AFC West Questions, Concerns and Odds Entering Camp

The Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC West last year, but this season the division is up for grabs. Let’s discuss the outlook for the AFC West entries and reveal with the oddsmakers think about their chances.

Kansas City Chiefs (2017 season record: 10-6)The Chiefs decided the Alex Smith Era was over when they dealt the 34-year-old veteran QB to the Redskins for a third-round pick in the 2018 draft plus cornerback Kendall Fuller, himself a third-round pick in 2016, and handed the reins to last year’s 10th overall pick in Patrick Mahomes. The former Texas Tech Aggie played well in his only action as a professional, but one game does not a career make and the Chiefs will have to live or die with Mahomes because their only insurance policy is veteran Chad Henne, whom they signed in the offseason. Sammy Watkins will be a solid addition to a receiving corps that includes one of the best tight ends in the game in Travis Kelce. Kareem Hunt will hope to demonstrate that his 1,300 plus rushing yards in his rookie season was not a fluke; therefore, if Mahomes clicks and Hunt proves he is the real deal, the Chiefs could be even better than last season.

The defense lost Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Marcus Peters but Kansas City did a terrific job restocking the defensive shelves. Every one of their draft picks was a defensive selection and they added an excellent nickel corner in Fuller with one of the best secondary men in Eric Berry returning from a season lost to injury. Justin Houston returns as a mainstay and the Chiefs signed former Cowboy Anthony Hitchens to a five-year pact, which means this defense could be very good despite the loss of Peters. A quick peek over at Sportsbook Review, the sports bettor’s bible tells us that the best online sportsbooks in the world are dealing the Chiefs as +275 to win the West, behind only the Chargers, +1350 to win the AFC, and +3100 to win the Super Bowl.

Los Angeles Chargers (2017 season record: 9-7) – The Chargers bid adieu to eight-time Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates (for now) but his replacement, 2016 second-round pick Hunter Henry, is now lost for the season due to a torn ACL he suffered in OTAs. That’s a big loss, but on the flipside, they did upgrade their offensive line with the addition of former Dolphins’ center Mike Pouncey and will see their second-round guard from a year ago, Forrest Lamp, return to action after missing his entire rookie season with an ACL tear in camp. Wide receiver Mike Williams will have to improve upon a rookie campaign that was derailed due to injuries and running back Melvin Gordon should see a bit more daylight with a better offensive line in front of him.

Defensively, the Chargers boast the most dynamic pass rushing combination in the game with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. LA also added to their defensive backfield when they tapped the athletic and versatile safety Derwin James of Florida State as the 17th overall pick in the draft. Los Angeles also tapped former USC linebacker Uchenna Nwosu in the second round to assist with what was a sieve-like rush defense that allowed a league worst 4.9 yards per carry. The oddsmakers are bullish on the Bolts this season as they have them as the favorites to supplant Kansas City as the AFC West champs at +167 while dealing them at +1200 to win the conference and in the middle of the pack to win the Super Bowl at +3300.

Oakland Raiders (2017 record: 6-10) – If you’re a fan of Jon Gruden then there’s hope in Raider Nation. Gruden returns to the Silver & Black after years spent in the broadcasting booth. However, the selection of UCLA tackle Kolton Miller in the first-round is more than a bit head-scratching considering the Raiders had one of the most anemic defenses in the league last year. Perhaps it’s the rash of injuries suffered by their young quarterback Derek Carr that prompted the pick as they needed a blindside bodyguard to insure he stays upright. Carr’s top target Amari Cooper also suffered a down year due to back injuries but both are reportedly healthy for this season. Oakland also boasts a two-headed monster that would have been far more menacing three or four years ago with Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin splitting reps in the backfield. Therefore, the offense should see an uptick this season and if Carr stays healthy then watch out!

Defensively, the Raiders have been Khalil Mack and 10 other guys. But Oakland has their 2017 first-rounder Gareon Conley at cornerback returning after a shin injury precluded him from playing during his rookie year and he will play in tandem with former Colts corner Rashaan Melvin who was signed in the offseason. Former Detroit Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead was signed to bolster the team’s rushing defense. All in all, the Raiders could very well contend for the division championship and make some noise in the postseason if Carr stays injury-free. Sportsbook Review has a page dedicated to the most current odds from all the major offshore sportsbooks which reveals that the oddsmakers are dealing Oakland at +330, +1400, and +3500 to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

Denver Broncos (2017 record: 5-11) – Offensively, the Broncos look to be a bit of a mess unless the moon and stars align. Denver signed former Viking Case Keenum to be their man under center, which will bring more mobility to the position than last year’s doddering duo of Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler. But don’t worry Broncos fans, if Keenum doesn’t replicate his career best year from last season then look no further than backup Paxton Lynch – insert sarcastic tone here. As far as the wideouts are concerned Denver will once again turn to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as Keenum’s chief targets. If that doesn’t impress you, then consider Denver’s second-round pick Courtland Sutton of SMU. Yeah, sarcasm again because even if Sutton does develop, the Denver wide receiving corps will still not give opposing defenses any sleepless nights.

All is not lost because the Broncos got a beast when NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb fell to them at the No. 5 pick in the draft. This will give Von Miller a huge boost as the double teams that have plagued him will now have to consider his partner in chaos. The Denver No Fly Zone is still solid despite the trade of Aqib Talib to the Rams in exchange for a fifth-round pick. It was a savvy financial move for Denver as GM John Elway understands professional football players, particular defensive backs, don’t get better at age 32. Chris Harris and Bradley Roby are both more than capable of picking up the slack left by Talib. The oddsmakers aren’t impressed with the Broncos this season because as good as the defense portends, the offense looks lackluster at best. As of this July writing the Broncos are +435 to win the West, +1500 to win the AFC, and +4400 to win the Super Bowl.

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