• Andy

AFC West Preview & Predictions

Updated: Aug 6

The AFC West is far and away the best division in the AFC and arguably in the NFL. Led by Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Russell Wilson, and David Carr, the incredible list of quarterbacks does not do this division justice. The AFC West is loaded with skill player talent, and the defensive play will make all of the difference against these loaded offenses.


As a result of the division being so strong in depth and talent, the betting markets are pretty wide open. The Chiefs, Chargers, and Broncos all have win totals set at 10.5 or 10, and everyone in the division has a divisional win total set anywhere from 3.5 to 2.5. Everyone in the division is favored to make the playoffs except for the Raiders at +150 to make it, which is the same odds as the Patriots and very close to the Dolphins in the different looking AFC East. There is not much room for deviation, and Vegas is telling us they don't know what the hell is about to happen either.


This is where we can find an edge or two over the book, so let's jump right into it!


H/T Kansas City Star for the photo.

Kansas City Chiefs

- Win Total: 10.5
- To Win the Division: +225
- Division Win Total: 3.5

The main narrative surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason has been about the loss of Tyreek Hill. Everyone is asking themselves how the Chiefs will move forward without one of the fastest and most creative runners in the game. The Chiefs added Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling at receiver, along with Skyy Moore in the draft from Western Michigan. Travis Kelce is still here, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire will get some relief with Ronald Jones coming in from Tampa. You pair these guys with an already stellar offensive line, and the offense is not looking so bad after all.


The issue for the Chiefs will be if they can improve on defense after an alarming display in the AFC Championship game against Cincinnati, as well as if they can overcome one of the hardest NFL schedules to date. Key losses on defense, including Tyrann Mathieu, will need to be addressed and built upon, especially coming out of being the 27th-ranked defense in pass yards conceded last season. The Chiefs will face 8 of the teams that made the playoffs last season, plus the Colts and Chargers who barely missed out and improved this offseason. Throw in the revamped Broncos and you've got yourself 14 games against teams with an 8.5 or above win total in Vegas. No game is easy to win in the NFL, but Dear Lord this schedule is absurd.


It is clear the Tyreek Hill trade is showing that Kansas City's focus for rebuilding is on the draft, but their rebuilding is much different than anyone else's. Even though Patrick Mahomes posted some of the worst numbers of his career last season, he was still fifth in QBR, fifth in passing yards per game, and tenth in passer rating. The Chiefs are not actually doing a true rebuild, this is just another era beginning in Kansas City with some new faces and the same goal of hoisting the Lombardi come February.


With all of this being said, I don't know if I have the guts to place anything on the Chiefs. As you'll see through the rest of this article there are other betting angles that may be better than predicting how the Chiefs will be tested with their new look and strength of schedule. I'll let others figure out that puzzle.


Los Angeles Chargers

- Win Total: 10
- To Win the Division: +220
- Division Win Total: 3.5

The Chargers will be looking to redeem themselves after the dramatic ending to their season in Las Vegas last year. Brandon Staley was looking forward to getting Justin Herbert some playoff experience against the best of the best, but they will once again have a tough path to get there. However, saying they have a "tough path" is quite inconsiderate after analyzing the Chiefs brutal schedule above. I believe Los Angeles has added enough significant pieces to pair with their many returning starters that the 10-win mark should be possible to surpass.


Justin Herbert will look to build on an impressive 5,000 passing yard and 38 touchdown sophomore campaign this season. The offense looks very similar to last season, but having another year with the new coaching staff will be massive for the 24-year-old as he continues to grow his game and show off his insane arm strength. His offensive weapons have mainly remained the same, which is good for the consistency that Keenan Allen and Mike Williams offers, but potentially a slight negative that there is still no speedy deep threat receiver. Joshua Palmer could step up in his second year to take that role as the third option, but time will tell. Gerald Everett is another nice target the Chargers picked up at tight end, but it still does not address the deep threat need.


On defense the Chargers made massive moves adding Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson. The hope with the defensive facelift is that there is enough personnel to challenge one another to play better and that they can be more of a defensive threat to in turn give Justin Herbert the ball even more than last season. Asante Samuel should build off of his stellar rookie campaign as the pairing at cornerback with Jackson, and the defensive backs were bolstered even further with the three picks LA made addressing DBs in the draft. Finally, the Chargers added Kyle Van Noy to round out a scary defense that is still headlined by Joey Bosa.


The improvements on defense alone are enough to make me believe that the Chargers can surpass their over/under of 10 wins. Add in the continued growth of Justin Herbert and having another camp with the coaching staff, and I think you've got yourself a really good recipe for success despite being in the toughest division in football. The Chargers knock out three division matchups in the first seven weeks, while also facing Jacksonville, Houston, Cleveland, and Seattle. Facing the Browns early is a big plus, and even if you only win one of the divisional matchups that gives you 5 wins with 10 weeks remaining. If the Chargers win Week 1 against the Raiders, and Week 6 against the Broncos, you come out of the Bye Week beating the Falcons and have 7 wins with 9 weeks remaining.


The moral of the story here is that there are a number of ways the Chargers can hit a big start to this season. I do not want to make a play on who comes out on top in the AFC West, and it is too expensive to play the Chargers making the playoffs at -190. I would rather take a push if they exceed last season's mark of 9-8 by 1 win, and cash in my ticket when they smash that mark and hit 11+.


The Play: Chargers OVER 10 Regular Season Wins -150 - to win 1.5 Units


H/T Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports for the photo.


