09 Jul Free AFC West Odds
Free AFC West Odds | Expand the Boxscore’s Divisional Futures Series
Finally, we head west in our divisional futures series.
The AFC West is an easy division for picking a winner: The Chiefs stay healthy, the Chiefs will win it. There are still some good and possibly surprising teams behind them though. (All lines from DraftKings Sports Book)
Last Season: 7-9
2020 O/U: 8
Bradley Chubb is back from injury and Von Miller will hope to have a bounce back season.The team did lose Chris Harris Jr. to the Chargers but in his place got A.J. Bouye in a trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars. In an off-season of big swings, the Broncos also traded for Jurrell Casey from the Tennessee Titans. President and GM John Elway is hoping the defense is good enough to slow down the Chiefs. The offense will need to improve to keep up with the class of the division.
The Broncos jettisoned Flacco, handing the reigns of the team to Drew Lock. They also brought in a plethora of weapons for him to use.
With star in the making Courtland Sutton already on the roster, Denver solidified their wide receivers with a group of rookies in the draft. First round pick Jerry Jeudy is a technical machine. His route running has already drawn comparisons to Stefon Diggs and Keenan Allen. This is a high bar, but if he reaches it he could have a rookie season similar to another technical receiver: Amari Cooper.
In his rookie season of 2015, Cooper recorded 72 receptions for 1,070 yards and six TD. These numbers are within reach for Judy with a strong-armed QB and a stud receiver in Sutton across the field from him. The other rookie, K.J. Hamler of Penn State is an entirely different receiver. In the mold of a Ted Ginn Jr., Hamler will be a low volume high production target. Small but speedy, he will be a field stretcher for the Broncos. Stretching the field will also help Phillip Lindsay and newly acquired Melvin Gordon in the run game.
It is clear the Broncos do not want to use any back as a bell cow. Gordon and Lindsay have the ability to be pass catchers, but Gordon has proven to be exceptional in this aspect in his career. Both backs will remain fresh throughout the season and hopefully allow Denver to wear down teams and milk the clock. In games against high-powered offenses like Kansas City, this could allow them to keep opposing offenses off the field and hopefully win a few of these match-ups.
Gordon is coming off a season in which he missed time due to a misguided hold out, but he is still a top 12 back in terms of talent. If he can put this all together in 2020 he may just lead the Broncos to a playoff berth.
Many people thought Denver would need to take Drew Lock at number 10 in the 2019 draft to get him. They passed on him, traded the pick, and drafted Noah Fant later in the first round while still getting Lock in the second. Fant started slow but came on at the end of the season to show why he was drafted so high. Drew lock also showed some ability after coming in for Joe Flacco and starting the final five games of the 2019 season.
Averaging 204 yards per game and throwing seven TD, Lock was good enough for John Elway and Vic Fangio to feel he is ready this season. The Broncos offense and team will live or die with him. If Lock is good, the team will surpass their projections. If Lock is bad? He and Elway could be gone before 2021 or 2022.
Kansas City Chiefs
Last Season: 12-4
2020 O/U: 11.5
Last season the Chiefs were the class of the league. Andy Reid finally got a well-deserved Super Bowl and Patrick Mahomes took another step towards being one of the best QBs ever. So, what can we expect in 2020? Likely more of the same especially with Mahomes cashing in on a new 10-year contract to keep him with the team until 2031.
There is not much to talk about in Kansas City when it comes to changes. The biggest departure is LeSean McCoy. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was drafted to replace him. In an extremely prolific LSU offense in 2019, the RB caught 92 passes out of the back field. This would be incredible in the NFL and is almost unheard of in college football. He will pair with Damien Williams to provide the rush attack for the Chiefs.
Andy Reid does an exceptional job maintaining a productive run game while preferring to pass the ball. This includes last season when the team was running the ball 39.4% of the offensive snaps.
Kansas City was able to bring back Sammy Watkins on a restructured contract. He me be the number two receiver and number three receiving option, but this is an especially important role for the Chiefs. His talent, although untapped, allows Mahomes to be able to find both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce down the field. Hill may no longer be the fastest player in the league but he is fastest receiver in the league. Kelce put up top receiver numbers in 2019: 97 receptions for 1,229 yards and five TD. His 97 catches were only two behind Julio Jones in 2019.
The defense will need to make strides in 2020 in order to remain heavy favorites to play in the Super Bowl again. The team brought in Frank Clark before the 2019 season and should continue to play well. Chris Jones wants a new contract, or he is threatening to hold out. The money given to Mahomes may make it tough to see Jones signing anything other than the franchise tag tender.
The Chiefs are in love with Tyrann Mathieu. He was the best defender on the team last season. After two serious ACL injuries in his time in Arizona, he has returned to his All-Pro form. His immaturity in college is all but forgotten at this point and he is the leader of the defense. Along with Mathieu leading him along, Juan Thornhill looks to improve on a good second half of his rookie season. If he does so the team will be far better on defense than they were in 2019.
The AFC West as a division is going to be much better this season. After going 12-4 last season, the Kansas City Chiefs will find it harder to find the same number of wins. Harder sure but not impossible.
Las Vegas Raiders
Last Season: 7-9
2020 O/U: 7.5
Oh, the Raiders. What to say about the Raiders?
The team comes into the 2020 with a new home city and a litany of new weapons on offense.
Derek Carr is seemingly always on the ropes with Jon Gruden. This may be even more true as Las Vegas brought in Marcus Mariota to compete with him for the staring position. After being replaced in Tennessee it was time for Mariota to gain a fresh start.
Derek Carr consistently underappreciated by the team and fans alike. It is also a well-known fact that Jon Gruden has never met a QB he did not like. This instability could lead Carr to finally produce back to his pre-injury and MVP-like form of 2016. He will not be able to count lack of weapons as a reason this season.
