NFL Betting Odds: AFC West Predictions 2019


Last season the AFC West was dominated by the Kansas City Chiefs and the LA Chargers as both teams collected 12 regular-season wins and a playoff victory as well. The offseason saw some major roster changes to one notable silver and black franchise while the other squads underwent some minor tinkering in order to build on strengths and repair holes. Will the AFC West continue to be a 2 team race in 2019? Can Joe Flacco lead the Broncos back to the playoffs? Will the addition of Antonio Brown help the Raiders return to the 12 win team we saw just 2 seasons ago? We’ll look to answer these questions and more in our final divisional preview.

All of the AFC West teams were previewed in detail by Admir Aljic and can be found here.

All the NFL previews examined the current spread for the 16 upcoming games for each team this season and applied the metric of expected win percentage to each of these lines to arrive at an implied wins total. This number could then be compared to the posted win total for each team. While we certainly know that a lot can (and will) change for all of these teams between late June and say a mid-December game in Week 15, it is a useful exercise to see how each team compares to one another at this stage assuming ideal circumstances for both teams.

As many readers likely know, I maintain a model for the NFL which creates a spread and total for each game that I rely on heavily in my handicapping and writing here at BTB. Therefore, for this series of articles, we thought it would be useful to apply my model spreads to the current lines and implied win totals listed at CG Technologies. As usual, some of these numbers will be in line with Vegas expectations while others will not. For each team, we’ll try to see why we agree or isolate the possible reasons for our divergence.

Denver Broncos

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of August 4, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 @ Oakland (Monday Night) +2.5 .45 -1 .51
2 Chicago -1 .51 -1 .51
3 @ Green Bay +6.5 .28 +8 .21
4 Jacksonville -3 .59 -3 .59
5 @ LA Chargers +7.5 .22 +5.5 .31
6 Tennessee -2.5 .55 -2 .54
7 Kansas City (Thursday Night) +3 .41 +3 .41
8 @ Indianapolis +7 .25 +8 .21
9 Cleveland -1 .51 -2 .46
10 BYE
11 @ Minnesota +6 .29 +5.5 .31
12 @ Buffalo +3 .41 +.5 .50
13 LA Chargers +1 .49 +1.5 .47
14 @ Houston +5.5 .31 +6 .29
15 @ Kansas City +9.5 .19 +8 .21
16 Detroit -4.5 .67 -2 .54
17 Oakland -3.5 .64 -6.5 .72

Win Total (CG Technologies): 7 (Over -110 / Under -110)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 6.77
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 6.89

Since their win in Super Bowl 50 on the final fumes of Peyton Manning’s HOF career, the Denver Broncos have been on the quarterback hamster wheel. Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler, and Case Keenum have all had their shot at commanding the Denver offense with limited success the past three seasons. So who’s up next? Well, Joe Flacco of course. You remember him, the guy who won the Super Bowl in 2013 and parlayed it into a record-setting contract which blessed the Baltimore Ravens with mediocre quarterback play for the past five years. Yeah, that guy. That’s the man GM John Elway has plucked to rescue a Denver passing attack which hasn’t finished above 22nd in Passing DVOA since that Super Bowl season.
So is Joe Flacco the answer? Probably not. Flacco does bring the swagger of a savvy NFL veteran and a former Super Bowl champion into the Denver locker room however he has never demonstrated the ability to lead a high flying passing attack. In his past 11 seasons, Flacco has never put up more than 4,000 passing yards in a season and only reached the 27 TD mark once. These are benchmarks that nearly half of all QBs typically accomplish every year. With regard to Football Outsiders metrics, Flacco has not appeared in the top half since the 2014 season which is also the last time the signal-caller graded out over a 75 according to PFF. We could go further, but you get the picture…Flacco is a replacement-level QB in ideal circumstances at this point in his career. One area which helped support Flacco in Baltimore is the play of the offensive line where for 4 of the past 5 years he experienced top 10 level play according to Football Outsiders. Unfortunately for Flacco, the O-line in Denver appears to be worse off than in Baltimore as it ranks 20th according to the model. Along the line, Flacco should receive solid protection from his tackles Garett Bolles and the freshly signed Ja’wuan James. The interior of the line is a bit shakey but will get the aid of 2nd round draft pick G Dalton Risner this season. Flacco’s new skill position talent will overall be similar to what he had surrounding him as a Raven. Emerging from the Broncos stable of running backs last season was rookie Phillip Lindsey. Lindsey, graded out as PFF’s 10th overall back and ranked in the top 10 in DYAR, YAR, and DVOA according to Football Outsiders. After trading away long-time Bronco WR Demaryius Thomas, the receiving group is led by veteran Emmanuel Sanders and second-year player Courtland Sutton. Sanders had the better year of the two but is a question mark to begin the season as he recovers from an Achilles injury. Additionally, the Broncos used their 1st round pick on TE Noah Fant who helps fill a position of need since their Super Bowl season. Overall, the Bronco skill position talent ranks a below-average 23rd according to the model.

