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Strength of Schedule Could Decide Tight AFC West Race

As was expected at the beginning of the season, the AFC West is the tightest and most competitive division in football and is actually the only one in which the favorite to win it is still plus money at sportsbooks.

That team is, of course, the defending champion Denver Broncos, who have opened their 2016 season 6-2 and can be grabbed at Bovada for +160. The 5-2 Kansas City Chiefs and 6-2 Oakland Raiders trail close behind at +200 and considering how these teams have played each other this year, I wouldn’t even count out the 3-5 San Diego Chargers.

The West is as clogged up as you could ask for, so let’s see where the value lies in division futures.

Denver’s line makes sense in theory. The Broncos have one of the best defenses in the league, they are defending their Super Bowl win and they have the best ATS record in the division. What they also have is the second-toughest remaining schedule in the West with four divisional matchups and a game against the New England Patriots on the horizon.

So, what about Oakland? These aren’t your father’s Raiders. This team has gotten to where it is by slinging the football down the field and hanging some big scores on opponents. The defense has been basically non-existent for Jack Del Rio and that will make winning games down the stretch a tough ask. Oakland has one of the toughest remaining schedules in the entire league with two games still to play against the Broncos. I love this team and what Derek Carr is doing under center, but I just can’t see this incomplete squad finishing the year on top of the West.

The Chiefs are an interesting team. They are by all accounts average – on all accounts. They don’t do anything extraordinarily well but they also don’t have any glaring holes. KC has now won three straight games and we all remember what they did down the stretch last year. With one of the easiest remaining schedules in the NFL, the Chiefs are sitting pretty to finish with a record of 11-5 or better.

This brings us to the San Diego Chargers. The 3-5 San Diego Chargers who have blown almost every lead they’ve had this year. The San Diego Chargers who have won two of their last three games and have games remaining against the Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers and Cleveland "lol" Browns. Those teams have a combined 9-25 record heading into Week 9 action. Philly Riv and the Chargers could very well run the table in their final eight games and I’m in love with their +1600 odds to win the West.

Here are the odds from Bovada and make sure to check out the rest of the division, conference and Super Bowl futures pieces under the NFL tab.

2016 AFC West Champion

Odds as of November 2 at Bovada

  • Denver Broncos +160
  • Kansas City Chiefs +200
  • Oakland Raiders +200
  • San Diego Chargers +1600

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While the Broncos are favorites to win the AFC West, they’re not quite getting the respect from oddsmakers that you’d expect for a defending Super Bowl champ, as they’re a slight +190 favorite to win the division with the Chiefs and Raiders not far off at +220.

There’s likely some concerns over the quarterback position where Mark Sanchez appears to have the edge in the QB competition over Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch. The other side of the ball shouldn’t be an issue as the Broncos will return one of the league’s top defenses from 2015, but I think they might be a good candidate for the Super Bowl hangover that’s seen two of the last four Super Bowl winners miss the playoffs the following year.

The Raiders are showing up on a lot of preseason sleeper lists and rightfully so. They improved from three wins in 2014 to seven in 2015 and appear to be a team on the rise as quarterback Derek Carr continues to grow. Five of their nine losses last season were by six point or less, so if they can improve in close games they’ll have an excellent opportunity to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

The 2015 Chiefs were basically the definition of an Andy Reid-run team — providing lots of promise in the regular season with an 11-5 record, only to fizzle out in the playoffs. They built upon an already strong defense in the draft but could face some questions at the running back position as Jamaal Charles returns from a torn ACL — the second major ACL injury of his career.

After starting 2-0 in 2015, the rebuilding Chargers failed to find any consistency beyond being consistently bad. They were brutal within the division, going 0-6, but will hope the addition of No. 3 overall draft pick DE Joey Bosa will give them a boost as they look to get out of the basement in a very competitive division.

