The legend that is Patrick Mahomes continued this past season as the second year starter secured his first Super Bowl win, Super Bowl MVP, and a half-a-billion dollar contract extension. The story of the AFC West doesn’t begin and end with the Kansas City Chiefs, though. The rest of the division has plenty of talent to compete with a most-likely-to-improve Denver Broncos team, a loaded Chargers roster, and the Raiders have potential.
This page will provide you with the resources necessary to successfully bet the AFC West; complete with a look-back at last season, a preview of 2020, and where to place your bets. The best advice starts with shopping around at different outlets. Just because one site offers the Broncos (+410) doesn’t mean they all will. With that said, let’s dive in.
2020 AFC West odds
2019 AFC West results
As mentioned, the Chiefs completed the ultimate task of winning a Super Bowl, the franchise’s first since Super Bowl IV. Mahomes proved the hype was real, orchestrating comeback after comeback. No lead was safe as Andy Reid and Mahomes erased double-digit deficits in each playoff game. Before the 2019 campaign began, the Chiefs (-225) were the odds-on favorite to take the AFC West and third in odds to win Super Bowl LIV (+800). Kansas City dominated their opponents in 2019, covering the spread a league-leading 72.2% of the time (13-5-1) despite Mahomes missing a few weeks due to a knee injury. After costing them a shot at Super Bowl LIII, the Chiefs drastically improved on defense. The 2018 squad allowed over 26 points per game (24th) and 5.8 yards allowed per play (23rd) and that turned into just 20.2 points allowed per game (10th) and 5.4 yards allowed per play (14th). That defense led Kansas City to their title, which held San Francisco to almost 9 points under their season average.
The Broncos, meanwhile, had one of the most lackluster offenses in the league, averaging just 17.6 points per game (28th) and an uninspiring 5 yards per play (26th). Denver finished last in their division in total points scored (282), and were bested only by the Jets and Bengals in the AFC. However, the Broncos still managed a 7-9 record behind one of the NFL’s stoutest defenses. Denver suffocated opposing offenses, especially at home where it allowed just 5.1 yards per play (10th) and 19.8 points per game (8th). For having one of the league’s toughest schedules (0.537 2018 opponent’s total win percentage), the Broncos did alright. Rookie quarterback Drew Lock showed promise and swagger, winning the hearts of Broncos fans and NFL fans alike. While 2019 was not the season Denver had hoped for, they are certainly one of the more optimistic sub-.500 teams in the NFL for this campaign.
At face value, the Raiders (7-9) exceeded expectations and had a nice season by Raiders standards. However, a deeper dive into that record shows the truth of the 2019 season– an 0-6 record against teams finishing above .500 with losses to Jacksonville and the Jets, and a -106 scoring margin (27th). Not to discount Oakland’s best record in three years and third seven-win season since 2012, though; rookie running back Josh Jacobs met expectations and rushed for over 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns and Derek Carr eclipsed 4,000 passing yards for the second consecutive season. They also surpassed their projected win total by two. However, the Raiders didn’t win a single game by more than a single score against a slate of opponents with a .330 total win percentage.
Talk about a team that failed to meet expectations– the Chargers (+225) were projected to have a good season in 2019. Los Angeles was tied with Kansas City in odds to win Super Bowl LIV (+800), was projected for 10 wins, and were many analysts’ dark horse team to be a real competitor in 2019. Instead, they went a measly 5-11 (those five wins below expected was last in the league) and ended up with the sixth overall pick in the NFL Draft. They finished second to last in record ATS (4-9-3, behind Chicago) and finished with just a 2-6 home record. The hot-and-cold Chargers were outscored by just eight points on the season and they picked up an impressive win against the Packers in Week 9. However, they went winless in the AFC West and decided to part ways with 14-year starter Philip Rivers when the season ended.
2020 AFC West outlook and predictions
Behind clever cap scheduling, Chiefs GM Brett Veach made seemingly infinite funds appear out of thin air and secured Mahomes (10-year, $503M), Travis Kelce (4-year, $57M), and Chris Jones (4-year, $85M). The NFL’s already-best offense also drafted LSU superstar Clyde Edwards-Helaire at the end of the first round and signed several role players including CB Bashaud Breeland and RB DeAndre Washington. Kansas City also has the luxury of returning a head coach and quarterback with chemistry – maybe the most important trait in a team heading into 2020. The defending champions sit high atop the odds to win the AFC West (-445) and odds to win Super Bowl 55 (+500) to no one’s surprise.
