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2024 AFC West Betting Preview: Division Winners

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While we are now in the midst of the summer season, the NFL has already brought an enhanced focus of content for the upcoming season. Articles, podcasts and Twitter timelines are zeroing in on the preseason, and best ball content is flowing like water. Sportsbooks have posted a plethora of future NFL bets such as player props and conference champions.

Over the next week, I’ll finish providing NFL betting content for each NFL division. I’ll cover key divisional storylines, provide a breakdown for each team and give out my favorite bet to win each division. I started with the AFC East and NFC East in our first week, backing the Jets to end a 22-year drought as divisional champions and the Eagles to reclaim the top spot over the Cowboys. I then outlined why the Steelers (+700) are worth backing as the biggest long shot in the AFC North and how the Packers (+210) will stop the Lions from repeating in the NFC North. Last week, I picked the favorite Texans to win the AFC South and the Carolina Panthers to shock the world and win the NFC South.

Today, let’s look at the AFC West.

AFC West Betting Preview

Eight years, eight straight AFC West championships for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs streak of absolute domination started even before Patrick Mahomes became a starter, with Andy Reid guiding Kansas City to the 2016 and 2017 divisional crown in his fourth and fifth seasons. Prior to that run, the Denver Broncos won five consecutive AFC West crowns, preceded by one more Kansas City title. Translated, the Chiefs or Broncos have won the last 14 divisional titles. Per Sports Odds History, we can see that the projected AFC West champion has maintained the lowest odds of any division we previewed.

Year Team Record Odds
2002 Las Vegas Raiders 9-7 +100
2003 Kansas City Chiefs 13-3 +220
2004 Los Angeles Chargers 12-4 +700
2005 Denver Broncos 13-3 +250
2006 Los Angeles Chargers 14-2 200
2007 Los Angeles Chargers 11-5 -150
2008 Los Angeles Chargers 8-8 -400
2009 Los Angeles Chargers 13-3 -250
2010 Kansas City Chiefs 10-6 +700
2011 Denver Broncos 8-8 +1100
2012 Denver Broncos 13-3 +170
2013 Denver Broncos 13-3 -455
2014 Denver Broncos 12-4 -400
2015 Denver Broncos 12-4 -225
2016 Kansas City Chiefs 12-4 +180
2017 Kansas City Chiefs 10-6 +200
2018 Kansas City Chiefs 12-4 +200
2019 Kansas City Chiefs 12-4 -225
2020 Kansas City Chiefs 14-2 -350
2021 Kansas City Chiefs 12-5 -275
2022 Kansas City Chiefs 14-3 +150
2023 Kansas City Chiefs 11-6 -160

Currently, the Chiefs (-230) are the dominant betting favorite, with the Chargers (+320) at least within striking distance. The longshots are the Raiders (+900), and the Broncos (+1800) who have the second-longest divisional odds of any team from these previews (Patriots +2500). Will the Chiefs simply continue to dominate? Can Harbaugh end the eight-year Kansas City run in his first season? Will the Raiders shock the division despite failing to secure their franchise quarterback in the NFL Draft? Can the Broncos cash one of the longest division title odds in the NFL?

Here’s my betting breakdown of the AFC West.

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Denver Broncos

(DraftKings Division Title Odds: +1800)

Head coach Sean Payton has this team moving in the right direction, but I don’t see Denver challenging for the AFC West title this season. 

Rookie Bo Nix has drawn positive comments throughout OTAs, but this is a difficult division for a conservative rookie quarterback to thrive. I have concerns about the Denver offensive line with the loss of center Lloyd Cushenberry to Tennessee. The Broncos have too many concerns across the roster, finishing third-worst in defensive DVOA and only 19th in offensive DVOA. There are depth chart questions with their running backs, which will be a critical supplement to Nix’s development. 

Payton will make this team an AFC contender at some point, I just don’t see it happening this season.

Las Vegas Raiders

(DraftKings Division Title Odds: +900)

Head coach Antonio Pierce did an admirable job after the firing of Josh McDaniels, guiding the Raiders to a 5-4 record. His team plays hard and should stay competitive throughout the season, but surpassing the top two teams in this division is unlikely. 

Las Vegas has a 6.5-win total, juiced to the over (-145). They have only had one winning season in the past seven years and failed to address their quarterback position for the long term. The Raiders (probably) had a focus on Michael Penix Jr., who was surprisingly snagged by the Falcons with the eighth overall pick. They enter 2024 with the uninspiring Aidan O’Connell and 28-year-old veteran Gardner Minshew as their only signal-caller choices. 