2016 AFC West Champion

Odds as of August 10 at Bovada

  • Denver Broncos +190
  • Kansas City Chiefs +220
  • Oakland Raiders +220
  • San Diego Chargers +650

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The AFC West could be wide open this season, despite the defending Super Bowl champions calling it their home. The Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs have opened at virtually the same odds to win the AFC West with the Oakland Raiders close behind.

The Broncos open as the slight +165 favorite, but will need to somehow fill the void left at quarterback with Peyton Manning retiring and Brock Osweiller bolting to Houston. Whoever that quarterback is should have a stellar defense to carry the team, much like last season.

The Chiefs’ passing game was pretty mediocre last season, but managed to finish sixth in the NFL in rushing despite Jamaal Charles only playing five games. Kansas City held opponents to just 17.9 points per game — the third lowest mark in the NFL — while adding quality players in Chris Jones and KeiVarae Russell through the draft.

Oakland’s finally looking to become a respectable team with the rebuild over the past few seasons clearly working. The Raiders offense features – possibly – the best young quarterback-receiver duo in Derek Carr and Amari Cooper.

The Chargers could throw the ball well last season…and that’s about it.

2016-17 AFC West Champion

Odds as of May 5 at BetOnline

  • Denver Broncos +165
  • Kansas City Chiefs +175
  • Oakland Raiders +275
  • San Diego Chargers +800

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Not many people could have predicted the Kansas City Chiefs would give the Denver Broncos a run for their money for the AFC West a month into the NFL season, but that’s exactly what’s happened as the campaign hits the home stretch. Need some proof as to how much of a long shot Kansas City was? Just look at the shift in odds.

On Nov. 5, the then undefeated Broncos were a ridiculous -10,000 to represent the division in the postseason for the fifth consecutive year at online sportsbook Bovada. But thanks to a seven-game winning streak by the Chiefs (8-5), Denver’s odds now sit at -900 as a result of their 10-3 record. Futures bettors looking for value will gladly scoop up K.C. at +450, as those odds will surely drop if Alex Smith and company can keep up their winning ways with three games remaining on the slate.

If you were one of the Broncos bettors who grabbed the -10,000 line in early November, well, you should probably stop gambling. If you took a flier on the San Diego Chargers (3-10) at the start of the season, you may as well have taken a blowtorch to your wallet.

2016 AFC West Champion

Odds as of December 16 at Bovada

  • Denver Broncos -900
  • Kansas City Chiefs +450


After opening the season 7-0, including 2-0 within the division, it's no wonder that the Denver Broncos are massive favorites to win the AFC West. The Broncos are an absurd -10,000 at Bovada to win the AFC West crown for the fifth consecutive season.

Denver’s defense has been terrifying this season with their 29.0 sacks, which is three more than any other team in the league after eight weeks. The defense has been carrying the Broncos as Peyton Manning and the offense have been struggling immensely, with the first ballot hall of famer throwing seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions so far this season.

The Raiders, who are 4-3, are currently +1000 to win the division. Oakland has put themselves firmly in the AFC Wild Card hunt thanks to an offense that ranks in the top 10 in both passing yards and points per game. If the Raiders want to take a run at the crown they will need to capitalize on the weaker teams in the AFC West and win a showdown with the Broncos in Week 14.

The Kansas City Chiefs are just 3-5, but are trending downwards after losing running back Jamaal Charles for the season after he tore his ACL in Week 5. Though the San Diego Chargers have the most prolific passer in the NFL through the first half of the season in Philip Rivers, a 2-6 record has them in last place in the standings and in the odds.

2015/16 AFC West Champion

Odds as of November 5 at Bovada

  • Denver Broncos -10,000
  • Oakland Raiders +1000
  • Kansas City Chiefs +4000
  • San Diego Chargers +10,000


In what could finally be Peyton Manning’s last year in the NFL, the Denver Broncos will try to win their fifth straight AFC West division title as the -175 favorites over the Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders at Bovada.

The Broncos have not really been challenged by any of the other teams in the division since Manning arrived in Denver three years ago even though the Chiefs and Chargers have also both made the postseason during that stretch.