After the Antonio Brown debacle of last training camp the Raiders knew they needed to make moves. The team could not count on one individual to be the savior of the franchise. Las Vegas made the most Raiders pick of all time by taking the first wide receiver of the NFL draft. They also made sure to take the fastest receiver in Henry Ruggs.
Other receivers in the draft like former teammate and new division rival Jerry Jeudy are far more polished, but Ruggs is no one trick pony. He is good route runner who is also extremely fast. His college receiving numbers will not blow you away at first glance. Ruggs played on the same team as three other first-round receivers, and Alabama is also a run-oriented team. One stat which was incredible for Ruggs? He scored a TD on 20% of his receptions.
Edwards was not able to compete at the combine in March due to injury but was excellent at South Carolina. He broke all of Alshon Jeffery’s school records for the Gamecocks. If he had not been injured during his senior season he would have gone much higher in the draft. He will give the Raiders size in the pass game to work alongside tight end Darren Waller inside the red zone. The short game accuracy of both Carr and Mariota make the two dangerous in that area of the field.
Lynn Bowden Jr. was a five-star prospect who decided against Ohio State to make a difference at a smaller profile school. That is exactly what he accomplished at Kentucky. Not only was he their best receiver, he stepped in to play quarterback after multiple injuries. Bowden accrued over 1,400 rushing yards as Kentucky’s in 2019.
Vegas has announced Bowden Jr. as a running back but he will also be a big threat if the team decides to deploy him as a receiver. His hands could allow him to be an elite third-down back in the same way Chris Thompson has been for many years.
The other back on the roster is Josh Jacobs.
Despite a nagging shoulder injury Jacobs played as well as any rookie in 2019. Playing in 13 games Jacobs managed to rush 242 times for 1,150 yards and seven TD. Jacobs was able to garner 20 receptions for an additional 166 yards. A similar season should be expected by Jacobs because his above-average offensive line is returning.
The defense has to get better. After a lot of hype at the start of last season, the defense is really what caused them to fall short of a .500 record. The improved division makes it imperative they get solid play from the unit.
If the defense can play over their heads and help the offense as they meld, the Raiders could make it a happy honeymoon phase in the desert.
Los Angeles Chargers
Last Season: 5-11
2020 O/U: 7.5
For the first time in 15 years the Chargers have a new quarterback behind center.
L.A. drafted Justin Herbert as the future star of them team. Until then Los Angeles go with Tyrod Taylor under center as the bridge guy. If 2018 is any indication it will not be long before he is beaten out.
Keenan Allen and Mike Williams make for a strong duo at the wide receiver position. Behind the top two is not much to speak of: Joe Reed, Andre Patton, Jalen Guyton, and K.J. Hill. The Bolts need a lot of injury luck this season at receiver.
Allen is still considered a top receiver with Rivers chucking the ball. The story will change with Taylor. Taylor does have a solid arm and a good deep ball. It is not a throw he likes to make though. Taylor has averaged less than 7.0 net yards per attempt in his career. This does not mean great numbers for Keenan Allen or Mike Williams.
Williams struggled right along with the rest of the team in 2019. He raised his receptions number to 49 and his yardage to 1,001, but it took him 90 Targets to gather those 49 receptions. The 1,000-yard mark would look better if his TD total didn’t fall to two. This shows the opportunity taken from him with a healthy Hunter Henry on the field.
In the 2018 season with Henry out, Williams filled in the tight end role in many ways. He was used as the big body down low which allowed him a lot of TD chances. Henry will be looking to cash in on a franchise tag year in 2020 and should be highly productive with Tyrod Taylor checking down to him.
The run game lost a big piece in Melvin Gordon. They kept an even bigger piece by re-signing Austin Ekeler to a four-year contract.
Ekeler was able to finish the season as the RB six in fantasy last season on only 132 carries. This was due entirely on his elite level pass catching, accumulating 92 catches from Philip Rivers. Again, considering the short throw nature of Taylor, this number could easily repeat itself in 2020. Ekeler will not have to do it alone though. The team brought back Justin Jackson and also drafted rookie Josh Kelly from next store at UCLA.
The offensive line in front of Ekeler was a disaster in 2019. To fix the issue in 2020 the team traded for guard Trai Turner. They also signed Bryan Bulaga after his departure from Green Bay. These moves will improve the line immediately. Both players bring experience and Bulaga brings the pedigree of blocking for Aaron Rodgers during the best years of his career.
The defense will be one of the best in 2020. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram provide a great pass rush at the defensive end positions. Kenneth Murray comes in as a rookie from Oklahoma with a lot of experience. He is a tackling machine and he will help the run defense be even better this season.
The secondary is loaded. After bringing in Chris Harris from Denver they have possibly the best group of secondary defenders in the NFL.
With Chris Harris covering the slot, the rest of the defensive backfield is free to make plays. Desmond King and Derwin James at safety will provide those plays and corner Casey Hayward is graded as the best cover corner by PFF.
If the team can get anything out of the offense they could be a solid team this season. The defense is elite and ready to lead the team until the offense finds itself. In a division with the Chiefs and suddenly high-flying Broncos, they may not find the offense soon enough to compete.
It is hard to see anyone but the Chiefs winning this division. Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid are just too good right now to expect anything else.
The Raiders will be better in 2020 but they are still the Raiders. The Chargers are treading water with Tyrod Taylor in 2021. The Denver Broncos appear to be the biggest challengers. They bring back a stellar defense and may have a potentially high-powered offense. If you have to pick a team outside the Chiefs, it would be the Denver Broncos at +900.
All the teams behind the Kansas City Chiefs look to have improved for the future, but the future is not here yet.
Bet: Chiefs -455
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.