AFC West; Battle of the big boys

Based on win totals from 5 UK-based bookies, best prices from Oddschecker.com

Probably the toughest contested division in the league this year is the AFC West. The Chiefs are a perennial final 4 team with Patrick Mahomes, the Chargers have had one of the strongest rosters in the league for a few years now, the Broncos seemed only a QB away from challenging and picked up Russell Wilson and the Raiders brought in possibly the best WR in the league with Davante Adams re-uniting with his college QB over the summer.

That competitiveness does skew the Strength of schedule a little because they all have a high win total and play each other twice each, but it’s no easy road for any of the teams this year.

The Chiefs are looking for their 7th division title in a row, a record that started before Patrick Mahomes took the reigns, they have dominated the division in recent years with a 31-5 record since that streak started in 2016, things will look different for them this year without Tyreek Hill there.

The Chargers somehow missed the playoffs last season, it’s the story of their recent life in the NFL, somehow pulling failure from the jaws of victory, which allowed the Raiders to scrape in and lose to the Bengals in the wildcard round, they had a tumultuous year off the field and will be hoping it’s better this time around, while the Broncos realised Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t it and brought in Mr. Unliiiiimited Russell Wilson to head the team.

It should be one hell of scrap this year and Chiefs v Chargers is the first TNF of the season in week 2. A beauty to kick off the official Thursday night games.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs took the title once again last season but it seems that this year will be more difficult for them. Losing Tyreek Hill seems like it will be a big blow for the offense, he takes with him 1,200 yards and 9 TDs from last season, but more than that, the blistering pace which opened things up for the other players on the roster. It makes them weaker, but Patrick Mahomes is still rather good and I’m sure will be able to figure things out.

As a Bengals fan the Chiefs games against the Bengals make me a little concerned for Mahomes, they fell apart in the second half of both and the playoff game was especially worrying for him/the team as they seemed stumped by the half time adjustments made by the Bengals defense. However, I said after a year of Mahomes that he’ll be the best of his generation so I’ve got stick by that until it all falls apart.

The pass-catching group looks like it will be led now by Juju Smith-Schuster after he joined from Pittsburgh. Now, if you’ve read my blog/site for a number of years you’ll know my opinion of him. I don’t think he can do it as a WR1. He did fine with a star opposite, so I’m not exactly convinced on him this year. They brought in MVS from the Packers who will provide the speed they’ve lost and Skyy Moore in the draft who looks like he’ll have a decent role, and of course Mecole Hardman is still there for 1 good game a year.

Travis Kelce will undoubtedly lead the team in targets as he usually does, he’s getting up there in age but still as reliable as ever and finished last year with 1,125, his lowest for 4 years but still nearly 100 receptions, have to imagine he’ll be around 100 again this season.

It seems they’re still trying to make Clyde Edwards-Helaire a thing and he should fit nicely in this offense, I think the jury is still out on him personally, Jerrick McKinnon, Ronald Jones and rookie Isaiah Pacheco have all been kept on the roster to fill in when the injury inevitably comes. Pacheco one of most hyped players of the off-season.

They’ll still be battling for the top of the division, but do I think they’ll win it this year? I have no idea. I wouldn’t bet against it, but obviously wouldn’t bet on it either.

Player props? Kelce is set at 1050 yards and 91.5 receptions. I’d lean over but it’s not one I’d want to be betting, Skyy Moore is at 675, he might take a while to settle in, so I’d be leaning under, Juju 750 or 800 depending on whether you want the over or under, and Mahomes 4600 yards, again would lean under.

Turns out I’m actually quite down on the Chiefs this year.

Los Angeles Chargers

Every year the Chargers look like they’re ready to make a good push towards the Super Bowl and every year it falls apart. Last season was spectacular as they lost to the Raiders and the Patriots won their game to pull off an unlikely failure for the team.

Justin Herbert seems in some circles to be the future of the league, I won’t get into whether he’s better than the second-year QB who led his team to the Super Bowl after coming off a serious knee injury or not, because it’s stupid. Herbert is very good, big arm, mobile, accurate, he’s got all that’s needed in this league. He was 2nd in yards, 3rd in TDs, and 3rd in QBR last season. He’s really quite good. They have further strengthened the offensive line so I don’t see a reason why he won’t be very good again this year.

Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are one of the better 1-2’s in the league, Allen generally the shorter stuff and Williams the big plays, add to that probably the best pass-catching back in the league in Austin Ekeler (who finished as the joint top TD scorer last year) and it’s a hell of an offense. Behind those three it’s a little shallow, but with a top QB everyone is in play so Josh Palmer, Jalen Guyton and TE Donald Parham all popped up with plays last season. Gerald Everett will be hoping to fit nicely into this high-powered offense.

Defensively they’re pretty stacked too, Joey Bosa is one of the better pass rushers in the league and they signed Khalil Mack over the summer as well to play opposite him. Can’t argue with that pass rush.

Everything is lining up for it to be the Chargers division this year, but it’s not the first time we’ll have said that. They have an easier schedule and that week 2 TNF matchup between the Chiefs and Chargers should be a cracker and tell us a lot early on.

