Coming off a Super Bowl victory last season, the Kansas City Chiefs were primed to tear through the AFC in 2020. Through 10 weeks of action, the Chiefs have done just that, for the most part.
The AFC West wasn’t projected to be too competitive, and many pundits penciled in the Chiefs as division champions. Kansas City currently sits near the top of the AFC with an 8-1 record.
Elsewhere around the divisions, the Las Vegas Raiders (6-3) are exceeding expectations and find themselves in playoff contention. Meanwhile, both the Broncos and Chargers are several games below .500.
With seven games remaining in the regular season, sports gamblers have a good idea of what each team offers at the online sportsbooks. Here are seven observations about the AFC West to help gamblers make smarter bets down the stretch.
1. The Path to the Super Bowl Is Open for KC
Before the season kicked off, the Chiefs (+600) were listed among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
If not for the Pittsburgh Steelers perfect 9-0 record, Kansas City would be sitting comfortably in the AFC’s driver’s seat. Alas, Pittsburgh seems like the only team on the same level as Kansas City and arguably the only legitimate threat to them in the conference.
Despite an inferior record, Kansas City is favored above the Steelers for several reasons. For one, the Steelers lack a real signature win against a quality opponent through 10 weeks. A 9-0 record is impressive, of course, but several of those wins came against terrible teams. Upcoming games against the Ravens, Bills, and Colts could reveal whether or not the Steelers are legitimate.
However, the critical factor separating the two top teams in the AFC is the quarterback position. Ben Roethlisberger is still one of the better QB’s in the league, but it’s painfully clear he’s not a young man anymore.
On the other side of the coin, Patrick Mahomes continues to prove he’s the best player in football. If Mahomes stays healthy and the Chiefs can take care of Pittsburgh in the playoffs, they should secure another appearance in the Super Bowl.
2. Las Vegas Is Underrated
At the beginning of the season, Derek Carr acknowledged that he was tired of losing. Lucky for the Raiders quarterback, his team hasn’t been doing too much losing this season.
Las Vegas (6-3 ATS), led by Carr’s consistent play, has quietly contended in a jam-packed AFC. The Raiders currently occupy the fifth seed, although five other teams share a 6-3 record.
Despite the logjam through 10 weeks, Las Vegas is in a good position to maintain its pace and secure a playoff berth. Once the Raiders get through a matchup with Kansas City in week 11, their remaining schedule is somewhat favorable.
Much of the Raiders’ success should be credited to Carr’s efficiency on offense. He has thrown for over 2100 yards with 16 passing touchdowns to go along with just 2 interceptions.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, their offensive prowess will always be overshadowed by the first-place Chiefs. However, Carr is playing like a top 10 quarterback in the NFL. If he keeps playing well, Las Vegas will be tough to beat in the playoffs.
Las Vegas, riding a three-game winning streak, might run into trouble against Kansas City. Once they are clear of KC, the Raiders are a team worth looking at when selecting wagers for the week.
3. Luck Continues to Evade Los Angeles
Historically speaking, certain teams in the NFL are known to be hopeless cellar dwellers. The Lions and Jets are doing little this season to reverse their negative reputation. Meanwhile, the Bills and Browns are creating some separation between their pitiful performances in the past.
In 15 years as the Chargers’ starting quarterback, the farthest that future Hall of Famer Phillip Rivers ever carried his team was the AFC Championship Game.
In his later years with the Chargers, it seemed as though his team was always within striking distance. However, they couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities, and Lady Luck never seemed to treat the Chargers well.
Despite making a change at the quarterback position, that ineptitude and bad luck continues to plague the Chargers. Together with the Atlanta Falcons, it seems like Los Angeles comes up with a creative way to cough up football games.
Whatever problems are plaguing Los Angeles need to be addressed immediately. It would be a shame to see another talented quarterback’s career go to waste.
4. It’s Time for Denver to Tank
Try as he might, John Elway can’t seem to find the Denver Broncos a quality franchise quarterback.
