Welcome to the LazyBets preview of the AFC West. We’ll be taking a look at each team in the division and their odds of finishing in the top spot, so that we can find the best value bets available before the season starts on Thursday.
The AFC West is a division where it is hard to tell what you are going to get from any of the teams in it. All four teams have a realistic chance to come out on top and get themselves at least one home game when the playoffs arrive.
Can the Chargers’ defense lead them to a division crown? Will the new quarterbacks in KC and Denver help them take a step forward? Is Jon Gruden capable of returning the Raiders to prominence?
Let’s take a look at the odds to win the AFC West provided by BetOnline.
Last year, the Los Angeles Chargers lost several games that they should have won. The first few weeks of the season saw them miss several field goals that would have put them in position to win games, with kicker Younghoe Koo essentially costing them a spot in the playoffs. This season, the Chargers are receiving a lot of attention as they look poised to take a step forward in a crowded division.
The biggest factor that will help the Chargers improve year over year will be their defense. Los Angeles is anchored by one of the more formidable pass rushes in the game, led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. They are lacking in the linebacker and secondary departments, especially after the loss of Jason Verrett to a season-ending training camp injury. However, if Bosa, Ingram, and company can get to the quarterback, those deficiencies won’t hurt quite as badly as they would for most teams.
Offensively, Melvin Gordon will be ready to carry the load on the ground, but the Chargers are hoping that their passing game is what delivers them to glory this season. Keenan Allen is healthy once again, and will team up with Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin to cause havoc in opposing secondaries. Philip Rivers should have enough weapons to make this Chargers offense one of the best in his 15 years with the franchise.
However, the big story for the Chargers’ offense is the loss of tight end Hunter Henry. Henry emerged as one of the best young tight ends in the league last season, but will miss the entire season as a result of a torn ACL. The team re-signed veteran Antonio Gates to complement free agent signing Virgil Green, but at this stage of Gates’ career, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to provide the production the Chargers have come to expect out of the position.
In terms of teams that have taken the biggest chances going into the 2018 NFL season, there may not be a more adventurous squad than the Kansas City Chiefs. They moved quarterback Alex Smith to Washington, in a declaration that Pat Mahomes will be the starting quarterback for them after they drafted him prior to last season
Mahomes is a great athlete at quarterback, with plenty of speed and the ability to throw the ball deep downfield. The big arm of Mahomes was something that the Chiefs didn’t have when Smith was their quarterback. The problem with Mahomes, though, is that he lacks experience and will take some time to get used to the requirements of winning games on Sundays. It will be fun to watch Mahomes throw deep to Tyreek Hill, though, that’s for sure.
The Chiefs have also brought in Sammy Watkins, who spent much of last season with the Rams. Watkins is a good wide receiver when he is healthy. The problem is that he has not been healthy enough to be a consistent difference maker. If that changes, Watkins can be another reliable target for Mahomes.
Tight end Travis Kelce and running back Kareem Hunt should be elite performers at their positions once again, although they may struggle to reach the heights they did in 2017 with a fresh-faced QB at the helm. Kelce led the NFL in receptions by a tight end and Hunt led the NFL in rushing last year, but we see both of them coming back to the pack this season.
On defense, the Chiefs lost Marcus Peters, and have brought in David Amerson to replace him at corner in a significant downgrade for a defense that was 26th in the league in yards against per play last year. Past defensive leaders Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali are no longer with the team after being released this offseason, so the Kansas City defense will have big shoes to fill this year.
The Chiefs have boom or bust potential with all of the changes they made going into the 2018 season. While some are predicting a lot of success for Andy Reid’s squad, we think that Mahomes’ erratic play and the fresh faces on defense will limit their upside. We’re not taking the Chiefs at +275 to win the AFC West.
It’s unclear what the Oakland Raiders are trying to accomplish now that they have brought Jon Gruden back into the fold. Gruden has made it clear that he wants to get back to running the ball and playing what he described as old-school football. However, it’s unclear why they are doing so in a league where the rules give teams such an advantage if they can pass the ball. While Marshawn Lynch showed some glimpses that he still has something left in the tank, the team should be relying on Derek Carr and a potentially potent passing offense.
Even if Gruden’s plan is sound, he’ll have to manage some fresh faces after the departure of some of the Raiders’ most productive players from last year. Most notably, the team made headlines by trading elite edge rusher Khalil Mack to the Bears for two first round picks. The move was widely panned and several Raiders players spoke out against the move, including Carr.
Oakland also let Michael Crabtree leave this offseason, taking away Carr’s favorite receiving target, bringing in Jordy Nelson to replace him. The team also let the best punter in the league, Marquette King, walk away. So far, the moves from the Raiders have been strange, to say the least.
The Broncos were quietly terrible in 2017, finishing in the bottom 10 in offense and defense and last in the AFC West standings. Poor quarterback play was the scapegoat - the team kept head coach Vance Joseph around, and backed a dump truck of money up to the home of Case Keenum after his big 2017 season.
The offense should be improved, as Keenum should make better use of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders than Trevor Siemian or Brock Osweiler could last season. Rushing leader CJ Anderson is now in Carolina, but there’s a lot of buzz surrounding rookie third-rounder Royce Freeman, who should give Denver a power element in their run game they were sorely lacking last year.
The Broncos’ pass rush should be terrific this season, as they drafted defensive end Bradley Chubb with the 5th pick to team up with perennial beast Von Miller in rushing the quarterback. However, on downs where neither Chubb nor Miller can get to the QB, the defense may struggle - the team let top corner Aqib Talib walk in the offseason, and there wasn’t a significant piece brought in to replace him.
The Chiefs, Raiders and Broncos are all welcoming a new coach or a new quarterback into the fold this season. While it may work out for them in the long-term, we prefer to wager on teams with some continuity at those ever-important positions.
Time is running out to get your bets in before the NFL season starts, so be sure to check out our other NFL preview articles and head over to our top online sportsbooks list to find the best site to place your wagers. Best of luck on your futures bets, and we’ll see you back here soon.
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