The Denver Broncos were led by their defense during their Super Bowl season of 2015 and that hasn’t changed much. Former Chicago DC and new Bronco HC Vic Fangio should be licking his chops as the Broncos list as the 5th overall unit according to the model entering the season and were a top 5 unit according to both Football Outsiders and Warren Sharp’s metrics. This is a rather balanced defense with both the Front 7 and secondary coming in as top 10 units according to the model. The Front 7, of course, boasts DE Von Miller who has remarkably graded out as an elite player with a PFF over 90 for every year of his 8-year career. Miller will likely fill the edge role played by Kahlil Mack with the Bears last year and like Mack, he will be surrounded with a solid group of talented players along the D-line and linebacking units. Joining the Mile High City along with Fangio in the secondary will be former Bears slot corner, Bryce Callahan. Callahan has improved in each of his 4 seasons in the league and will line up with standout veterans CB Chris Harris Jr and S Kareem Jackson in the secondary.

With Vic Fangio joining the Broncos, it’s unlikely that the defense will see any sort of major drop off this season despite the fact that Von Miller will hit the 30 y/o mark this year. More likely, in fact, is that the defense sees a surge in its numbers as the Broncos are slated to see their opponent’s offensive efficiency slide back to 15th this upcoming year after facing the 8th ranked group last season. The issue here is how many games can be won on the back of the defense as the offense will face a much more difficult group of defenses then last season and may be without Sanders to begin the year. Being more than a field goal underdog in 4 of their first 9 games and no more than favorite of -3 in those contests could cause the Broncos to turn to rookie QB Drew Lock earlier than expected. If this happens the rest of the season could become a tryout of sorts as Fangio evaluates the younger players. With these factors in mind, we have to look under here as the offense will face headwinds throughout the year and the defense, while very solid, can’t be expected to carry them to 8 wins in 2019.

Kansas City Chiefs

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of August 4, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 @ Jacksonville -3.5 .64 -3 .59
2 @ Oakland -6.5 .72 -7 .75
3 Baltimore -7.5 .78 -8.5 .80
4 @ Detroit -7 .75 -3 .59
5 Indianapolis -4.5 .67 -3.5 .64
6 Houston -7 .75 -6.5 .72
7 @ Denver (Thursday Night) -3 .59 -3 .59
8 Green Bay -7 .75 -5 .68
9 Minnesota -7 .75 -8 .79
10 @ Tennessee -3.5 .64 -3 .59
11 @ LA Chargers (Monday Night) -2.5 .55 -.5 .50
12 BYE
13 Oakland -13 .89 -11.5 .88
14 @ New England +3 .41 +3.5 .36
15 Denver -9.5 .81 -8 .79
16 @ Chicago +1 .49 -1.5 .53
17 LA Chargers -8.5 .80 -3.5 .64

Win Total (CG Technologies): 10.5 (Over -120 / Under +100)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 10.99
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 10.46