The Broncos have lost at home in the divisional round of the playoffs in two of Manning’s three years there while losing to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl following the 2013 regular season. Last year, Denver fell to the Indianapolis Colts in the postseason after finishing with a 12-4 record.

But Kansas City and San Diego did not fare any better in their recent playoff appearances, neither of which happened last year when each of them finished with identical 9-7 marks.

The Chiefs are the +325 second choice (bet $100 to win $325) to win the division at Bovada and hope the addition of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will help boost their offense after he came over as a free agent from the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Chargers nearly made the postseason a year ago but lost to Kansas City in the regular-season finale, and they face a similar uncertain future offensively as the Broncos with quarterback Philip Rivers starting to show signs of aging.

San Diego is +500 to win the AFC West at Bovada and selected Wisconsin Badgers running back Melvin Gordon in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft in an effort to prolong Rivers’ career.

The Raiders enjoyed a solid draft but remain +1400 longshots to win the division after finishing 3-13 last season. Oakland has not had a winning campaign since 2002 when the team lost Super Bowl XXXVII to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

2015/16 AFC West Champion

Odds as of August 22 at Bovada

  • Denver Broncos -175
  • Kansas City Chiefs +325
  • San Diego Chargers +500
  • Oakland Raiders +1400
2015/16 AFC West Champion

Odds as of July 20 at Bovada

  • Denver Broncos -200
  • Kansas City Chiefs +400
  • San Diego Chargers +500
  • Oakland Raiders +1200
2015/16 AFC West Champion

Odds as of May 5 at Bovada

  • Denver Broncos -200
  • Kansas City Chiefs +350
  • San Diego Chargers +500
  • Oakland Raiders +1800


2014 AFC West Odds Preview

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos got embarrassed in the Super Bowl last season, but during the regular season they managed to win the AFC West division crown - and the sportsbooks expect them to win the division title again in 2014.

At Bovada the Broncos have been pegged as the -300 favorites on the odds to win the AFC West in 2014, after Manning led them to a 13-3 record in the regular season last year - the best mark in the AFC. Denver also went 5-1 against AFC West opponents in 2013.

Denver Broncos Odds to Win AFC West -300
San Diego Chargers Odds to Win AFC West +500
Kansas City Chiefs Odds to Win AFC West +600
Oakland Raiders Odds to Win AFC West +1800

The Kansas City Chiefs finished second to the Broncos in the AFC West standings last year, but are third on the AFC West futures at Bovada at +600. Kansas City went 11-5 overall last season, but just 2-4 against the other three teams in the division.

The San Diego Chargers are second at +500 on the AFC West odds after they went 9-7 overall and 4-2 in the division in 2013, while the Oakland Raiders are the +1800 longshots on the futures list. Oakland ended up 4-12 last season, winning just one of their six games against AFC West teams.


2013 AFC West Odds Preview

The race for the AFC West wasn’t even close in 2012 as the Denver Broncos ran away with it down the stretch, finishing six wins ahead of second place San Diego when it was all said and done. Denver was a perfect 6-0 SU and 4-2 ATS against its divisional opponents last season.

The Broncos enter this season as a favorite to win the Super Bowl while San Diego, Kansas City, and Oakland are all in different stages of a rebuild. Barring an injury to Peyton Manning, this division race projects to be the least competitive in the NFL.

Denver Broncos (Odds to Win Division at Bovada -400)

After starting last season off 2-3 SU and ATS, Denver corrected its mistakes over its bye week and ended the regular season on an 11-0 SU and 9-2 ATS run. The Broncos were sensational on both offense and defense while locking up the top seed in the AFC.

A loss to Baltimore in the playoffs put a bitter end to what was an excellent season and a quick return to splendor for Peyton Manning, who had one of the greatest seasons of his career. With the addition of Wes Welker, Denver returns with not only one of the league’s best teams on paper, but a chip on its shoulder as well.