When the Broncos drafted Drew Lock with the 42nd overall pick in the 2019 draft, it seemed like he had the makings of a quality QB. However, the second-year player out of Mizzou looks like he’s nowhere close to being a star in this league.
It appears as though Lock might be sidelined for the foreseeable future with a rib injury. Given the Broncos’ deficiencies, there isn’t much reason to rush him back into action.
Lock has hardly improved in his first two seasons, and it might be time for the Broncos to test their luck once more. At 3-6, Denver would most likely need to win out if they wanted any shot of making the playoffs. With games against teams like the Dolphins, Saints, Chiefs and Raiders looming, that seems highly unlikely.
5. Herbert Looking the Part of Franchise QB
The AFC West is a tale of two cities when considering the division’s younger quarterbacks.
While Drew Lock struggles mightily in Denver, the Chargers seem to have hit on their 2020 first-round pick. It might still be too early, but Justin Herbert looks like he could compete at a high level in the NFL for a very long time. Despite his team’s less than stellar record, Herbert continues to command attention.
The rookie has thrown for over 2300 yards, 19 passing touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. When watching him play, it’s hard to believe that he’s only 22 years old.
While he appears to have what it takes to be a competent quarterback, he is prone to a few careless mistakes each game. But, if he cleans those up, we should be talking about him for years to come.
Herbert (+105) is currently the favorite to win Offensive Player of the Year. Unfortunately, that doesn’t have a tremendous amount of value, seeing as Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow trails at +170.
All it will take is one or two subpar performances from Herbert for Burrow to overtake him as the favorite.
6. Broncos, Chargers Hamstrung by Poor Coaching
One of the most unfortunate and slightly immoral things football gamblers can bet on is the next NFL coach to be fired. But what those wagers lack in integrity, they make up for in entertainment value.
To this point, only two head coaches, Bill O’Brien and Dan Quinn have been fired. However, it’s quite likely that there will be a few more before the season comes to an end.
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase, who somehow hasn’t been fired despite a 0-9 record, leads the pack at -175. While Gase’s firing could happen any second now, a few AFC West coaches are among the most likely to be fired.
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn (+350) currently has the second-best odds.
Lynn was hired in 2017 and has led Los Angeles to a 28-27 record during his tenure.
However, the Chargers have been one of this season’s biggest disappointments, and it’s hard to see why Los Angeles would retain him.
It seems like Fangio has tied his fortunes to Locks’ performance at QB. Unless something dramatic happens in the next several weeks, it’s safe to assume Denver will be appointing a new coach in the offseason.
7. Mahomes Is Somehow Flying Under the Radar
The debate about who is most deserving of the NFL MVP Award seems to commence earlier each year.
Before the season, fans and gamblers alike argued that Lamar Jackson would repeat as MVP. But as you know, Jackson has struggled at times this season and is barely cracking the top 10 MVP list.
After the Seahawks started 5-0, everyone was ready to hand Russell Wilson the trophy. Seattle has now dropped three of its last four games, and Wilson is no longer the favorite.
Now that fans have a reliable data set to base the decision on, things should be more clear, right?
Wrong. Patrick Mahomes (+180) holds a narrow lead over Wilson (+225) and Aaron Rodgers (+300).
Among the Chiefs, Seahawks, and Packers, Kansas City looks like the most complete team. If Mahomes maintains his torrid pace and leads KC to the top seed in the AFC, you can start engraving the trophy now.
While the AFC West isn’t the most competitive division in football, it’s undoubtedly one of the most intriguing.
The Chiefs are favorites to win the Super Bowl, and the Raiders are making a case for themselves as contenders. While Los Angeles’ successes have been few and far between, it looks as if they found their quarterback of the future.
Patrick Mahomes to win MVP isn’t going to win you a ton of money, but it’s a safe bet that should win if things remain the same around the league. Both the Chiefs and Raiders are consistent enough to consider wagering on going forward. However, consider staying away when they face each other.
Somewhat off the beaten path, it never hurts to put some money on the next coach to be fired at NFL betting sites. Adam Gase is clearly deserving of the boot in New York, but it seems like the Jets might be keeping him around to ensure a proper tank.