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Best Bets - AFC West
No team in the AFC West finished better than 8-8 last season as all four teams went 3-3 within the division and it was very nearly a four-way tie as Kansas City was at 7-9 behind the other three teams at 8-8. This division looks fairly wide open this season as every team could make a case for the top spot and there are some big changes with two new head coaches and a lot of big name players on the rosters changing teams. Here are some predictions for the 2012 NFL season and who will be the best of the AFC West.

Best Team: San Diego Chargers

The Chargers were the only team in the division to have a positive point differential last season, actually being the second-highest scoring team in the AFC. It was not necessarily a popular decision, but the Chargers stuck with veteran coach Norv Turner and while there was some player turnover, the roster has decent talent. San Diego will benefit from a second-place schedule with the benefit of playing the Jets and Titans instead of the Texans and Patriots like the Broncos will which could be a substantial advantage. San Diego was 6-10 ATS last season and the Chargers are nearly synonymous with disappointment, but of this group San Diego appears to be in the best position to produce a winning record and getting to 9-7 might be all it takes to win what should again be a watered-down division.

Best ‘OVER’ Win Totals Bet: Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs could go a number of different directions, but the team played hard behind Romeo Crennel in the final three games last season and played excellent defense down the stretch. The offense suffered injuries to several key players last season and a little better health could make this a very competitive team. The fourth-place schedule doesn’t hurt and it is certainly an advantage despite only being a game out of first place last season. This team was fortunate to be 10-6 in 2010 and that would be a stretch this season, but in this wide-open division, getting to .500 seems reasonable for the Chiefs although the early season schedule is brutal. If the Chiefs stumble out of the gate, it could take another great late-season run to climb back in the picture, but the Chiefs have more upside than the rest of the division.

Best ‘UNDER’ Win Totals Bet: Denver Broncos

The Broncos are really rolling the dice with Peyton Manning and his health. The entire offense makes major changes this season and it could take some time for things to shape up. Denver won’t have the luxury of an easy start to the schedule with a gauntlet to open the year facing Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Houston in the first three weeks and then also playing New England, San Diego, and New Orleans in the first half of the season. This is a team that will have a hard time producing a winning record in the first half of the season, which could raise questions and discontent. The defense got a lot of credit last season, but the Broncos allowed over 24 points per game including allowing 40 or more five times. Value is not on the ‘under’ anymore as this total has dropped significantly, but the Broncos still look like a team headed towards a disappointing season.

Best ATS Performer: Oakland Raiders

The expectations are low for Oakland, but this team was 7-4 at one point last season, looking like a lock for the division title. Oakland is 9-3 in division games the last two years and those are the games that should decide this title. Dennis Allen takes over as Oakland goes through another transition, but he inherits a good offensive line and a running game which should be two key factors that allow the Raiders to be competitive. Allen’s defensive focus should pay dividends in improving a run defense that had big problems at times last season and while the AFC West as a whole will face tough scheduling, the Raiders have a more favorable path in that draw, particularly early in the year. The Raiders are still the Raiders and this is not a reliable franchise, but this team was an underdog eleven times last season and has been .500 or better ATS each of the last three years, as there is often value on this team that few feel comfortable backing.

Best Team to Fade: San Diego Chargers

The Chargers should be the best team in this division, but a turnover prone QB along with a coach that makes many questionable decisions could again be a formula for poor spread results. San Diego was just 6-10 ATS last season and the Chargers were favored in all but five games last season. That could again be the case this year as San Diego should start off the season with a decent record and could be favored in every division game. This is a franchise that has been prone to long losing streaks and painful losses and there will be value going against the Chargers particularly within the division where they have gone just 6-6 the last two years. San Diego’s running game has question marks again this season and the Chargers may again be the one dimensional team that puts up great statistics but can’t win games.

Best ‘OVER’ team: Denver Broncos

The Broncos went on a great mid-season run in 2011 with Tim Tebow getting much of the credit. Those that didn’t want to credit Tebow gave credit to the defense, but in reality the Broncos were not a good defensive team last season. Only three teams in the AFC allowed more points than Denver and the Broncos allowed at least 100 rushing yards in eleven of the final twelve games of the season last year, including the playoffs. Denver had success running the ball last year, but this is likely to be much more of a passing-oriented team and could be a strong ‘over’ team that has to play from behind at times as the Colts occasionally did with Manning in the years the defense struggled. Jack Del Rio has been added to the coaching staff, but he and Fox may have a hard time leading with defense this season even though there are a few elite defensive players on the roster. Denver will be a hard team to get a handle on given the dramatic changes in the last two years and that could lead to some higher scoring games and some deflated totals.

Best ‘UNDER’ team: Kansas City Chiefs

The ‘under’ was 12-4 in Chiefs games last season, yet Kansas City does not have the reputation of having a great defensive team. The Chiefs allowed by far the fewest points in the division last season despite being in fourth place and in the three Crennel coached games Kansas City allowed just 33 total points. In the last 25 games that Crennel has been a head coach for, the ‘under’ is 18-6-1. Kansas City will score more than last season, averaging just over 13 points per game, but the focus will be on running the ball as the Chiefs have the most tenuous QB situation in the division. The tough early-season schedule could lead to some higher scoring games early in the year for Kansas City, but look for that to boost the totals on future Chiefs games and this team should emerge as a quality ‘under’ bet in the second half of the season as arguably four of the best five offensive opponents on the schedule will be in the first four weeks of the season.

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