The AFC West is essentially a two team division. I have heard a few pundits mention that they like the Broncos to surprise people, but for the most part everyone agrees that this division boasts two legitimate Super Bowl contenders, the Chiefs and the Raiders. Just kidding, the Chiefs and the Chargers. It is hard to believe we have still never seen Philip Rivers in a Super Bowl. Could this be the year that happens? On the KC side, Pat Mahomes took the league by storm last season, and while there is some thought that he has to regress a little, could he just be that good? And then we have the Raiders, who might give us the best wagering opportunity of the division. There is a lot going on here in the AFC West.
Kansas City Chiefs
Overview: Realistically, the Chiefs should have made the Super Bowl last season. If it were not for Dee Ford lining up a yard offsides in a crucial play during the AFC Championship game, we likely would not have had the most boring Super Bowl of our lifetimes.
It is certainly a Super Bowl or bust season for Kansas City, despite the fact that Andy Reid has still never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in his career. But it is hard to see any reason why this team won’t be right there at the end of the year barring a catastrophic injury. Their offense is about as dynamic as any the league has ever seen, led by Mahomes, WR Tyreke Hill, TE Travis Kelce and whoever they decide to plug in the other spots. I expect to see more of the same from this team; lots of points and lots of fun to watch.
Spots to bet or fade: Last year I would bet the over on a Chiefs game. If it lost, I would double down the next week. I don’t think I ever lost. Chasing plays is not recommended in gambling, but if you have the bankroll, I think you can profitably chase overs with the Chiefs. As good as I mentioned their offense is, their defense belongs in the Big 12. I can’t see them ever going more than a week or two without being involved in a shootout.
Season Win Total: 10.5: This is a high total, but I think you have to go over. Their schedule is not particularly daunting, and barring an injury, 10-6 would be a huge disappointment for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Los Angeles Chargers
Overview: The Charges are widely believed to be a playoff caliber team who could challenge the Chiefs for the division. I’m not as high on them as many people. I see a team that is good but not great; they should get into the playoffs in a Wild Card spot, but star RB Melvin Gordon has still not joined the team and it is hard to put together a dominant season without any real home field advantage. Derwin James is out until November or December, their top two draft picks Nasir Adderley and Jerry Tillery both missed time in camp and Tackle Russell Okung is out for awhile. I am less bullish on the Chargers than many who have them as a top tier team.
Spots to bet or fade: I am fading the Chargers week 1. It is going to be very popular for the public to wager on them as road favorites opening day in Indy after the Andrew Luck retirement announcement, but I am going to sit back and watch this line climb to 7 and possibly beyond, and take the dog. As you read in my last article, I am not as down on the Colts without Luck as many are, and with them being undervalued and the Chargers, in my opinion, being overvalued, I will absolutely be taking the big home underdog.
Season Win Total: 9.5 over -143 Personally I am going to pass on playing this, but my heavy lean would be toward the under.
Overview: To me, the Denver Broncos are the NFL’s equivalent of purgatory. They are not good. They are not bad. They are perfectly average across the board. Unless Joe Flacco revitalizes his career in a place where he made the biggest play of his career, we are looking at a boring, mediocre team who you will be very happy to hear you will only have to watch in prime time one time all season; Week 7 vs KC.
Spots to bet or fade: Speaking of Week 7 vs KC, a home game against an offensive powerhouse in their only prime time game is a good spot to look for Denver to play to the best of their abilities. I think they may keep that game close, and will look to take the points. One thing Denver has is a distinct home field advantage with the altitude, and it could slow down even an offense as good as the Chiefs.
On the other hand, be very weary of the Broncos week 1 at Oakland. That late night MNF Week 1 game has always been wonky. That game is Oakland’s best chance at a win in the first seven weeks of the season, so they may come to play. I will likely be against the public and on the Raiders in this one.
Season Win Total: 7.5 under -154 This number is where it needs to be. This team will be anywhere from 6-10 to 9-7, and a few plays will make the difference. No value here.
Overview: The Raiders not only stink, they made one of my favorite television shows, HBO’s Hard Knocks, mostly boring this year. In their final year in Oakland, the Raiders appear set up to have a miserable season. While ESPN analyst Louis Riddick has mentioned the Raiders as a surprise team, and I generally respect everything that guy says, I’d love to know what he was smoking. Not only is this team lacking in terms of talent, but their best player is a head case who created one of the most bizarre scenarios in NFL history during the preseason, and the QB is unproven and there is a very good chance coach John Gruden wants to begin the Raiders tenure in Vegas with a shiny new toy at the position. And the schedule is just brutal.
Spots to bet or fade: See above in the Broncos preview.
Season Win Total: 6.5 under -182 Are you kidding me here? -182 is a lot of juice to lay on a win total, but this team is not winning seven games. Lay the juice. If you can get under 6 at less juice, go for it. The Raiders are going to start off slow because of a brutal schedule, and by Week 10, Gruden is going to go in full tank mode to get himself a better QB.