The AFC West was supposed to be one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL last year, and that proved to be correct. While Denver and Oakland fell off the pace pretty quickly, the Los Angeles Chargers stayed within striking distance of the Kansas City Chiefs and both teams finished at 12-4 after the Chiefs limped down the stretch. Those two teams are much bigger favorites to win the division this time around, as the Broncos and Raiders are considered also-rans.
2019 AFC West Odds
Kansas City Chiefs -150
Los Angeles Chargers +175
Denver Broncos +1200
Oakland Raiders +1600
This division is going to be interesting. The Kansas City Chiefs are everyone’s team to beat, but there are some big questions heading into the season.
Pat Mahomes II is back and should be one of the best quarterbacks in the league once again, but how many weapons will he have to work with? Kareem Hunt was released in late November of last year, and the offense struggled after that, and now Tyreek Hill’s status is up in the air following a domestic violence incident.
That leaves Travis Kelce as the only reliable option for Mahomes to use in the passing game. Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson are the two other receivers, and while Watkins is getting some accolades, I’m not a believer. If Hill doesn’t return, this offense could have some surprising issues.
Kansas City has tried to address its defensive problems after allowing a ton of yards and points in 2018. The Chiefs have been very active in both free agency and the trade market, spending a lot of money and draft picks to acquire Frank Clark, Tyrann Mathieu, Bashaud Breeland, and more. Eight of Kansas city’s projected starters were not drafted by the team, indicating an inability to find talent in the NFL Draft.
This Chargers offense has a lot fewer questions coming into the season, even if Philip Rivers is getting older. Melvin Gordon is one of the most explosive running backs in the league when he is healthy, and the team has good depth behind him with Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson getting significant touches in 2018. The receivers are good too with Keenan Allen finally living up to his promise last year, and Hunter Henry is back after tearing his ACL in training camp.
There is plenty of talent on defense too. Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Brandon Mebane, and Thomas Davis make this a formidable front seven, and the secondary has two All-Pro players in cornerback Casey Hayward and safety Derwin James.
Denver’s main goal since Peyton Manning retired has been to find a new franchise quarterback. John Elway and the Broncos have had a rough time finding even a serviceable replacement, and they again find themselves in a bit of a quarterback controversy heading into the season.
The team traded for Joe Flacco in the offseason, and they selected Missouri’s Drew Lock in the second round of this year’s draft. The plan is for Flacco to play this year and Lock to learn, but we’ll see how that pans out. Flacco has not been impressive in recent seasons, so Lock could play sooner than expected.
There is talent around whoever starts at quarterback, as the Broncos have a good running back tandem in Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton are solid receivers too. Unfortunately, there are huge question marks regarding the next three receivers on the depth chart.
Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are a frightening pair of outside linebackers, and Kareem Jackson was brought in to lock down the other cornerback spot across from Chris Harris. This defense should be solid, and if they can get good quarterback play, the Broncos could be a playoff contender.
It’s going to be a weird year in Oakland. The Black Hole won’t be nearly as formidable as it has been in previous seasons with the franchise moving to Los Angeles, and their home field advantage might mean less than the Chargers.
The Raiders have had an interesting offseason. Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden did not use their draft picks like many were expecting, and the team made a huge splash with the acquisition of Antonio Brown from the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Some are optimistic that he will help make Derek Carr a top 12 quarterback, but I’m not buying it.
This defense allowed more points than any other team in the NFL last season, so the Raiders made a lot of moves in the offseason. We’ll see how they all pan out. The linebacking corps is iffy at best despite bringing in Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict, and the defensive line might need some more time to solidify since three of the four projected starters are rookies or second year players.
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