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AFC West Breakdown

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Editor’s Note: Gary Bart joins the pro football handicapping roster this season. Don’t miss out on his selections on VI. Click to win!

The AFC West shapes up as an interesting division for the 2015 season. Once again, the Broncos are the favorites to repeat as Division Champions.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the Oakland Raiders who finished in last place last season with a 3-13 record. In the middle of the pack are two teams that are coming off disappointing seasons.

The Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers both missed the playoffs with identical 9-7 records. Both teams made the playoffs in 2013 with the Chargers making it to the Divisional Round.

It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs can regain their 2013 form that included a 9-0 start and if the Raiders can improve on their 3-13 record.


Odds to win AFC West - per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
Denver Broncos 1/2
Kansas City Chiefs 4/1
San Diego Chargers 5/1
Oakland Raiders 18/1

AFC West Win Totals - per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
Denver Broncos - 10 (Over -135, Under +115)
Kansas City Chiefs - 8.5 (Over -110, Under -110)
San Diego Chargers - 8 (Over -140, Under +120)
Oakland Raiders - 5.5 (Over -110, Under -110)

Odds Subject to Change – Updated 7.29.15

Listed below are my notes on all four teams and predicted order of finish.

1) Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos are coming off another tremendous regular season. They finished with a 12-4 record but were unable to reach the Super Bowl. They lost to the Indianapolis Colts at home as a 9.5 point favourite in the Divisional Round.

Peyton Manning returns for his fourth season with the Broncos. Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, despite having only one Super Bowl win to his credit.

Surprisingly, the Broncos parted ways with one of the league’s best coaches John Fox, who led the Broncos to a 46-18 record and four division titles during his four year tenure. The departure of Fox was based on philosophical differences on the offensive side of the ball between Fox and general manager John Elway. Fox is being replaced by former Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. The Broncos were good on both sides of the ball last season, finishing third in the league on defense and fourth in the league in offense.

Denver may have pulled off the steal of the draft by picking Missouri consensus first-team All- American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Shane Rae with the 23rd pick. They improved themselves on the offensive line by picking two offensive linemen and Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman in the next three rounds. These selections should help the Broncos improve their seventh ranked rushing offense and help Peyton Manning’s passing attack. The Broncos are loaded at key positions.

There are two pressing questions about this team. Will Peyton Manning have enough left in the tank after fading late last season because of an apparent leg injury and will John Elway’s coaching change be the right move?

If this team stays healthy and if Manning can return to form, the Broncos should win the division easily, making them my early AFC choice to make it to the Super Bowl.

2) Kansas City Chiefs

Andy Reid starts his third season as head coach of the Chiefs after 14 years as the main man in Philadelphia. Reid had success in Philadelphia, taking them to five NFC title games and one Super Bowl appearance.

The Chiefs are 11-12 since getting off to that 9-0 start in 2013. Kansas City has quarterback issues. They ranked 29th in pass offense last season and 25th in overall offense. The team added free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and drafted two wide receivers in an effort to help unimpressive quarterback Alex Smith. Kansas City are counting on veteran running back Jamal Charles to carry the rushing load, even though his production slipped last season. The Chiefs did not draft a running back in this year’s draft.

Coach Reid reminds me of former Kansas City coach Marty Schottenheimer. Both have had regular season and playoff success but neither has won a Super Bowl. Reid has the reputation of being out coached in big games.

This team could compete for a Wildcard spot or be worse than last year’s 9-7 record. Relying on an aging Charles and not drafting a running back in this year’s draft may be a costly mistake.

3) San Diego Chargers

I have the Chargers and Chiefs ranked exactly the same. Phillip Rivers is a better quarterback than Alex Smith. I am concerned with San Diego’s 1-3 late collapse last season, after opening with a 5-1 record. The Bolts moved up two spots in this year’s draft to get Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy runner-up Melvin Gordon to help improve their 30th ranked rushing attack. I like the addition of hard hitting Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman with the 48th selection. Some observers had him rated as a late first round pick. This pick should help the Chargers 26th ranked rushing defense.

The Chargers should be in the mix for a Wildcard spot. The addition of Gordon will help their running game and free up their passing attack. If they can find a way to stop the run, the Bolts could improve on their 9-7 record.

4) Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders have won 11 regular season games during the past three seasons. They are excited about Fresno State second-year quarterback Derek Carr. The Raiders had the fourth pick in this year’s draft. They seem to have made a solid selection in wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper is coming off an outstanding career at Alabama and seems to be a solid citizen. He won the Biletnikoff Award and was a unanimous First Team All-American in 2014.

General Manager Reggie McKenzie has been given mixed grades on the rest of this year’s draft. They snagged another weapon for Carr in the third round, using that pick to draft Miami tight end Clive Walford. McKenzie also traded down in the later rounds of the draft in order to pick up extra selections. I like this strategy for a team that needs an upgrade in talent at most positions.

McKenzie has been the Raiders General Manager since 2012. He needs to have some of his draft picks step up if this team is going to improve on last year’s 3-13 record. I am not sold on Carr at this point. This team will finish last in the division. The only interest I have in the Raiders is to see if they go over or under the 5.5 win total.

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