The AFC West is quickly becoming a powerhouse division in the NFL with a long and bright future ahead. 2021 AFC West odds definitely respect the wardens of the west though.
Kansas City has dominated the division having won five straight crowns, but competition is never scarce with talent plentiful. The Chiefs are again expected to be wire-to-wire heavy favorites as they look for their third-straight Super Bowl appearance. However, value may lie in other options within Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Denver.
Let’s take a dive into the 2021 AFC West landscape.
2021 AFC West odds
The Chiefs are not only the odds-on favorites to capture their sixth-straight AFC West title, but they are the heaviest favorites to win their respective division in the NFL. However, KC’s odds are relatively low compared to last year’s division odds and the landscape of the AFC West; we can expect the Chiefs to distance themselves on odds tables as the offseason progresses and the ‘runners-up’ dip wears off.
The Chargers just barely edge the Broncos for second on most odds tables (though some have them tied) while the Raiders fall to a distant longshot. Movement may happen between Los Angeles and Denver, but– barring major injuries– odds will remain fairly consistent throughout the remainder of the offseason.
The standing of odds tables for the AFC West replicates the standing of each team’s projected win total this year:
- Chiefs 12.5
- Chargers 9
- Broncos 8.5
- Raiders 7
17-Game season: AFC West scheduling notes
The NFL’s added 17th game for the AFC West in 2021 includes members from the NFC North. The following matchups are the added game:
- Packers at Chiefs
- Bears at Raiders
- Vikings at Chargers
- Lions at Broncos
The AFC West is coupled with the AFC North and NFC East, balancing out one of 2020’s strongest divisions with 2020’s weakest (in terms of win-loss percentage). Common opponents for the AFC West that made the playoffs in 2020 include the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Football Team.
AFC West team breakdowns
Kansas City Chiefs
As mentioned above, it’s been total domination by the Kansas City Chiefs following the Denver Broncos’ last Super Bowl appearance in 2015. They’ve made the AFC Championship Game three years running as well as the last two Super Bowls, averaging 11.8 wins over those six years. This coming season, KC faces five division winners– including four in a five-game stretch– and seven non-divisional 2020 playoff teams. However, their dance with the NFC East puts the Chiefs 11th on the strength of schedule list (per CBS Sports, based on 2020 opposing win percentage), which is seventh-hardest among 2020 playoff participants.
The beatdown received in Super Bowl LV highlighted the weakness of Kansas City: their offensive line depth (or lack thereof). In response, the Chiefs overhauled their offensive front, landing Orlando Brown from the Ravens in a trade, signing Joe Thuney and Austin Blythe in free agency, re-signing Andrew Wylie, and cutting loose both starting tackles. They also drafted standouts Creed Humpherey (center, Oklahoma) and Trey Smith (guard, Tennessee) to bolster their depth.
Unless major catastrophic injury strikes on the Chiefs this offseason, it’d be foolhardy to bet against them to win the AFC West for a sixth-straight season.
Los Angeles Chargers
The 2020 Los Angeles Chargers were marred by incompetency in coaching. They dropped their first seven games by a single score, including two overtime losses to Super Bowl-contending teams (Kansas City, New Orleans). On more than one occasion, mishandling of the special teams unit caused a loss on behalf of the Chargers. That prompted L.A. to bring in new head coach Brandon Staley, a new offensive coordinator (Joe Lombardi), and a new defensive coordinator (Renaldo Hill).
There’s no reason to think the Chargers will repeat their woes this coming season. They have a young superstar quarterback in Justin Herbert and a talented corps around him on both offense and defense. Much of the offseason was spent revamping the offensive line, one that allowed the second-most pressures and fourth-most QB hits in the NFL a year ago. They drafted lauded Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater and added All-Pro center Corey Linsley and tackle Matt Fieler in free agency. L.A. also let their top five most expensive free agents walk, including some expensive and aging veterans.
While Los Angeles likely isn’t in a position to contend this upcoming season to cash in 2021 AFC West odds, it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see them compete for a playoff position and put pressure on their expected win total.
Denver was a popular darkhorse (pun intended) for 2020, commanding nearly 42% of the betting handle on the AFC West before the season began (albeit, on just 6% of all bets). Unfortunately, their season ended before it even began, with their roster decimated by injuries to Von Miller and Courtland Sutton and an opt-out from hopeful star Ju’Wan James. At one point, they were hit by a swath of COVID-positive tests to their entire quarterback room, leading them with zero rostered QBs to face the Saints. Instead, they tumbled to a last-place finish in the division and a top-10 draft pick.
Despite a good core group, the Broncos completely revamped their already-stifling secondary. They signed former All-Pro Kyle Fuller and standout Ronald Darby, as well as drafted studs like Patrick Surtain II and Jamar Johnson. Denver also brought in veteran Teddy Bridgewater to try and hedge their bet on Drew Lock. It’s a run-it-back year for the Broncos, who are hoping to get a redo of 2020.
A last-place finish in 2020 gifted the Broncos with a last-place schedule; just four non-divisional playoff opponents appear on the schedule this season (one of which being sub-0.500 Washington). They also benefit from playing Kansas City in Week 18, who can be expected to likely rest their starters should they repeat their last several seasons.
Las Vegas Raiders
The 2020 Raiders were a cookie cutter of previous Raiders football under Jon Gruden: a decent or good start followed by dropping the ball down the final stretch of the season and missing the playoffs. Las Vegas sat 6-3 with wins over the Chiefs, Browns, and Saints before finishing the year 2-5 with a blowout loss to Atlanta. The Raiders did finish half a game over their projected win total (7.5) and second in the AFC West.
The “culture build” in Vegas was scrutinized further when Gruden and Mark Davis pulled the trigger on Alex Leatherwood (who many considered to be a Day 2 pick) with the 17th overall pick over touted players at the same position like Christian Darrisaw and Teven Jenkins. They also shipped off All-Pro center Rodney Hudson and Pro Bowl tackle Trent Brown and broke up what was considered to be an outstanding offensive line.
Their 2021 win total remains the same as 2020 (between 7 and 7.5 games) despite the extra 17th-game added. The Raiders are inhibited by a second-place schedule that includes games at Indianapolis, at Cleveland, and at Pittsburgh; they also close the year out by facing four 2020 playoff teams in a five-game stretch.