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Raiders Favored To Win First AFC West Crown Since 2002

Oakland had been a black hole of hope for well over a decade, as the Raiders were terrible to mediocre for years. I use the past tense because following a 12-4 record last season and their first playoff appearance since they lost Super Bowl XXXVII, the Raiders appear primed for big things.

Derek Carr and company find themselves being pegged as a small +160 favorite to win the highly competitive AFC West for the first time since the above-mentioned trip to the Super Bowl in 2002.

If the Raiders are to take the next step, they will need to play better within their division. Oakland has not had a winning record within the AFC West since the 2010 season when they went a perfect 6-0. Since then, the Raiders are 13-23 against divisional opponents. Last season, the Raiders looked overwhelmed at times against the AFC West.

Oakland Raiders 2016 Per Game Averages
OpponentPoints ScoredPoints AllowedAverage Scoring MarginRecord
vs AFC West18.721.3-2.63-3
vs Non-AFC West30.424.7+5.79-1

According to oddsmakers, the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs are both close behind the Raiders.

The Broncos saw their five-year dominance over the division end last season, as the team struggled to find an identity offensively and went a middling 9-7. Quarterback Trevor Siemian was the epitome of “OK” while the running back situation was a bloated mess. However, that’s not the biggest issue facing the Broncos in 2017. The squad needs to shore up a run defense that went from allowing 3.3 yards per carry and 83.6 rushing yards per game in 2015 to 4.3 and 130.3 in 2016. Injuries were a factor but Denver is built to win games with its defense and that won’t happen if the Broncos are getting gashed on the ground.

The Chiefs found themselves atop the AFC for the first time since 2010 last season thanks to their two regular-season wins over the Raiders. You know what you’re getting from the Chiefs, which is to say they are going to play conservative offense and look to force turnovers on defense. Kansas City led the NFL in takeaways per game and turnover margin. You shouldn’t expect much of a change this season but if you remove defensive and special-teams touchdowns, the Chiefs ranked 20th in offensive TDs last season.

Then there are the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers have been the bottom-feeders of the AFC West the past two seasons with a combined 9-23 record overall and just one divisional victory. Philip Rivers will continue to be one of the best passers in the NFL but the defense will likely continue to be an unmitigated disaster. Defensive issues led to the Chargers going just 1-8 in games settled by seven points or less in 2016. Unless the defense makes massive strides, don’t expect many meaningful games in the tiny StubHub Stadium.

Odds to Win 2017 AFC West DIVISION
TeamOdds
Oakland Raiders+160
Kansas City Chiefs+240
Denver Broncos+350
Los Angeles Chargers+400

Odds as of September 1 at Bovada

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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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