Player props? Well, everyone knows it’s a high-powered offense, so I’m expecting to lean under on most of them. Both Williams and Allen went over 1,100 yards last year and are lined either side of 1,000 this year. Allen at 1000 and Williams 950, both the lowest around at PP. Over 95.5 receptions seems fair for Allen, he’s gone over that line in all of the last 5 seasons. Ekeler is at 1425 combined yards for the season.

I don’t particularly mind a long-shot on Bosa or Mack to be DPOY, at 25/1 (Betfred) and 35/1 (Paddypower) respectively.

Reuters

Denver Broncos

So, everything I’ve heard this summer is that the Broncos are just a QB away from being serious contenders in the AFC and overall. I don’t particularly buy that, I can see where people are coming from, the defense is good and the offense isn’t bad either, but I just don’t see it personally. I may well be completely wrong on this one because I’ve no real reason to argue against it, just a feeling on them.

Russell Wilson is a huge upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater who was at the helm for the majority of last season and Drew Lock who couldn’t beat out Geno Smith for the starting gig in Seattle, so the offense should be far better this year. Before he injured his finger last year he was up there with the best QBs in the league still.

The running game has a good 1-2 with Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon whom they brought back meaning they will more than likely retain their shared workload, I love Javonte, but in fairness both backs looked good in patches and the split worked well for the team last year.

Courtland Sutton is coming into the season a further year away from the ACL injury that cost him so much time early in his career, good things are expected of him with Wilson at QB. Jerry Jeudy came in as an elite route runner but things haven’t been ideal for him in the league, again, it will be interesting to see how he does with a top QB. KJ Hamler looks like he’ll have to step up to WR3 status as Tim Patrick went down for the season while Albert Okwuegbunam is probably the starting TE with rookie Greg Dulcich behind him.

They do have a good defense, PFF has it top 5. I’m personally not convinced it’s that good but it will be a decent unit.

As you might have guessed I won’t be endorsing the overs for the Broncos or having them challenging for the title. I may well be proved very wrong come the end of the year, but that’s where I’m at with them.

Player props… I don’t want much to do with these either in all honesty, Javonte Williams is someone I was high on coming into last year. He played the full 17 games, only 4 TDs and 903 rushing yards. His line this year is highest at 975 on 365 if you fancy the under, a low of 925 on Paddypower if you want to go over. It does seem to be a similar split to last season with him and Mel Gordon who out-rushed him and doubled up on TDs with 8, so I’d be leaning on the under. Sutton and Jeudy are both at 925.5 for the year.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders have the lowest expected win total of the division, but may well be considered favourites in the AFC South. They have a decent roster which they’ve improved over the summer, but largely due to playing the other 3 teams in this division they have one of the tougher schedules in the league with only 3 or 4 games I can look at and straight away say they’ll win, they brought in Josh McDaniels from the Pats who gives head coaching another go.

Derek Carr is probably under-rated? I have no real grasp on his talent, I see him as Andy Dalton was for the Bengals, if things are good around him he’ll be fine, if they’re not then he won’t be able to raise his team. That probably sounds offensive to Carr but remember Dalton led his Bengals team to the playoffs 5 years in a row when the team was good around him.

Davante Adams was the biggest move of the summer as he joins his college QB in Vegas. One of the best WRs in the league with Aaron Rodgers, you have to assume that he’ll fit in fine in Vegas and take the most targets on the team. He goes in with Hunter “triple-move” Renfrow and TE Darren Waller as the probable leading target-takers on the team.

Josh Jacobs essentially said over the summer that he doesn’t want the full workload, but they released Kenyan Drake this week anyway. It looks like the new coaching group likes Ameer Abdullah more, and they have Brandon Bolden as well as pass catching back so work should be spread around them.

They’re average on defense, stats-wise they will probably get worse with the division having grown stronger around them and a tough schedule.

Nothing on them as a team. I just can’t pick how this division goes or how this team will be with new coaching.

Play props… I definitely have to lean under 1200 yards for Davante Adams, sure he put up tons of yards in Green Bay but he was pretty much the only target, there’s a couple of others who will get attention here, and a new scheme, system etc… I wouldn’t expect a record-breaking season from him, same with his receptions, under 102.5 would be my play if I was taking a 5/6 shot for the year. I did like u775.5 rushing yards for Josh Jacobs, but I now don’t think he’ll lose too many rush attempts so I’ve backed off of that one. Derek Carr set at 29.5 TDs seems a little high for me, he’s only topped that once in 8 seasons. His yardage probably about right at around 4500.

What should we be betting on?

This division has definitely improved over the summer and realistically all 4 teams could win it, however I do see a gap between the Chiefs and Chargers and the other two teams. 11/4 for Chiefs and Chargers top 2 in any order on Skybet is pretty generous to me.

I think there’s a better than the price chance that the Chargers win the division, but I’ve fallen into that trap many many times with this team so I would not be backing that.

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