The Broncos, while controlling just 6% of all bets on the AFC West division winner, control 42% of all money bet on the division winner in 2020. The heavy bets placed on Denver amplifies them as a team most likely to make a jump this coming season. Despite going 7-9 in 2019, Denver was 9-7 ATS (9th). The Broncos made a change at offensive coordinator, bringing in the experienced Pat Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Mike Shula (developed Cam Newton and Daniel Jones). They also drafted one of the most praised classes in 2020 highlighted by star receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler. Lock will be fighting an uphill battle this season, though, as starting tackle Ja’Wan James opted out. The offensive line will be tested– something that plagued last year’s most-likely-to-improve team, Cleveland.
It’s a new era for the Chargers, who parted ways with a 14-year starter in Rivers. Tyrod Taylor was added to the quarterback room to mentor first-round pick Justin Herbert, who is expected to lead the franchise going forward. After a botched holdout, star running back Melvin Gordon is also out, making room for breakout star Austin Ekeler. LAC (+900) is tied with Denver for second-best odds to win the division behind Kansas City and ahead of Las Vegas. Vegas has the Chargers slated at eight expected wins this coming season, two below last year but three above their 2019 total. The star-studded defense remains mostly intact for this coming year, complete with a five-year, $105 million contract extension for DE Joey Bosa. The main focus for Los Angeles this coming season has to be their in-division performance, which cannot be another 0-6 outing.
On draft night, the Raiders made a couple of picks that drew some immediate questions (namely taking WR Henry Ruggs III as the first receiver and DB Damon Arnette in the first round). However, a closer analysis of their 2020 draft class revealed underlying metrics that retrospectively made their moves look sound. The Raiders brought on Marcus Mariota to complement Carr (a move that suggests Carr may not have the confidence of the coaching staff) despite a 4,000-yard season with just eight interceptions. The main concern for the upcoming season is the team’s move from Oakland to Las Vegas. Historically, teams that move cities struggle adjusting; notably Baltimore going 4-12 in 1996 after moving from Cleveland. Add on the most abnormal offseason in NFL history and the rumored animosity between Jon Gruden and Carr, and there’s major question marks for the upcoming year.
Kansas City, unsurprisingly, owns 87% of all bets on the AFC West division winner, followed by Denver (6%), Las Vegas (5%), and Los Angeles (2%). The real story is the aforementioned stat that the Broncos hold a division-leading 42% of the handle despite such a small number of bets being placed. What this means is that sharp bettors (big money bettors) are placing their wagers on Denver, whereas the mass public is betting smaller wagers more numerously on Kansas City. The Broncos are the only team to lead their division in handle while controlling less than 35% of total bets, and are one of just two teams to lead in handle but not in total bets (Tampa Bay). It’s something to keep an eye on.
Past AFC West division winners
|2019||Kansas City Chiefs*||12-4|
|2018||Kansas City Chiefs||12-4|
|2017||Kansas City Chiefs||10-6|
|2016||Kansas City Chiefs||12-4|
|2010||Kansas City Chiefs||10-6|
* Super Bowl champion
How to bet on NFL division winners
To reiterate advice given here, shop around before diving headlong into the first bet you see; different outlets offer different odds and a minute or two of your time could result in some more money coming your way. DraftKings, FOXBet, and FanDuel might all offer different odds for your favorite bet.
When reading an odds table, there’s several numbers of note. The first is the odds, which tells you who is favored (lower numbers are favored) and how much a successful bet would earn you. For example, a $100 bet on Las Vegas (+900) would win you $900 with a total payout of $1,000. Next is the handle, which tells you what percentage of the total amount bet on the AFC North division winner each team commands. For example, the Chargers have 13% of the handle – meaning 13% of all money bet on the AFC West winner has gone to the Chargers. Last is the percentage of bets, which refers to the number of bets– not the amount– wagered on each team. The Chiefs have 87% of all bets, which doesn’t reflect how much was bet (the Chiefs have 35% of the handle, meaning smaller betting amounts are being placed on the Chiefs).
The AFC West not only has the potential to put multiple teams in the playoffs this season, but the talent to be the best division in the NFL. There may not be much drama at the top of the division– Kansas City should come away with the title– but the shuffle for the rest will be of note. Denver, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas all have a shot at second and at a playoff berth. The density of talent in the AFC West is nearly unmatched.
NFL division betting previews
|AFC East||NFC East|
|AFC North||NFC North|
|AFC South||NFC South|
|AFC West||NFC West|