Since HC Andy Reid began his tenure in Kansas City 6 years ago the Chiefs have consistently landed in the top half of the league with regard to their offensive efficiency. This should come as no surprise as Reid has had a distinguished track record as an offensive-minded head coach since his time in Philadelphia. Yet, what he has lacked in KC (and generally had in Philly) is a defense as the offensive rankings for the Chiefs have surpassed those of the defense throughout his 6 years. Reid’s high-flying offense was no doubt impressive again last season as QB Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to #1 overall rankings in points scored, yards, and yards per play yet the defense remained an issue. The Chiefs enter the 2019 season with a new DC and some turnover in the defensive personnel. Is that enough to get this team over the hump and finally allow Reid to get his hands on that elusive Lombardi trophy? The betting market seems to be saying it’s fairly likely and the model generally agrees.

With the reigning league MVP at quarterback and elite receiving targets, it should come as no surprise, that the model places the Kansas City offense as the #1 overall unit in the league. They were a remarkable top 5 unit in 12 of the 13 offensive metrics used by Warren Sharp and also the #1 overall offense according to Football Outsiders. So what could derail this unit in 2019 outside of massive injuries? I wouldn’t look to QB Patrick Mahomes for a slump. Given his age and unique skills, I would think an improvement to his play is more likely than a drop-off. The Chiefs did lose RB Kareem Hunt after Week 11 last season but the combination of Damien and Darrel Williams filled in seamlessly as Damien Williams earned a near-identical PFF grade to Hunt and the offense only declined slightly in Offensive DVOA (but still remained #1 by a wide margin). The loss of WR Tyreek Hill would have been an issue but that was avoided as the league chose not to suspend the mercurial wideout. WR Chris Conley departed for Jacksonville yet he was perhaps the 4th or 5th option in this dynamic offense and will be replaced in the lineup by a supposed Tyreek Hill clone who was drafted in the 2nd round. The model sees the skill position talent as 5th overall in the league and it appears that there is little reason to believe they will slow this offense down. One potential weak spot for the KC offense is its offensive line. The model sees it as league average (16th) as it includes solid bookends in elite tackle Mitchell Schwartz as well as solid veteran Eric Fisher. The interior of the line is a potential weak point however as guards Cam Erving and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif posted the worst PFF grades of their careers in 2018 and last year’s center Mitch Morse left for the Bills and will be replaced by 4th year man Austin Reiter who graded out well in just 5 starts in his career. All things considered though, if the interior offensive line is the biggest concern entering the season, having an elusive quarterback who has demonstrated the ability to make plays while on the run like Patrick Mahomes would appear to be an ideal solution.

Despite some new pieces and a change at defensive coordinator, the Chiefs still come in at a lowly 26th according to the model in overall defense. Along the Front 7 DE Justin Houston and OLB Dee Ford moved on this offseason. Both were elite-level pass rushers last season according to PFF and helped propel to the Chiefs to the 6th rank in pass rush according to Football Outsiders. These players were replaced by DEs Frank Clark and Alex Okafor as well as new DT Emmanuel Ogbah in order to maintain a high-pressure rate on opposing QBs. The LBs for the Chiefs may be the weakest in the league which helps explain Kansas City 32nd ranking in Adjusted Line Yards Allowed according to FO and their 31st ranking in Yards per Run Allowed. Good thing the defense is rarely in run defense situations (especially late in games) as this is a serious weakness. With regard to the secondary, it seems like a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts as the group ranks 26th according to the model but were a respectable 12th in passing defense in both FO and Warren Sharp’s metrics. New to the secondary is the versatile S Tyrann Mathieu but outside of slot corner Kendall Fuller the remainder of the secondary is largely composed of below-average talent.

