AFC West Odds
NFL analyst Dave Schwab gives an overview of what the AFC West teams added and lost in the offseason along with his opinion on who the teams to beat will be. A recap of last season and some wagering advice will also be included.
The Denver Broncos have been the team to beat in the AFC West for the past five seasons, but that may not be the case in 2016 when it comes to betting on the futures odds to win the division title this year. I have dug deep into all the stats, facts and betting trends for all four AFC West teams to come up with my “best bet” pick to win the 2016 division title.
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Andy Reid is entering his fourth season has head coach in Kansas City and even though he has already produced three winning seasons and two playoff appearances, this could be his team’s best chance to make a deep run into the postseason in 2016. Alex Smith is still Reid’s starting quarterback, but he did lose backup Chase Daniel to his old team in Philly as a free agent. The Chiefs will still rely heavily on a running game that was ranked sixth in the NFL last season in yards per game anchored by third-year vet Charcandrick West.
Kansas City’s defense was the strength of this team as the third-best unit in the league in points allowed and it could be even better this year with the addition of defensive tackle Chris Jones and cornerback KeiVarae Russell in the first few rounds of the draft. The Chiefs also added free agent offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz and wide receiver Rod Streater for depth on the other side of the ball.
The bandwagon in Oakland is getting pretty full after the Raiders made a serious run at their first winning season since 2002 with a 7-9 mark in 2015. Jack Del Rio enters his second season as head coach and the expectation level that this dubious run finally comes to an end is running high. Derek Carr appears to be the real deal at quarterback and Latavius Murray gained over 1000 yards running the ball last year. Add in the likes of Amari Cooper at wide receiver and this set of triplets are in position to make even more noise this season.
Del Rio focused his attention on the defensive side of the ball in this year’s draft led by first round pick Karl Joseph at safety. The Raiders also added cornerback Sean Smith as a free agent from rival Kansas City and linebacker Bruce Irvin from Seattle. While there are plenty of NFL experts touting the Raiders as the team to beat in this division, the lasting memory of that many losing seasons is not always an easy thing to erase.
Denver may have won the last five AFC West Division titles, but it suddenly finds itself in a cannot lose situation with the expectation level dialed so far down in 2016. Peyton Manning road off in the sunset following the Broncos’ victory in Super Bowl 50 and Brock Osweiler road off to a fat contract in Houston as the future “Hall of Fame” quarterback’s backup. That leaves free agent addition Mark Sanchez as the heir apparent until a full-time replacement can be found. That may sound like a scary thought to some Jets and Eagles’ fans, but head coach Gary Kubiak can always change his mind and go with rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch.
The only way that Denver extends its AFC West title streak in 2016 is behind a defense that was ranked first in the NFL against the pass and third against the run. Coming to terms with linebacker Von Miller on a long-term contract extension was a major step in the right direction, but the loss of defensive lineman Malik Jackson as a free agent to Jacksonville hurts.
The Chargers used to be the toast of the AFC West before Denver’s current run and they have just one playoff appearance on the resume since their last division title in 2009. Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers enters his 13th season in the NFL and despite the fact that he did throw for 4,792 yards last year, he is also at the point in his career when you start to wonder how much is left in the tank. Running back Danny Woodhead, wide receiver Keenan Allen along with veteran tight end Antonio Gates are all viable targets in the passing game and running back Melvin Gordon had a respectable rookie campaign with a team-high 641 rushing yards.
What could easily keep San Diego from crossing its projected win total of seven wins in 2016 is a defense that was ranked 27th in the league against the run and 21st in points allowed. Joey Bosa adds some depth to the defensive line as the third overall pick in this year’s draft and the addition of free agent defensive lineman Brandon Mebane from Seattle is another step in the right direction.
Both Oakland and Denver should be in the mix for the AFC West title all season long, but I am going chalk with my “best bet” pick of Kansas City as the 2016 division champ. The Broncos’ step backwards opens the door for the Chiefs as runners up the past three seasons and it could take the Raiders one more season to make a serious run at the top spot in this division.