Can anyone challenge the Chiefs?
The AFC West really has two sets of teams with the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers representing the playoff-level squads and the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos bringing up the rear. Oakland made the splashy move picking up Antonio Brown, but they still have a long way to go to catch Kansas City. Most people are crowning Patrick Mahomes the best quarterback in the league, but I'd really like to see it happen more than one year before I crown him. Let's take a look at what the Westgate out of Las Vegas thinks about the AFC West.
Over 7 wins -120...Under 7 wins EVEN
Offense: It was really odd to see the Broncos trade for Joe Flacco. Yes, they needed quarterback help and he didn't cost that much but how much does Flacco have left in the tank? The team drafted Drew Lock who they hope will be the heir apparent and not the next Paxton Lynch, who is no longer on the roster. Running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman were really productive last year accounting for almost 1,600 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Emmanuel Sanders still has a little bit left in his career, but it looks like Courtland Sutton will eventually become the No. 1 target.
Defense: New head coach Vic Fangio is a defensive guy who has some pieces to work with in Bradley Chubb and Von Miller. Shelby Harris is getting better at nose tackle and can help fix a run defense that was towards the bottom of the NFL rankings last season. Kareem Jackson and Chris Harris Jr. are a pretty good duo at cornerback as Jackson signed in free agency to replace the departed Bradley Roby, who was prone to lapses. I'm not quite sure how good the safeties will be with Will Parks and Justin Simmons leading the way.
Verdict: This team has a brutal stretch after its Week 10 bye with four road games over five weeks including trips to Minnesota, Buffalo and Kansas City. The Broncos close out with home tilts against the Lions and Raiders so if they are in the playoff hunt, there's an opportunity to close some ground. Slight lean to the over as I think Denver can get to seven or eight wins.
Over 10.5 wins EVEN...Under 10.5 wins -120
Offense: Patrick Mahomes was more then anyone could have ever expected last year as this offense took off and averaged more than 35 points per game. I expect the success to continue, but teams will now have a full year of tape on him. Kareem Hunt is gone so the backfield is now Damien Williams and Carlos Hyde, which is a step down. Tyreek Hill is back on the field and he'll join Sammy Watkins and rookie Mecole Hardman at wide receiver. Of course, Travis Kelce is still one of the best tight ends in football. The offensive line is just alright and probably needs some improving.
Defense: Bob Sutton got fired and retread Steve Spagnuolo steps in as coordinator. Dee Ford and Justin Houston are gone which means Chris Jones has to continue to be stout especially after 15.5 sacks last year. Steven Nelson also is gone from the secondary, but he'll be replaced by Bashaud Breeland. Will Breeland and Kendall Fuller be enough to slow down opposing passing attacks? Drafting Juan Thornhill in round two will be a boost for the safety position especially if he starts. There are some question marks on this side of the ball.
Verdict: Kansas City gets three of the first four on the road, but then has a stretch of four home games over five weeks. The Chiefs will host the Packers and Vikings and gets road trips to New England and Chicago. The Week 12 bye comes in late November so the team better hope it can stay healthy early. Small lean to the over at EVEN money.
Over 9.5 wins -140...Under 9.5 wins +120
Offense: The holdout of Melvin Gordon looms large over this side of the ball. If Gordon doesn't come back, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson will have to try and fill his shoes. There really wasn't much turnover on this side of the ball with the team coming off a year where they averaged almost 27 points per game. Philip Rivers is still as exciting as ever even in his older age, but the team brought over Tyrod Taylor as a backup. I'm one of the few who still believes that Tyrod can lead a team if he needs to. Tyrell Williams went to Oakland so the wide receiving corps will be led by Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Travis Benjamin with the hope that tight end Hunter Henry can provide a big boost in his return from a torn ACL. The offensive line could be a problem, especially at right tackle.
Defense: This unit is one of the strongest in the league, especially when everyone stays healthy. The addition of linebacker Thomas Davis is a good one as he's a solid veteran to add to the depth. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram combined for 12.5 sacks last year while Brandon Mebane and maybe rookie Jerry Tillery will patrol the inside. Jason Verrett went to San Francisco and that's a decent loss at corner because there's really no one candidate to replace him. Casey Hayward is still a strong corner. Derwin James worked out well at safety and could have rookie Nasir Adderley opposite him.
Verdict: I don't know if there is a worse stretch of games then what the Chargers have. From Oct. 20 to Dec. 8, they have just one home game and also head to Mexico to face the Chiefs. Los Angeles gets a bye in Week 12 but the later bye doesn't help matters much. Without Gordon, the under could be worth a look here.
Over 6 wins -110...Under 6 wins -110
Offense: Derek Carr is the team's quarterback after enduring an offseason full of rumors and speculation leading up and during the draft. He better not get hurt with Landry Jones and Mike Glennon behind him. Many think that first-round pick Josh Jacobs has a good shot to be offensive rookie of the year because of how many carries he may get. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are solid third down options, but not much more, and no one is expecting much from Doug Martin. Getting Antonio Brown is huge because there's just not a done of talent out wide. Problem is that he's dealing with frostbite on his feet (and a grievance regarding his helmet), so he's not been able to practice a ton. Tyrell Williams is a No. 2 receiver with some depth behind him. Trent Brown got a ton of money to lock down the right tackle position.
Defense: The defense saw some overhauling with Vontaze Burfict, Lamarcus Joyner, Brandon Marshall and Benson Mayowa all come in and Rashaan Melvin and Frostee Rucker leaving. Drafting Clelin Ferrell really high shows that they really believed in him which means he'll have to produce on the field. Burfict joins Tahir Whitehead at linebacker as well. The corners could be better with Daryl Worley and Gareon Conley joining a pair of rookies. The safeties are Joyner and Karl Joseph. There's some potential here, but maybe a year away from realizing it.
Verdict: Oakland will play in four different cities from Weeks 2-5 with one of those taking place in London against Chicago. After the Week 6 bye the Raiders have three sets of consecutive road games with three- and two-game homestands in between. I think the under is potentially worth a look here as I have five or six wins.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.