Betting | Aug 28, 2023

2023/24 AFC West Odds, Analysis & Predictions

By Harry Bazley

USATSI 19751318

Last year the AFC West was touted as one of the competitive divisions in the league, with teams looking prepped to topple Kansas City, but by week 2 it made clear that we were all very wrong.

The Chiefs were comfortably 2-0, Justin Herbert was injured, Russell Wilson was already a bust and the Raiders had blown a 16-point lead in Arizona. Andy Reid & Co. went on to sweep the division and while the Chargers made a comeback for the postseason, the title was already in KC by November.

Are we looking at yet another dominant season from Mahomes, or will someone manage to halt the dynasty in the making? Well today we're going to break down the best odds for the division, while analysing each team's chance of success and making a prediction for the winner of the AFC West.

AFC West Best Odds

Team Best Odds Sportsbook
Kansas City Chiefs -160 Bet365
Los Angeles Chargers +340 Draftkings
Denver Broncos +600 FanDuel
Las Vegas Raiders +1700 FanDuel

Kansas City Chiefs (-160)

Kansas City are strong favorites in the odds to win the AFC West at -160 in the Bet365 sportsbook.

The Chiefs managed to dominate the league once again last season, despite concerns that Patrick Mahomes wouldn't be able to produce the same explosive offense without star wide receiver Tyreek Hill. They finished 6-0 against their division, 8-3 against the rest of the league and of course, went on to be Super Bowl champs.

As for this season, the losses of Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman are the main concerns, as this leaves Kadarius Toney as WR1 - a player that is always injured and even questionable to play at the time of writing. Sure, Mahomes made things work without Hill, but doing the same with a receiver core of Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Sky Moore could be out of his range. Travis Kelce will have to step up his already ridiculous standards.

What could hold the offense back even more are the losses of starting tackles Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie. Kansas City's offensive line led the NFL in pass-block win rate by a 7% margin last year. This will be sorely missed if projected starters Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor don't maintain the same projection on the edge. Mahomes might be a magician outside of the pocket, but if he doesn't even have the chance to roll out, there could be big issues in KC.

Another change is Matt Nagy taking over as offensive coordinator after Eric Bieniemy became HC in Washington. Nagy is no stranger to being a successful OC after turning the Chiefs 20th-ranked offense in 2016 into a top-five unit a year later.

The defense also lost safety Juan Thornhill and defensive lineman Frank Clark, leaving behind a young roster without a lot of big-name talent. They ranked a very average 15th in defensive EPA per play last season, which could take a step back this year.

So, Andy Reid will now be working with a team that suffered a lot of key losses and didn't make any key additions. In spite of all that, Mahomes is still in his prime and even at 34 years old, Travis Kelce doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Those two alone may not take the team to another Super Bowl, but they arguably have what it takes to top the AFC West.

Los Angeles Chargers (+340)

The Chargers are runners up in the odds to win the division at +340 in the Draftkings sportsbook.

Despite a talented roster, the Chargers keep finding a way to blow their chance in the playoffs. Justin Herbert is the latest highly-paid quarterback in a string of big deals and for good reason. But instead of being hailed as one of the best QBS in the league, he's now known as the guy who blew a 27-0 playoff lead against the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.

This begs the biggest question for the Bolts right now... Will the defense ever step up and stop letting their failures outweigh Herbert's ability?

The defense allowed 27-plus points in 54% of his starts last year. Sure, they struggled with J.C. Jackson underperforming and getting injured, and Joey Bosa only playing 5 games. Regardless, that rate is only 22.4% for Burrow, 34.2% for Hurts, 20.2% for Allen, and 38.3% for Mahomes in their careers. This is why Herbert isn't in the top 5 conversation when he definitely could be.

In terms of topping the AFC West, competing with Kansas isn't a problem for Herbert, but it's a big issue for the defense. Last season the Chargers led in the fourth quarter of both games against KC, yet the Chiefs came back to win both times. If the defense had held up in the final 15, both teams would have finished 12-5 with the Chargers having the head-to-head advantage.

Los Angeles brought in linebacker Eric Kendricks in free agency to help minimise the fourth-quarter losses. They also added deep threat Quentin Johnston who will play WR3 behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams to form a scary good receiver corps. Derrick Ansley is now running the defense, which is a huge step up from serving as the team's DB coach, so who knows how that will go. Otherwise, LA didn't make any notable moves in the offseason.