The model clearly is higher on the Chiefs than any other team in the division and sees them as having the inside track to be AFC West champs again this season. The issue here is if they can reach 11 wins in-route to taking the West. On one hand, 17 of 24 division champs over the past 3 years have won at least 11 games. If they are likely to win the division and 70% of division winners earn over 10 wins, then why not play the over? As reasonable as that sounds and as much as I’d like to recommend a bet due to the transitive property we need to also consider the schedule as well. In that regard, the Chiefs take a bit of a step up this season as they are slated to play the toughest schedule of defenses in terms of efficiency according to Warren Sharp. This could, therefore, cause some regression in the offense which could then expose their defensive issues, especially against the run. While the schedule is a bit tougher this year, I’ll place my faith in the model which sees the Chiefs as 2nd rated team in the AFC and also earning the 2nd most wins in the conference. Given these metrics, I’ll side with the over 10.5 wins for the Chiefs in 2019 but I wouldn’t buy any Super Bowl futures for this team until the defense can prove its anything more than an ancillary piece or if Andy Reid can somehow prove an ability to outcoach his peers late in games.

Los Angeles Chargers

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of August 4, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 Indianapolis -3 .59 -1 .51
2 @ Detroit -4 .66 -1.5 .53
3 Houston -5.5 .69 -4 .66
4 @ Miami -6 .71 -5.5 .69
5 Denver -7.5 .78 -5.5 .69
6 Pittsburgh -4.5 .67 -4.5 .67
7 @ Tennessee pk .50 -1.5 .53
8 @ Chicago +3 .41 pk .50
9 Green Bay -3.5 .64 -2.5 .55
10 @ Oakland (Thursday Night) -4 .66 -5.5 .69
11 Kansas City (Monday Night) +2.5 .45 +.5 .50
12 BYE
13 @ Denver +1 .49 -1.5 .53
14 @ Jacksonville -1 .51 -1.5 .53
15 Minnesota -3.5 .64 -5.5 .69
16 Oakland -9 .81 -9 .81
17 @ Kansas City +8.5 .20 +3.5 .36

Win Total (CG Technologies): 10 (Over -110 / Under -110)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 9.41
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 9.44

After consistently falling short of expectations, the San Diego LA Chargers finally returned to the playoffs after a three-year absence. How they wasted those years while having a potential Hall of Fame quarterback under center is water under the bridge I suppose as they’ve now surrounded Rivers with a deep and talented team which the model places 6th overall. The market is assuming another 10 win season for the Chargers, however, they are still regarded as the 2nd best team in the top-heavy AFC West. Can they overtake the Chiefs this year and win the division for the 1st time since 2009 or will they fall back to their underperforming ways? Let’s see what the model has to say about it…

After experiencing a relatively average number of player injuries in 2017, the Chargers were hit by the injury bug rather hard last season as they ranked 25th in Adjusted Games Lost. The injuries fell fairly evenly on both sides of the ball however the number of impactful players who missed time in 2018 landed more on the defense as DE Joey Bosa, LB Denzel Perryman, CB Jason Verrett, S Jaylen Watkins, and S Kyzir White all missed significant parts of the season. Despite these injuries, LA was still able to finish 8th in Defensive DOVA and one could typically expect a bounce this year assuming injury luck regresses. Yet, the model disagrees with this thought as it places the Chargers D lower than one may expect at 12th overall. Let’s start with the weakness: the Front 7. With quality DEs in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram that many teams would likely envy, why then does the LA Front 7 rank 23rd in the model and weigh down this defense’s overall ranking? Frankly, the reason is largely that Bosa and Ingram did not have great seasons last year. This is reflected in their PFF scores which both dropped from an elite level in 2017 to an average level in 2018 (2017 – Bosa 88.8 and Ingram 85.3 / 2018- Bosa 72.2 and Ingram 73.9). Bosa’s return from injury can be used to justify his lower grade and in turn, his absence likely negatively affected these numbers but none the less the Chargers ranked 17th in Adjusted Rush Yards Allowed, 24th in Pass Rush, and a surprising 32nd in Yards Allowed Per Rush in 2018. All said it is unlikely that these numbers will remain low in 2019 if both players return to their 2017 form. If that occurs, the Chargers overall defensive ranking will quickly rise as the season progresses due to a rock-solid secondary which the model lists as 5th. Already featuring excellent talent in versatile S Derwin James and CB Casey Hayward, the Chargers used their 2nd round pick to add S Nasir Adderley from my alma mater Delaware (Go Blue Hens!) who should be a day 1 starter next to James. Overall, this is a surprisingly lowish but justifiable rank for the Chargers D but given the ample talent and lack of continuity last season, I would expect it to rise as the year progresses.

