odds as the Broncos to win it all despite being a much bigger favorite than Denver to take the division. Another solid regular season but disappointing playoff run for KC.
Los Angeles Chargers
LA’s current state as a football franchise is a perfect metaphor for where this team is right now. The Chargers are a team that is literally in transition and will play at a 30,000-seat venue for the next two seasons. That’s not a typical setting for what has become known as “home field advantage” which typically nets the host three points on the betting line. LA lost their stud receiver Keenan Allen early last year, and if he stays healthy then the Chargers should be able to put up big numbers on the scoreboard. The problem, however, is on the other side of the ball. Only the dreadful Cleveland Browns allowed more points in the AFC than the Chargers last year, who ranked 28th overall in points allowed. Nothing on paper points to a big improvement, and in a tough division like the AFC West, LA won’t be able to win with offense alone. Backing the Over – especially early in the season – in their individual games seems like a safe play. As far as their win total is concerned, however, we like the Under.
Raiders were steamrolling through the league last year, gaining confidence every step of the way until they lost their offensive leader in Week 16. The sudden surge of Oakland’s success the last couple of years has the general betting public very high on Oakland. In fact, the Raiders are the heaviest-bet team in Las Vegas to win the Super Bowl, although we would assume some of that action has to do with the fact that the Raiders will be moving to Las Vegas in the near future. Still, we can’t argue with success, and a healthy Carr along with what looks on paper to be an even better team than last year as Oakland squarely as the favorite to win the division and give the Patriots a battle for AFC supremacy. We do like the Raiders, but perhaps not as much as the general public. Teams that see a massive increase in victories tend to fall back a bit – especially having to play a much tougher schedule. We do see Oakland as a near-lock for a playoff spot, but beating ten wins seems risky.
We grade the AFC West as not only the toughest division in the AFC from top to bottom, but perhaps even the toughest division in the entire league. LA Chargers won’t have a chance against three better-than-average teams without a legitimate home field advantage, and Denver seems to be on the decline in the aftermath of the Manning Era. Chiefs and Raiders will battle all season long for the division crown, and while Oakland seems to be built better for a playoff run, we give the edge to Kansas City to take the division at a decent payout.