AFC West Division prediction and odds: Can Chargers challenge Chiefs?

As we wait for training camp to begin in the NFL, we’re taking a look around the league the next two weeks to see how divisional odds shake out, along with the futures bets we like the most. We wrap the series with the AFC West. 

[Previous Editions: NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West | AFC East | AFC North | AFC South] 

I don’t care if this reeks of hyperbole, but the AFC West is the toughest division in football. With Russell Wilson joining Denver, these four teams all have strong quarterbacks leading potent offenses. There’s a reasonable argument to be made for each team to win this division.

This should be a fun one.

To win the AFC West betting odds

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (+175 DK)
  2. Los Angeles Chargers (+240 FD)
  3. Denver Broncos (+260 DK)
  4. Las Vegas Raiders (+700 FD)

The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, so any discussion about the AFC West has to start in Kansas City. The Chiefs went 12-5 last year and 5-1 in the division, losing in the AFC Championship Game to Cincinnati. It was the Chiefs’ fourth straight AFCCG appearance, and despite trading Tyreek Hill, this team is always a threat in the AFC.

The Chargers made a wise selection with quarterback Justin Herbert two years ago. Herbert has grown into a star at the position, and with his rookie contract ongoing, it allows Los Angeles to put money elsewhere. The Chargers have constructed a very strong team and will look to build on their 9-8 season from a year ago.

The Broncos made the splashiest acquisition of the offseason in this division, trading for Russell Wilson. Wilson joins an offense with talent everywhere, and Denver figures to be in the mix despite finishing 7-10 in 2021.

The Raiders made a big move of their own, trading for Davante Adams to pair him with former college teammate Derek Carr. The Raiders made the playoffs last season at 10-7, and even with the addition of Adams, they have the longest odds to win the division. That’s likely a testament to these other teams more than a knock on Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Raiders: What to expect

Why can’t the Raiders compete for an AFC West title? Maybe they can, but the reason they likely won’t is that Carr has to be considered the worst QB in the division.

Carr has grown on me, but you’re not taking him over Wilson, Herbert or Mahomes. The Raiders have a really nice roster here. Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow form a terrific pass-catching group. Maxx Crosby is a star on the edge. Josh Jacobs has his moments as an above-average running back.

Still, I don’t see this Raiders defense keeping pace with the explosive offenses in this division. I’ll stay away from their divisional futures, but will note I’ve seen some buzz on Carr leading the NFL in passing yards, which is a bet I actually like quite a bit.

The Raiders will be a fun team to watch and should find themselves in some shootouts, but that’s not going to bring them home an AFC West crown.

Denver Broncos: What to expect

I was bullish on Broncos futures last offseason because I thought they were going to trade for Aaron Rodgers. That move did not come to fruition, but the Wilson fit is fantastic.

Wilson is still an elite quarterback. I’m sure he’s fine after a midseason finger injury derailed much of his 2021 campaign. It starts with what I consider to be a very strong trio of wideouts in Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick. Even KJ Hamler has flashed some nice moments, and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam has shown an ability to make plays.

Behind a sturdy offensive line and with ascending running back Javonte Williams next to him in the backfield, Wilson is going to do wonders for this offense.

Denver has a fine defense, with the hope being that Patrick Surtain II emerges as the star the Broncos he hoped he would be when they drafted him in the top 10 last season. Safety Justin Simmons is a stud, but you’d like to see some steadier presences on this side of the ball.

If Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb can give the Broncos something off the edge, Denver can very much win this division and make noise in a packed AFC.

Los Angeles Chargers: What to expect

Man, I really like what the Chargers have going on here. Herbert is a star, no question about it. He will very likely be one of my MVP bets when the time comes to load up some futures in that market.

He’s got Keenan Allen and Mike Williams back to spread the field, and Austin Ekeler is a weapon out of the backfield. Then he has a very strong offensive line headlined by Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley. For the second year in a row, Los Angeles’s first-round pick came in the trenches, this year in the form of guard Zion Johnson. 

The Chargers are building the right way, and I’m excited to see what they can do this season. New acquisitions on the defensive side in corner J.C. Jackson and edge-rusher Khalil Mack join a group that includes All-Pros in Joey Bosa and Derwin James.

I love this team! 

Kansas City Chiefs: What to expect

The Chiefs have reached that point where fans get bored of how successful they’ve been. Four straight AFC Championship Games don’t happen by accident, and it helps when you have one of the best quarterbacks in the game.

I’m certainly wondering how the offense looks without Hill, but Mahomes is the type of QB who should be able to elevate those around him. Kansas City has made investments at receiver, namely JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and rookie Skyy Moore. Travis Kelce is still here too, and Mahomes has an above-average line in front of him.

The issue I see, even though it hasn’t mattered much up to this point, is a lack of defensive players you can trust. I love what Chris Jones brings to the team, but this team has its vulnerabilities on defense.

With the other quarterbacks in this division so strong, I do wonder if this is the year Kansas City hands the AFC West over.

Final betting word: AFC West

To me, the value is between Denver and Los Angeles, as my write-ups likely suggest. I think I’m opting to back Herbert and Co. to win the division and make the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

Give me the Chargers at +240 to take the division from Kansas City. 

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