The news is better (or at least more in line with casual expectations) for the LA offense which ranks 7th overall according to the model. With possibly the best skill position talent in the league (2nd in the model), the Chargers have provided QB Phillip Rivers with an impressive array of weapons to distribute the football to again in 2019. The holdout and potential loss of games from elite RB Melvin Gordon is a concern however Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson have performed well in his absences in the past. Currently, the model assumes Gordon will play in Week 1 against the Colts. Rivers receivers are also deep as they feature standouts Mike Williams, Keenen Allen, and TE Hunter Henry. Without Henry last season, the Chargers dynamic passing attack still ranked 2nd in Football Outsiders Passing DVOA so how much higher they can improve is unknown but it is likely that the offense will utilize more 12 personnel this season which appears to be a growing trend around the league. This use of 12 personnel may be important for the Chargers this season not only because of the mismatches it can create but also because of how terrible the Chargers O-line projects to be. Coming in at 30th the Chargers have only one starter T Russell Okung who was an above-average player last season. Unfortunately, Okung suffered a pulmonary embolism over the summer and his chances of starting the season at LT are in jeopardy. The model currently includes Okung as a starter but if he does not play 2nd year T Trent Scott will likely take his place. Scott, like the rest of the O-line, graded out quite poorly according to PFF.

During the 2016 and 2017 seasons, it seemed as though anything bad that could have happened did for the LA Chargers. From losing their city to having awful luck with an array of kickers to late game meltdowns the Chargers found ways to lose in improbable ways that screamed regression to the mean. Well, that finally happened and then some in 2018 as they found a kicker in Michael Badgley who hit an impressive 15 of 16 FGs (93%) and also went 6-1 in one-score games as the tables turned for their opponents. Yet, as unlikely and unsustainable as some of their 2017 luck was, the same can be said for 2018 so we’ll likely see some regression in the other direction this year. Add to that a step up in projected opponent offensive efficiency with a possible lack of a proficient LT (or any O-lineman for that matter) mixed with a 37-year-old immobile QB is also a major concern. I do think the ranking of the Charger defense will improve over the season and that overall this is a quality team yet, there are more concerns then I would like for the Bolts. Given that very few 11 win teams roster a terrible offensive line and that’s exactly what the Chargers appear to have, I’ll have to lean under the 10 wins for LA this season.

Oakland Raiders

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of August 4, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 Denver  (Monday Night) -2.5 .55 +1 .49
2 Kansas City +6.5 .28 +7 .25
3 @ Minnesota +7 .25 +9 .19
4 @ Indianapolis +8 .21 +11.5 .12
5 Chicago +6 .29 +6 .29
7 @ Green Bay +8.5 .20 +11.5 .12
8 @ Houston +7 .25 +9.5 .19
9 Detroit -3 .59 +3.5 .36
10 LA Chargers (Thursday Night) +4 .34 +5.5 .31
11 Cincinnati -3.5 .64 +1.5 .47
12 @ NY Jets +3 .41 +4.5 .33
13 @ Kansas City +13 .11 +11.5 .12
14 Tennessee pk .50 +3 .41
15 Jacksonville pk .50 +2 .46
16 @ LA Chargers +9 .19 +8.5 .19
17 @ Denver +3.5 .36 +6.5 .28

Win Total (CG Technologies): 6 (Over -125 / Under +105)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 5.67
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 4.58

After a 4-12 season in 2018, Oakland Raiders HC Jon Gruden and the front office made wholesale changes to the roster this offseason. Gone are WR Jordy Nelson, TE Jared Cook, and G Kelechi Osemele. In are familiar names such as WR Antonio Brown, LB Vontaze Burfict, and G Richie Incognito. Given these interesting new acquisitions as well as the criticism Gruden received for last year’s Khalil Mack trade and the questionable selection of DE Clelin Ferrell with the 4th pick, I’d like to propose a fresh new nickname for Coach Gruden which best embodies what the 2019 Raiders appear to be. Jon “The Ringmaster” Gruden certainly seems fitting because the 2019 Oakland Raiders look like a bearded lady short of a 3 ring circus this season!

