08 Aug AFC West: Wins Total Futures
The football season is less than two months away. This means fantasy drafts are starting and it is time to make some money.
This series will look at each division to see what teams we should, and should not, bet on based on the Las Vegas numbers for Over/Under Futures. You will also notice, there is not a ton of talk about numbers from last season. This is for good reason. Not only was last season an anomaly, but we also turn the page on a new chapter of NFL football in 2021. One which sees us with a 17-game schedule. We will be using the numbers from FanDuel Sportsbook for this exercise, and as we know, these numbers can change depending on what happens before the season.
Last Season AFC West Wins Total Futures Record (O/U): 2-2
AFC West: Wins Total Futures
Denver Broncos | Over/Under 7.5 Wins
There is no team in the NFL as talented as Denver but with no quarterback. Sure, Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock are there, but based on the talent around them, they come up short.
If this team could find a quarterback as talented as the rest of their roster, they may be able to challenge Kansas City for the division. As it is, they will be lucky to compete for a playoff birth in a strong AFC.
Courtland Sutton is coming back from an ACL injury suffered early last season. If he comes back healthy, he, along with Jerry Jeudy can be a talented 1-2 punch in the receiving game. Noah Fant is an athletic monster at the tight end position. Although limited a bit last season due to ankle concerns, he was still able to show off his ability to be a downfield threat regardless of who is under center.
The run game will be a bit muddled in 2021. Although Phillip Lindsay is gone, the Broncos moved up to draft Javonte Williams in the 2nd round of the NFL draft in April. With Melvin Gordon already there and making $8 million for 2021, he will get usage. He is also an extremely good pass catcher. This means it will be up to Williams to take the job from Gordon if he is going to do anything as a rookie. This looks to be a true committee, which for fantasy is terrible, but only time will tell how plays out on the field.
Bradley Chubb returns this season as does stalwart Von Miller. They lead a defense which has added some great depth in the secondary. Something which will be key when going against Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert in the division.
This is a good team with a great defense which is only going to be held back by the limitations of the quarterback position. If Lock or Bridgewater can be solid, this team could easily get to nine wins. If they struggle, or if Courtland Sutton does not come back fully healthy, it could be a long year for Broncos’ fans. I think they will come up just a touch short this season. But I like them for 2022. Take the under.
Kansas City Chiefs | Over/Under 12.5 Wins
This is a huge number. But the Chiefs deserve it. Last season they only lost one game while playing their starters. And that was an inexplicable loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. With an extra game and a revamped offensive line, Kansas City is once again loaded.
The 5-time defending division champs should make it six in a row in 2021. Bringing in Joe Thuney via free agency and trading for Orlando Brown Jr. fixes the issue we saw when Patrick Mahomes was running for his life during the Super Bowl in February. With the offense returning intact, it will again be a top-3 unit in the NFL.
Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Mahomes are all tops at their positions in the league for both fantasy and on the football field. If the defense can just be league average, the Chiefs will roll the division yet again.
Speaking of that defense, Tyrann Mathieu brings veteran leadership to the locker room. He is also one of the best safeties in the league which does not hurt. If Frank Clark can finally show up after signing a huge contract, the pass rush will also get better. I bet it will.
Like I said, 12.5 is a big number. The highest in the league for 2021. But I still like it. I just cannot find five losses on this schedule. Can you? Give me the over.
Las Vegas Raiders | Over/Under 6.5 Wins
I would love to be able to just say take the under here. But I cannot do that.
John Gruden is not a good football coach. He once was, but his time has passed. But this does not mean he is not in control of the Raiders organization. As long as he is, the team will flounder in mediocrity. Which is a shame as the NFL is better when the Raiders are good. Despite the hardships brought on by having Gruden controlling everything, Las Vegas has a decent roster.
Henry Ruggs needs to have a year-two breakout. Coming into camp after gaining 15 pounds, he is looking to remain healthy and be more physical. He has speed to burn so if this extra weight helps him stay on the field, it will do wonders for Derek Carr and the offense.
Darren Waller is the only sure thing on this team. He will be among the league leader in targets from the tight end position. He also has a wonderful connection with Carr making him a viable option to end the season as the fantasy overall TE1. An athletic specimen, Waller will be the first and second read on most pass plays. His ability to get separation from defenders and then outrun them means a great season is in store for him. But where will the rest of the production come from? It might not be from the pass game. Therefor we have to turn to the run game.
Josh Jacobs had a solid rookie season in 2019. Although many were disappointed last season, he still finished as an RB1 for fantasy. But he is still not getting the targets to go with the carries. With the signing of Kenyon Drake this off season, it looks likely it will once again elude him. This is sure to frustrate a lot of his fantasy managers especially those in PPR leagues.
Gruden wants to run the ball. With two solid backs behind Derek Carr, he has the players to do it. The committee will be challenged to get 30-or-more touches per game, but the distribution will fluctuate week-to-week meaning even more frustration for fantasy players. But it is clear that Gruden does not care about fantasy. How dare he. He only cares about getting wins for Las Vegas and Mark Davis.
Two seasons ago, the Raiders had seven wins. Last season they had eight. Does this mean nine is coming in 2021? No. But I do think they can get to seven. Take the over.
Los Angeles Chargers | Over/Under 9.5 Wins
Justin Herbert had a great rookie season. In fact, the best ever for a quarterback. But this did not lead to wins for the Los Angeles Chargers who still only managed a 6-10 record. Much of this can be put down to the team having some of the worst luck when it comes to injuries in recent years.
After All-Pro safety Derwin James went down for the season in training camp, the team was forced to rely even more heavily on the defensive front. After Melvin Engram was injured, this too did not pan out.
On offense, not only was the line perhaps the worst in the NFL, but injuries to Austin Ekeler and Mike Williams derailed what could have been an explosive offense with Herbert. Keenan Allen is a great receiver. One of, if not the best route runner in the game today. But he cannot do it all alone. With Williams healthy and hopefully remaining so this season, the team will have a viable No. 2 option to play alongside Allen.
Austin Ekeler missed significant time due to a serious hamstring injury in 2020. When he was in the lineup, we saw the ability he has both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. Although he is not going to get 20 rushes per game, he is likely going to outpace that number when it comes to touches. For this reason, and due the offensive line being far better, he is a serious buy in fantasy drafts for 2021.
Rashawn Slater slid to No. 13 in the NFL Draft. The Chargers eagerly scooped him up to help fix their offensive line. One which also got a boost when the team signed free agent Corey Linsley, the best center on the market and one of the best in the league. These additions, along with the return of Derwin James on defense will help the team be far better then they were under former coach Anthony Lynn last season.
New Coach Brandon Staley, who led the Rams No. 1 defense last season, will focus on that side of the ball. A side of the ball which, although good, looks to take another step forward in 2021. By focusing on the defense, he will leave the offense to new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi who was brought in from New Orleans and the Sean Peyton system. This will bode well for everyone involved. As long as Staley is better than his predecessor at clock management.
The Chargers are talented and young. Joey Bosa and Derwin James lead the defense and Justin Herbert, Ekeler and Allen lead a potentially lethal offense. I am a bit nervous about the new coaching staff and whether it will mesh. Maybe it is my newly found positive nature, but I am going to think it happens for them. Give me the over.
Dominick is a lifelong resident of the Philadelphia area. Playing fantasy football for more than 20 years and writing for more than five, he has a vast knowledge of both the NFL and fantasy football. Despite his being blind, Dominick is a consistent ranker amongst FantasyPros experts, and always strives to be better than last season. Follow him on Twitter @EnvisionFF and read his weekly Best Bets articles during the season.