Chargers Leading AFC West Futures

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TwinSpires Staff

July 26th, 2018

Who's the Best in the AFC West?

There were a lot of moves in NFL free agency, and putting a team name out there usually helps generate buzz. But in the AFC West, a surprising name bubbled to the top of the list. The favorite to win is none other than the Los Angeles Chargers.

What’s interesting about this is the fact that the Kansas City Chiefs sit second at +350 after shipping Alex Smith to Washington to make room for the 2017 first rounder Patrick Mahomes II. The Denver Broncos, a mercurially talented roster that desperately needed a quarterback, went out and signed Case Keenum. And then there’s the Raiders, who handed out $100 million to Jon Gruden.

Odds to win AFC West +150 +250 +300 +500

 Who’s got the goods and who’s heading to the back of the pack? Make no mistake – this is the tightest race in the divisional NFL futures. Westworld is going to be crazy.

Los Angeles Chargers (9-7 SU and 8-7-1 ATS in 2017)

The Chargers routinely come out of the gate slow, hampering their chances of Philip Rivers making faces in the playoffs. Last year, they started a woeful 1-5 SU and 3-3 ATS. This year? Eyes are on them.

Philip Rivers miraculously led the league’s best passing offence, averaging 276.9 yards per game (1st) while the defence emerged as a massive threat ranking 3rdin allowed with just 17.0 per game. They seemed to leak yards defensively last season, but that should stop thanks to the unreal arrival of rookie Derwin James, an FSU safety who landed in their laps at 17thin the NFL Draft.

James inserts in to a spot of need for the Chargers, who still have Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and Casey Hayward up front to do damage. Where they were week was up the middle in both pass and run coverage.

Shoring up that weakness alone has moved the Chargers to the top of the heap for the division in NFL futures betting. A strong start could satisfy those of you that lean in on their +150 odds, but if they get off the line poorly early in the campaign, you may want to hedge.

Kansas City Chiefs (10-6 SU and ATS)

There’s simply no telling what Mahomes is truly capable of, but Andy Reid has been routinely spot-on when it comes to knowing when to move on from a quarterback. He made bold moves with Donovan McNabb in Philly and now Alex Smith in Kansas City and came out glimmering. To be fair, Mahomes is a first-year starter and we haven’t seen him produce at the pro level so it’s hard to go full steam ahead on these odds.

He’s surrounded by talent on both sides of the ball, but the Kansas City Chiefs were porous defensively in 2017, ranking 28thin total yards allowed (365.1) and 15thin points surrendered (21.2). There’s no telling how much more the defence has improved, though they’ll have Eric Berry hovering in the secondary all year now that he’s overcome his health troubles.

The Chiefs are always in the running when it comes to the AFC West, finishing top-two in the last five years. Whether or not Mahomes has the stuff or not remains to be seen, but Andy Reid has always been exceptional about knowing when to move on from one quarterback to another.

Denver Broncos (5-11 SU and 4-11-1 ATS)

A great defence? Two good receivers? A strong running game? Sounds like Case Keenum found the west coast version of the 2017 Minnesota Vikings. The Broncos have been suffocating under a quarterback carousel spun by general manager Jon Elway. One of the reasons they’re the longshot in the AFC West is because nobody believes in Case Keenum. One of the reasons they shouldn’t be is because Case Keenum is better than you think.

Oakland Raiders (6-10 SU and 5-9-2 ATS)

Unlike the Chiefs and Broncos, who have prevailing questions at the most pivotal position, the Raiders have Derek Carr. But they’ve also made all the wrong moves this off-season, overpaying for a coach who hasn’t been at the helm for over a decade and signing players who are well pas their peak. Doug Martin? Jordy Nelson? Gruden? It’s just…a weird collection of talent.

Gruden is either out of his depth, or the Raiders are just going to keep on raiding. That isn’t a good thing. It’s also not safe to bet on the Raiders given that we don’t know what to make of Carr. He came back from a back injury and was brutally below average, posting an 86.4 rating and threw for a pedestrian 3,495 yards.

Is Lynch good? Is Carr really elite? Does Jordy have anything left? Is Cooper any good? Does Gruden have any idea what he’s doing?

There are too many questions here to leverage a knowledgeable wager. Makes the Raiders a bit prohibitive at this point for AFC west futures, whether or not Gruden takes the full brunt of his contract in to pocket in the end.