After “clownishly” displaying his yellow mustache this past January, Brown successfully got himself traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers and now is the #1 WR and face of the Raider offense. Despite his silly off the field antics, Brown remains a very good wide receiver however it is fair to question whether a new 3 year, $50 million contract is fitting for a receiver entering his 10th season. After being a mainstay atop many of Football Outsiders metrics since 2012, Brown’s production fell significantly with regard to their measures and he also had the lowest PFF grade of his career in 2018. Pairing with Brown on the outside will be former Charger WR Tyrell Williams. The other pass-catchers are a mix of average level talent however former Clemson Tiger and 6th round pick Hunter Renfrow has impressed in camp and appears to be the likely slot man this year. In very Raider-like fashion, Oakland was the only team to select a running back in the first 50 picks of the 2019 draft. Josh Jacobs enters as the likely RB1 in this offense however familiar replacement-level veterans such as Doug Martian and Isaiah Crowell will likely be in the mix as well. Altogether, Derek Carr’s skill-position group is likely better in 2019 yet it still comes in a lowly 27th according to the model. Last season the Raiders, ranked 13th in Adjusted Line Yards (a run blocking metric) and 25th in Pass Protection. To improve the offensive line the Raiders brought in T Trent Brown and G Richie Incognito. Brown and Incognito represent upgrades from last season and along with C Rodney Hudson and G Gabe Jackson, this is the bright spot of the offense according to the model which lists the Oakland O-line at the 15th spot. If last season’s 1st round pick T Kolton Miller can improve this could be a top 10 line however given offensive line coach Tom Cable’s track record (bottom half rankings in pass-protection for his lines since 2007), I wouldn’t count on it.

Along with Burfict, the Raiders added S LaMarcus Joyner and CB Nevin Lawson to their defense in free agency and spend significant draft capital on that side of the ball. This made sense given the Raiders finished 30th Defensive DVOA last season and the worst in the league in Points Allowed and Yards per Play Allowed. Despite these moves, however, the model still sees the Oakland defense as still bad listing it 31st overall. The model righty sees the Front 7 as the poorer defensive unit ranking it just ahead of rebuilding Miami at 31. This is largely due to a roster that is high on familiar names but low on talent (at least as of last season). Although the Raiders received grief for selecting DE Clelin Ferrell 4th overall he was considered a 1st round talent by most and should be a key piece if they can continue to build the defensive front in the future. The bright spot here is the 2017 5th round pick, DT Maurice Hurst. Hurst played well in his 1st season as he collected 4 sacks and a solid PFF grade. The secondary is the “strength” of the defense as it comes in at the 22nd spot. Karl Joseph and LaMarcus Joyner are good players who will form a solid safety tandem which will likely also see time from hard-hitting 1st round S Johnathan Abram as well. The corners include the underperforming 3rd-year man Gareon Conley and journeyman Daryl Worley.

This time next year we’ll need to get used to calling this team the Las Vegas Raiders. Yet like the Vegas strip, they appear somewhat hollow with some shiny, glittery things which may be nice for a couple of days but get old pretty quick. With the current level of talent on the Raiders, I can look nowhere but the under here. The Raiders will certainly have their flashy moments this season and “Ringmaster” Gruden may be able to snag a role in Cirque du Soleil if things don’t improve while in Sin City but ultimately The Silver and Black lack enough key players and depth to make meaningful progress in their final season in Oakland.

(Editor’s note: As the division previews get posted throughout the week, we’ll link to them at the bottom of the page. Read Danny’s thoughts on the AFC EAST, AFC NORTH, AFC SOUTH, NFC EAST, NFC NORTHNFC SOUTH, and NFC WEST by clicking the appropriate link.)


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