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AFC West Odds and Analysis
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The AFC West was full of craziness in 2009. The San Diego Chargers won the division with a record of 13-3 despite starting the year 2-3. The Denver Broncos rocketed to an improbably 6-0 start before fading down the stretch to finish 8-8. The Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders were as dreadful as ever in 2009, but both teams may have hopes for a better 2010. It should come as no surprise that the current odds favor the Chargers to win the AFC West. They are -300 favorites to repeat. The Raiders and Chiefs are +600 and, perhaps a surprise, the Broncos, the best of the worst, who finished 8-8 last year, are +650. Let's take a look at the AFC West.
San Diego Chargers - Odds to Win AFC West -300 - Can this team improve on last year's mark of 13-3? Probably not, but that doesn't mean they aren't in the catbird seat. They have reached the playoffs in 5 of the last 6 years, but have failed to reach the Super Bowl in all of those years. The Chargers resigned Coach Norv Turner and QB Phillip Rivers to multi-year deals. Both men have been integral to San Diego's recent success. Instead of keeping the legendary LaDanian Tomlinson, they released him and drafted RB Ryan Matthews in the first round. As much as I respect LT, his best days are far behind him. This was a good move by the Chargers.
The offense will be strong thanks to QB Rivers and WRs Jackson, Floyd, and TE Gates. All three of those pass catchers are giants and will put up big numbers. This pass offense creates more matchups problems for opposing defenses than any other team in the NFL. The Chargers are lucky that they have a strong offense, because the defense is average at best. Shawn Merriman isn't the same player he once was, and the same can be said for DE Luis Castillo. Young players like Larry English provide hope for the future, but for now the defense will be lacking. We see no reason why the Chargers won't once again win the West. The stability at the QB position is huge, not to mention one of the better coaches in the entire league. It would be a shock if the Chargers don't repeat.
Denver Broncos - Odds to Win AFC West +650 - Josh McDaniels is either crazy or a genius. Only time will tell. The Patriots transplant traded up to draft Florida QB and Heisman winner Tim Tebow in the first round. He won't see much action this year, but it was a bold move regardless. McDaniels traded for Brady Quinn, but Kyle Orton will remain the starter. Orton is the perfect example of a caretaker QB. He has little down the field passing ability, but he can manage the offense effectively. Orton's lack of ability to throw the home run ball really takes away from the offenses potential. Instead of trying for the big passes, this offense can be expected to go for a run first approach. Last year's first round pick Knowshown Moreno will be expected to do the heavy lifting in that department.
The Broncos defensive line is MUCH better this year. They signed veterans Jamal Williams, Justin Bannan, and Jarvis Green. Williams comes from San Diego and he will be a premier NT for this team. Brian Dawkins is coming off a Pro Bowl season and is clearly as good as ever. The FS will play a big role on the Broncos defense. All in all, it's hard to see this team making a playoff run with Kyle Orton at the helm.
Note to oddsmakers - We haven't seen any Tebow odds posted yet. But the guy generates incredible interest. We'd love to see a Tebow prop bet, such as an over/under, in games, as to when he scores his 1st NFL rushing touchdown. You know there will come a time, likely early in the year, when the Broncos have a 1st and goal at the 1 yard line, and out trots Tim Tebow. Will he be a decoy? Or will he get the ball? If I were McDaniels I'd get Tebow into the mix early and often. Many laughed at the Broncos for taking him in the 1st round. Not us. We're big believers in Tebow. Not as a traditional NFL QB, but hey, the guy and pick up yards on the ground. He's as good as any fullback in the league, and he can throw the ball a bit!
Kansas City Chiefs - Odds to Win AFC West +600 - Could the Chiefs be the team that shock us all by rising from obscurity to the playoffs in a single season? It isn't likely, but there are a few reason to believe it could happen. First of all, offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss is reunited with defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. We all know what they are capable of accomplishing together. QB Matt Cassell is in his second year with the team. He should be better protected this year. The Chiefs have a nice new player in Dexter McCluster. The Ole miss alum can and will be a playmaker in the NFL. The offense could be good, but the defense is undersized and will lack an effective pass rush. Despite that, this star studded coaching cast including Todd Haley, Romeo Crennel, and Charlie Weiss will work their magic to win games.
Oakland Raiders - Odds to Win AFC West +600 - This team lacks controversy in 2010. This is the first time for many years that we aren't thinking "What the hell is Al Davis doing?". The owner retained head coach Tom Cable and put together a solid draft for the first time in years. He also traded for QB Jason Campbell. The Raiders have young stars in LB Rolando McClain and RB Darren McFadden. Despite poor production thus far in the NFL, McFadden still has what it takes to be a top runner. All in all it is too early to expect them to compete in the West, but Davis has them going in the right direction for the first time in years.
The bet to win the AFC West is clearly the San Diego Chargers. They are the favorite, but the other three teams in the division aren't ready to stage a coup just yet. At odds of +650, the Broncos would be the best value to upset the Chargers. If they can turn a few of those 8 losses into wins this year, who knows. But it looks like another Chargers year going in.
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