The bottom line is: Herbert could take his game to the next level this season - especially with another year under his belt and more depth at WR - but if the defense doesn't join him then the Chargers will likely be looking at another year as second best.

Denver Broncos (+600)

Denver are third in the odds at +600 in the FanDuel sportsbook.

The Broncos made some interesting moves in the offseason that could help them compete this year. They improved the o-line by adding guard Ben Powers and tackle Mike McGlinchey. Meanwhile, Zach Allen and Frank Clark will help on the other side of the trenches following the departure of Dre'Mont Jones.

Alongside these changes, star corner Patrick Surtain and star safety Justin Simmons are both returning, leading me to believe that the defense could take this team to a winning season. The problem is that they will have to with Russell Wilson still at the helm.

The Broncos finished dead last in scoring last season. Sure, some of the blame is certainly on the leadership of Nathaniel Hackett, but Wilson was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league and it's tough to base that solely on the scheme and not his performance. Sean Payton has taken over as HC and will need to completely transform the offense to bring Wilson back to his Seattle-level of play.

In fairness, Wilson played some of his best games against the Chiefs, but he still came up short. As a result, Denver are now on a 15-game losing streak vs KC, which is something Payton will need to break if he has any dreams of topping the division.

Don't get me wrong, there's enough talent on both sides of the ball to produce a solid season, but with a QB in the lowest point of his career and a very average run game, it's nearly impossible to see them competing with the Chiefs for the AFC West title.

Las Vegas Raiders (+1700)

The Raiders are severe underdogs in the odds at +1700 in the FanDuel sportsbook.

It seems like a strange thing to say, but Derek Carr leaving Las Vegas may be the best thing for both parties. After 9 seasons and not a single playoff win, it was time for Carr to take his talents elsewhere.

2022 was perhaps the last straw for the now Saints QB, as Josh McDaniels found ways to continually blow big leads, including a record 3 blown leads of 17-plus points early in the season. By the end of the year, the Raiders blew a league-worst 6 leads in the fourth quarter, including Baker Mayfield's incredible 2-minute 98-yard drive after just 48 hours with the Rams.

And Carr won't be the only one that's frustrated... Despite Josh Jacobs leading the league with 1,653 yards and Davante Adams topping the stats with 14 touchdown receptions, the Raiders finished 6-11. Sure, Chandler Jones may have been a bust - failing to provide much support to Maxx Crosby - but 6-11 is a surprise even when you consider the lack of roster depth.

McDaniels somehow has kept his job in Vegas and will now manage an offense led by Jimmy Garoppolo. A new quarterback should provide an opportunity for McDaniels to reinvent the offensive scheme after 9 years with same QB.

The problem is that Garoppolo will be working with far less weapons than he had in San Francisco. Besides Jacobs and Adams, the locker room is pretty much void of star talent on the offense. Tight end Darren Waller was traded to the Giants to free up cap space, and while Michael Mayer could develop into a star, it'll be a while before we see him make the same impact Waller did. Plus, the only special thing about the defense is Crosby. The secondary is severely lacking and will likely get burned on big plays, putting Jimmy G in a hole he probably can't climb out of.

So, Las Vegas are at the bottom of the odds for good reason and there's not much to say for them proving the sportsbooks wrong.

Prediction: Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers have already shown they can compete with the Chiefs, leading both matchups in the fourth quarter last season. If Derrick Ansley can step up to the challenge as DC and reduce the number of blown leads, Los Angeles stand a good chance to top the division.

There's no doubt it will be close with Mahomes still in his prime, but he'll be dealing with a worse receiver corps, a depleted offensive line and the loss of two key stars on defense. So, I'm not sure Kansas City will live up to the same standard they set last season. Then again, if anyone can carry a lacklustre roster to a Super Bowl, it's probably Patrick Mahomes.

For me, the Chiefs are a boring bet. There's zero doubt in my mind that they'll make the postseason. But rooting for an upset by a team that would have won the division last season - if they hadn't blown 2 fourth-quarter leads to KC - is a much more exciting bet, not to mention the bigger payoff.

Will Mahomes magic continue to reign? Or will the Chargers defense finally give Herbert the win-loss record he deserves?

Let us know your thoughts on Twitter & Instagram and be sure to follow for all the latest sports and betting news.

(Header Image Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

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