Of all the NFL’s divisions, none could be more up for grabs than the AFC West. NFL betting options abound in the Wild West, as every potential option comes with a solid payoff and while the Oakland Raiders are favored at +175, that has a lot more to do with their new head coaching hire than the product they’ll put on the field.
The fact is, over the last two seasons three teams in the AFC West have changed up their coaching staffs. The team that didn’t, the Kansas City Chiefs, instead switched quarterbacks, sending Pro Bowl starter Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins in an offseason trade and handing the keys to second-year QB Patrick Mahomes.
Even though they’re officially an underdog to capture the 2018 crown, the Chiefs are the two-time defending AFC West champions. In fact, since 2010 only the Chiefs and the Denver Broncos have won this division, with the Broncos taking five consecutive titles from 2011-2015. The Chargers last won the west in 2009, part of a three-year championship streak for them. The Raiders haven’t claimed a division title since 2002 when they lost Super Bowl XXXVII to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coached by Jon Gruden, the guy they just re-hired back in January.
2018 AFC West Betting Odds
Kansas City Chiefs -1,400
Los Angeles Chargers +700
Denver Broncos +25,000
Oakland Raiders Betting Odds
Win totals: Over 8.5 (-114), Under 8.5 (+116)
In spite of their 6-10 finish in 2017, the Raiders open up as the solid favorite of your AFC West betting options. Luring Gruden back onto the sideline from the broadcast booth was a coup for the Raiders and gives them a real chance to do something in what is potentially their last season in Oakland.
In spite of their losing record, the Raiders are loaded with talent all over the field. Gruden spent the offseason adding to it, especially on offense, bringing in Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant to play alongside Amari Cooper at wide receiver. Marshawn Lynch is still in the backfield after a disappointing 2017, but he’ll be joined by Tampa Bay refugee Doug Martin. Don’t be surprised to see Martin claim that job outright before the season is over.
Whatever Gruden accomplished as a head coach in the NFL, he never had a quarterback like David Carr calling signals. There’s plenty of reasons for fans in Oakland to be excited about the Raiders and the AFC West odds aren’t wrong. They should be the favorites.
Projected win total and finish: 12-4, first place in the AFC West
Denver Broncos Betting Odds
Win totals: Over 7.5 (+110), Under 7.5 (+140)
We’re going to solve a lot of mysteries in the Mile High City this season. Did John Elway make the right hire when he brought in Vance Joseph to replace Gary Kubiak? Is Case Keenum a good quarterback or is he a back up that just had a good season in 2017? Can the Broncos get anything out of former first round pick Paxton Lynch, even if it’s just a trade for a handful of expired Hardees coupons?
When the Broncos drafted Lynch back in 2016, he was supposed to be the future of the franchise. That hasn’t materialized, either from poor coaching from Kubiak in his final, health-issue shortened season, or from Joseph and his staff. Keenum is young enough to be the long-term answer, even though he just signed a short-term contract.
When you look at the AFC West odds, it’s easy to forget this team is loaded on defense, even after moving on from Aqib Talib in the secondary. They still have two of the best corners in the game with Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby. As for the pass rush, Von Miller will be joined by first round pick Bradley Chubb in his assault on quarterbacks and that’s not even counting Shane Ray. If Ray’s healthy, the Broncos defense should be relentless. It’s why I think, when looking at your AFC West betting plans, you should take a hard look at the Broncos.
Projected win total and finish: 10-6, second place in the AFC West
Kansas City Chiefs Betting Odds
Win totals: Over 8.5 (-114), Under 8.5 (-116)
As excited as everyone seems to be at the prospect of Patrick Mahomes starting at QB, he’s been an interception machine against his own team in the preseason. As Kansas City opened camp, Mahomes continually found a way to throw the ball to the defense. At one point he’d thrown seven interceptions in his first six practices and, you have to remember, this team traded Marcus Peters in the offseason. Mahomes was facing the twos and threes when he was tossing these picks.
It would be silly to throw out any bust title on the young Texas Tech QB just yet, but when looking at AFC West betting options, the Chiefs make me nervous. Andy Reid is a great coach and consistently finds a way to get the best out of any player he puts on the field. Mahomes has all the tools and, more than that, he has the players around him including Tyreek Hill, Travice Kelce and Kareem Hunt, with which to be successful. I just think it’ll take another year for it all to come together.
Projected win total and finish: 8-8. third place AFC West
Los Angeles Charges Betting Odds
Win totals: Over 9 (-130), Under 9 (+100)
There’s a running gag in NFL punditry that the Chargers seem to always win the AFC West in the preseason. For whatever reason, Los Angeles has, again, become the trendy pick after they backed into a 9-7 record last year in head coach Anthony Lynn’s first campaign.
It’s easy to get enamored with the Chargers. They have a solid defense, led by defensive end Joey Bosa, that finished as one of the top units in the league in 2017. Philip Rivers is probably the best quarterback of his generation that no one ever talks about. They have good weapons in the passing game with Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin and Mike Williams. I just don’t see it happening with Lynn at the helm. This was a bad hire and they’ll circle the drain for another season for it.
Projected win total and finish: 6-10, fourth place AFC West