LAS VEGAS, NV – OCTOBER 23: Las Vegas Raiders WR Davante Adams (17) stiff arms Houston Texans CB Derek Stingley Jr. (24) during the game featuring the Houston Texans and the Las Vegas Raiders on October 23, 2022 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire)

They still have All-Pro wideout Davante Adams and underrated PPR machine Jakobi Meyers, as well as a promising 24-year-old running back in Zamir White. The selection of athletic tight end Brock Bowers with their first-round pick provides a head-scratching redundant asset to Michael Mayer but does provide a unique weapon to the Raiders attack. 

Las Vegas ranked ninth-overall in defensive DVOA, which keeps them in games, but the ninth-hardest overall schedule per Vegas projected opposing win totals (including 11th-hardest NC SOS) is too much of a challenge. 

Kansas City Chiefs

(DraftKings Division Title Odds: -230)

It is hard to find a fault with the two-time defending Super Bowl Champions. As long as quarterback Patrick Mahomes stays healthy, this team is always a championship contender. But at -230, I have no interest in this divisional bet. 

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 29: Kansas City Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco (10) looks to get around Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton (21) in the AFC Championship Game on January 29th, 2023 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire)
KANSAS CITY, MO – JANUARY 29: Kansas City Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco (10) looks to get around Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton (21) in the AFC Championship Game on January 29th, 2023 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire)

Kansas City failed to add running back depth behind violent rusher Isiah Pacheco, while perennial All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce turns 35 this October. The left tackle position is a huge concern, putting a lot of faith in rookie Kingsley Suamataia. The Chiefs added explosive receiving weapons, but rookie Xavier Worthy has already a hamstring injury in OTAs, and a possible suspension still looms over the head of Rashee Rice. 

The Chiefs defense was fantastic last season, ranking seventh overall in DVOA, but can that repeat in 2024? Defensive end Chris Jones is elite, but I question the pass rush from the rest of the line. They will also battle a difficult start to the schedule, opening against the Ravens, Bengals, at Atlanta and then at rival Los Angeles. Sprinkle in road games at San Francisco, Buffalo and both Cleveland and Pittsburgh in December? There are several land mines that could finally derail the Chiefs as they go for a three-peat. I cannot support a bet of the Chiefs to win the AFC West at -230. 

Los Angeles Chargers

(DraftKings Division Title Odds: +320)

I’m buying the Chargers in Jim Harbaugh’s first season. Los Angeles stayed competitive in 2021 and 2022 despite Brandon Staley’s struggles as a head coach, and even made the playoffs in 2022. Last year was a disaster, but there are several signs that point to a huge season for the Chargers. 

Their win total is a solid 8.5, and heavily juiced to the over at -150. Harbaugh had tremendous success in his prior NFL stint in San Francisco, going over their projected win total in three of his four seasons. If he does that here, Los Angeles is starting at a possible 10 wins or more. I love their draft moves, selecting an elite offensive line prospect in Joe Alt and trading up for a dynamic wideout in Georgia’s Ladd McConkey. They also have the second-easiest schedule per Vegas projected opponent win totals and should see some positive regression from a brutal 3-8 record in one-score games. 

Most importantly? The Chargers always play well against the Chiefs. 

Los Angeles has won two of the last four games at Kansas City, and three of their last four losses have come by three points or fewer. The Chargers are 5-3 ATS against the Chiefs in the last eight matchups. 

The defense should be much more dynamic under new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, who came with Harbaugh from Michigan. Minter spent four years with the Baltimore Ravens working under John Harbaugh, eliminating any concerns about lack of NFL experience. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s rushing attack is also the perfect foil to the explosive Chiefs passing offense.

Will we finally see the Chiefs take a step back? I think we do, and the rejuvenated Chargers will be waiting to pounce on their AFC West rivals. 

AFC West Winner Picks

The Pick: Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles’ rushing attack will dominate late in the season and Minter’s new defensive schemes will breathe life into a talented but underachieving defense. Herbert is still an elite quarterback who will thrive with a connection to the rookie McConkey. Chargers stop the Chiefs’ AFC West train in Harbaugh’s first season. 

Wild Card: Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City is still too talented to miss the playoffs. Kelce will be at his best late in the season and I expect the wide receivers to peak in this offense during the second half of the season. While the defense may take a step back with the loss of L’Jarius Sneed, Kansas City has enough talent and elite coaching to make a run at a third consecutive Super Bowl title. 

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