Kansas City Chiefs (Odds to Win Division at Bovada +550)

Terrible quarterback play from Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn sunk Kansas City in 2012. With new head coach Andy Reid’s proven passing attack and a much more capable quarterback in Alex Smith under center this season, the Chiefs should take a giant step forward on offense.

Kansas City will look nothing like the team that went 2-14 SU and 5-11 ATS last season. But with a new coach and a tough schedule, the Chiefs aren’t quite ready to challenge Denver for the AFC West’s top spot. A push for a wild card spot could be in the cards though if it all comes together this season.

San Diego Chargers (Odds to Win Division at Bovada +600)

The San Diego Chargers have finally turned the page on the Norv Turner era, and bring in quarterback guru Mike McCoy as head coach. McCoy helped coach Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow, and Peyton Manning to great seasons while in Denver.

San Diego is hoping that McCoy can help Philip Rivers get back to the form he was in from 2008-2010, when he was one of the league’s top quarterbacks. McCoy should help Rivers, but as a rookie head coach there is bound to be a learning curve. San Diego appears headed in the right direction, but will likely need a year or two to find its new identity.

Oakland Raiders (Odds to Win Division at Bovada +2000)

After years of bloated salaries under Al Davis, the Oakland Raiders are finally blowing things up and starting from scratch. While this may be a good decision for the future, it leaves the present in rough shape.

Among the many cuts made were QB Carson Palmer and TE Brandon Myers, the team’s two top offensive performers last season. Matt Flynn, Tyler Wilson, and Terrelle Pryor will all be in the mix for playing time at quarterback this season, but regardless of who is under center, Oakland would have to consider getting back to last season’s win total of four a success.


2012 AFC West Odds Preview


2011 AFC West Odds Preview

2010 was a bizarre year for the AFC West. San Diego had the NFL’s best overall offense and defense, and the Oakland Raiders went 6-0 in division play; yet both finished behind AFC West champion Kansas City.With four division titles over the last five seasons, San Diego has held a stranglehold on the AFC West. Was last season just a fluke, or are the tides starting to turn in the AFC West? Time will tell.

San Diego Chargers (Odds to Win Division at Bovada -250)

Special teams coverage was San Diego’s Achilles heel last season, and no team may benefit more from the new shorter kickoff rule than the Chargers. Philip Rivers leads a loaded offense that will have Vincent Jackson from Week 1 this season, and one of the league’s premier defenses may have gotten better this offseason with the additions of Takeo Spikes and Bob Sanders.

The Chargers are clearly the most talented team in the AFC West, and could easily take their spot back atop the conference if they can avoid their seemingly annual slow start.

Kansas City Chiefs (Odds to Win Division at Bovada +450)

A soft schedule helped matters last season, but the real key to success was Jamaal Charles and the running game, which racked up more rushing yards than any other team in the NFL.

Kansas City is a good young team, and the additions of Steve Breaston and rookie Jonathan Baldwin should help the passing game. The defense still has improving to do, and matching last season’s 10 wins will be tough; but Kansas City could be right there again if San Diego falters.

Oakland Raiders (Odds to Win Division at Bovada +600)

After finishing 6-0 in division play last season, Oakland can’t be completely written off. That said, despite retaining most of their free agents, the two that got away in Nnamdi Asomugha and Zach Miller left major holes. Kevin Boss was signed to replace Miller, while no one was brought in to replace Asomugha, the best player on Oakland’s defense.

Like Kansas City, Oakland has game-breaking talent at running back with Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. If Oakland can find some answers internally at cornerback, they could stay in the hunt down the stretch.

Denver Broncos (Odds to Win Division at Bovada +1000)

Instead of throwing Tim Tebow into the fire, Denver has opted to stick with Kyle Orton at quarterback. Orton is definitely the more polished choice, but that was true last year too, when Denver finished just 4-12.

This will be another rebuilding year for Denver, especially on defense, where they break in second-overall pick Von Miller. Barring any major surprises, it’s hard to see the Broncos climbing out of fourth place.