AFC West Is a Four-Team Race

Training camp starts this week! Need to get caught up on where every NFL team stands as the season approaches? Here’s a handy preview complete with odds to let you know what to expect from each team heading into the 2017 season.

Also see: NFC WestNFC South; NFC East; NFC North. 

DENVER BRONCOS

The Broncos entered last year in a very odd spot: they had a defense that was ready to defend its Super Bowl title, and an offense in search of its QB of the future. Given how garbage Peyton Manning was in 2015, the belief was that Denver could still challenge for the division, regardless of how Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch performed. But the Broncos failed to perform in the run game on both sides of the ball, producing precious few yards on offense (92.8 YPG; 28th in rush-offense DVOA) and giving up a ton on D (130.3 YPG; 21st in rush-defense DVOA), and the team fell short of the playoffs with a 9-7 record. Though it’s not the kind of season that screams sweeping changes, head coach Gary Kubiak retired after the year, so Denver comes into 2017 with an entirely new coaching staff.

The unit coming back this year is essentially the same, but the loss of DC Wade Phillips could affect what has been the league’s top defense over the past three seasons. Can we really expect first-time coordinator Joe Woods keep the D strong enough to prop up the offense? The answer had better be yes, because despite some upgrades along the offensive line, and the addition of sure-to-be injured RB Jamaal Charles, the Broncos aren’t about to stop being a bottom-third offense unless they get far better play from their tackles. Acquiring the worst part of the Raiders’ offensive line (Menelik Watson) and a rookie (Garett Bolles) is an improvement on the outsides, but it’s not a big one.

Still, Denver has as much a chance as anyone to win this loaded division, if they can win those games that matter. After years of owning the West, Denver went just 2-4 against division rivals in 2016.

2017 Broncos Odds & Props

Odds to win AFC West: 3/1

Odds to win AFC Championship: 11/1

Odds Paxton Lynch starts Week 1: 10/11

Over/under sacks allowed in 2017: 38.5

Expect the over if Lynch is named the starter. The kid held onto the ball way too long last year, getting sacked nine times in just two games.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

The boring old Chiefs proved that they were worthy of primetime after all, playing some of 2016’s most thrilling games, while also unveiling Tyreek Hill to the world. The rookie dazzled with 12 total touchdowns, and helped Kansas City to its first division title in six seasons. Then, as is the Chiefs way, they were quickly ousted from the playoffs. So what does a team trying to improve after its most successful season in 13 years do in the offseason? Well if you’re the Chiefs, you draft a quarterback. And that’s apparently all you do.

The Chiefs swapped Dontari Poe for Bennie Logan, but beyond that, they didn’t bring in any starting-level talent. They also parted ways with Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin, so at the outset of camp, the offense appears to lack explosive players outside of Hill and Travis Kelce. The one place of major improvement was backup QB; the Chiefs traded a boatload of picks to jump up in the draft and grab Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes 10th overall. The plan is for the rookie to sit on the bench and learn (isn’t it always?), but Alex Smith already lost his job to an up-and-comer once, so the veteran knows what kind of pressure he’s under to perform, as well as stay healthy.

Smith has given no reason to doubt his ability to lead the team, compiling a 41-20 record over his four seasons. But the Chiefs have a very tough schedule ahead of them, with virtually no gimmes in their first 10 games. So unless he keeps his team on a playoff pace in this ruthless division, we could see Smith benched once again.

Hill could be the next big star in the league … if you can look past what a terrible guy he is off the field. (Brook Ward, via Flickr)

2017 Chiefs Odds & Props

Odds to win AFC West: 13/5

Odds to win AFC Championship: 10/1

Over/under starts for Patrick Mahomes: 3.5

Odds any receiver not named Hill/Kelce breaks 500 yards: 1/1

Chris Conley and Spencer Ware are the best bets, but this one really feels like a toss up.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

When a player is struggling, sometimes they’ll get moved to a new team in hopes that a “change of scenery” will help. This offseason, the entire Chargers organization opted for that approach, moving the team to an already oversaturated LA market. Regardless of what happens off the field, the hope is that, on the field, a change of scenery will help reverse the fortunes of the league’s unluckiest team over the past two seasons. The Chargers finished 26th and 31st in adjusted games lost in 2015 and 2016, respectively, while compiling a horrendous 4-16 record in one-score games (seven-points or less). The Bolts also blew six fourth-quarter leads last year, surpassing their 2015 mark of five.

If you don’t believe that being “clutch” is a real thing, than LA should be much better this season purely by regressing (progressing?) to the mean on the injury front and in one-score games. If you don’t think Philip Rivers has “it” late in games, then new coach Anthony Lynn’s proclamation that he wants to rely more on Melvin Gordon and the run game should help you feel better about the Chargers closing out games. Either way, this team has enough talent on both sides of the ball to challenge for a playoff spot. They just need some better luck. Although with the news that first-round pick Mike Williams may be out for the year, perhaps there’s some bad karma surrounding this team after deserting San Diego.

2017 Chargers Odds & Props

Odds to win AFC West: 4/1

Odds to make playoffs: 7/3

Over/under players that land on injured reserve: 19.5

Over/under number of LA Rams fans that switch allegiances during the season: 100,000

LA likes a winner, and even if the Chargers don’t win the division, they’re sure to win more games than the hapless Rams.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

Enjoy it while you can Raiders fans, because who would ever want to travel to Vegas to watch a game? (Brook Ward, via Flickr)

Along with a newfound excitement surrounding this Raiders team, there’s also a sense of urgency to win one more championship for Oakland before they head to Vegas, likely in 2020. Last season was a huge stride towards that goal; the black and silver ended a 13-season playoff drought with a 12-4 record. However, a late-season injury to potential NFL MVP Derek Carr ended any chance of a deep playoff run, and the Raiders (“led” by Connor Cook) lost in the Wild Card round to a mediocre Houston team. Looking to build on that success, Oakland lured Bay Area-native Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to bring more power to the run game and more swagger to the locker room. But this team doesn’t need improvements on offense to challenge the Pats for AFC supremacy.

Ranking 26th in yards allowed, the saving grace of the Raiders was their defense’s ability to generate takeaways, finishing second in the league with 30. Given the tight margins Oakland was winning by — they had seven fourth-quarter comebacks and an 8-1 record in one-score games — if they can’t get turnovers at the same rate, they could drop a few extra games. A tougher schedule could also lead to a drop in wins; they faced a relatively easy slate last year and went just 1-3 against playoff teams.

But the team will be improved on the whole and, considering how tight the AFC West projects to be, should still be favored.

2017 Raiders Odds & Props

Odds to win AFC West: 13/5

Odds to win AFC Championship: 8/1

Odds Derek Carr wins NFL MVP: 18/1

Over/under Marshawn Lynch rushing yards: 799.5

As much fun as his return will be, you have to remember that Lynch’s last season in the league was injury riddled, and now he’s coming out of retirement. He could be Beast Mode again, or he could be all out of Skittles.

Boris

Hockey may be a wildly unpopular sport in the U.S., but where no one is paying attention, there's a ton of value for Boris to mine. An avid NHL fan of over 20 years, Malloy made his first bet against a friend during the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals (going against Ray Bourque) and has been hooked ever since. He has yet to pay off that debt of $2, but he's made plenty back since. In between worrying about the league's next lockout, he regularly contributes to MTS and is also fluent in football, basketball, baseball and French (sort of).