Denver Broncos

- Win Total: 10
- To Win the Division: +260
- Division Win Total: 3

The Broncos have done it again. Another future Hall of Fame quarterback has landed in Denver, this time with a lot more miles to offer than his predecessor Peyton Manning. Russell Wilson joining the Denver Broncos this offseason has been one of the biggest stories so far, and there are a lot of high expectations ahead. I am here to rain on the parade and tell you why this may not be as glamorous as people think it will be in the first season of the relationship.


My main question heading into the 2022 season for the Denver Broncos is if Russell Wilson is going to run his offense, or if the Broncos will be adding him to their new head coach Nathaniel Hackett's system. Hackett has said he wants to have a scheme that highlights "what players do best," but is Russell Wilson getting his way actually best for the organization? His offensive style has been made up of play-action concepts, alert routes, and scrambling until he outruns you and throws the ball deep. It has worked and looked amazing at times as he is one of the only QBs to ever consistently make this work. But when it doesn't work, it has been ugly, and his recent departure from Seattle is an example of that due to the league slowly seeing some of the predictable elements of his game.


The next issue I have with Denver is the narrative of Russell Wilson being the missing piece to make this team a Super Bowl contender. Sure, you've got Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy at receiver. Javonte Williams is looking to be a promising RB of the future for Denver, and Melvin Gordon is probably good for half the season before he gets injured. But then what? Denver traded away Noah Fant in the Wilson deal, and there are promising prospects on the depth chart but no proven assets besides Tim Patrick. Pro Football Focus gave Denver a middle-of-the-pack rating for their offensive line, ranking at #16 heading into next season, which is a notable improvement over Wilson's old friends in Seattle ranking #32 in this same list. Can a middle-of-the-pack offensive line and limited offensive weapons be enough for Wilson to will the Broncos into a deep playoff run?


I don't want to go into as much detail on Denver's defense as I believe they can hold their own against teams and that is how the Broncos were able to not be completely irrelevant in previous years. Heading into this year, you have names like Patrick Surtain and Justin Simmons in the back who I respect, along with linebackers like Bradley Chubb, Randy Gregory, and Josey Jewell that are absolute studs. The real question mark for me is if what everyone is saying will happen with Denver's offense coming to life is going to happen.


The Broncos have an interesting ending to the season facing the Chiefs, Cardinals, Rams, Chiefs, and Chargers that I think may really bring this train off the rails. You have a first-year head coach who was heralded for his offensive mind in Green Bay, but may not have the chance to show it with Wilson running his show. The plug-and-play strategy of bringing a veteran quarterback into an established roster has worked for Peyton Manning, and now more recently Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford. At some point, this trend will stop because of a lesser roster or the quarterback himself. I like the Broncos win total to go under here and expect the headlines next offseason to once again be about Russ and the Broncos... but for different reasons.


The Play: Broncos UNDER 10 Regular Season Wins -105 - to win 1 Unit


H/T Broncos Wire USA Today for the photo.


Las Vegas Raiders

- Win Total: 8.5
- To Win the Division: +650
- Division Wins: 2.5

As if the AFC West couldn't get any more interesting, may I present to you, the Las Vegas Raiders. After the Jon Gruden debacle and Henry Ruggs arrest last season, the Raiders defied the odds and adversity and made the playoffs. The Raiders had a 7-2 record last season in games decided by seven points or less, and a record of 5-1 in games decided by three points or less. Most advanced statistics suggest the Raiders should not have even come close to 10 wins. I'll save you the deep dive on numbers, and just add that they were outscored by 65 points last season and still somehow finished with a winning record.


The team returns in 2022 with a different offense and a new #1 receiver. Josh McDaniels is now at the helm as head coach of Las Vegas, and let the record show he has at least made it to training camp without backing out as he did on the Colts in 2018. His previous head coaching stint in Denver went wrong in every possible way, so Las Vegas gives him an opportunity to try again after really proving his worth in New England with and without Tom Brady. The pairing of McDaniels and Derek Carr could be very strong for the Raiders offense, and when you add in Davante Adams from Green Bay you've got yourself a recipe for success. Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller give Carr more noteworthy weapons than you can find in Denver, and the Raiders added more options are running back too.


The main issues arise in the trenches for Las Vegas, leaving a lot to be desired. Pro Football Focus ranked the Raiders #29 in their lowest tier of O-Lines heading into the new season, and I don't doubt that this could be a thorn in this powerful offense's side. On the other hand, the defense last season finished 24th in rushing yards allowed and 30th in rushing touchdowns allowed, which reflects directly on the defensive line. Maxx Crosby is quickly rising to stardom in the black and silver, but I don't know if he has enough help on defense.


There is a possibility the Raiders get off to a tough start before their Week 6 Bye, starting the season with the Chargers, Cardinals, Titans, Broncos, and Chiefs. However, I will be a very excited bettor come Week 7 when the schedule shifts to the Texans, Saints, and Jaguars. Do not let a rough start lead you to panic, as we have seen resiliency against all odds from this team before. Will the Raiders be better than the Chiefs and Chargers? That is a major doubt for me. However, I see a lot of value in them surpassing people's expectations by not being the worst team in the loaded AFC West.


The Play: Raiders Division Finishing Position: 3rd +235 - 0.5 Units


Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images


Stay tuned for more NFL Divisional previews in the coming weeks! If you have any feedback, questions, or need to defend the Broncos, send me a tweet @AndyHHSports on Twitter. Finally, look out for our first Twitter Spaces on Thursday, July 29th @ 8:00 PM to talk about the upcoming UFC 277 card with @RickHHSports. Thanks for reading, and I will see you next week!

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