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AFC West Preview
Odds Favor Broncos and Peyton Manning
The Denver Broncos started last season 1-4 under quarterback Kyle Orton but turned things around in Week 7 after head coach John Fox made the switch to Tim Tebow, who led them to seven wins in eight games, which was good enough to win the AFC West. The Broncos are hoping another QB switch to future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning will prevent them from getting off to a another slow start and help them reach their ultimate goal of winning another Super Bowl title. Tebow's departure to the New York Jets via trade could only be justified by bringing in a replacement of Manning's caliber, and signing him to a five-year deal worth $96 million shows the team is committed to winning with him despite the fact that he is coming off a severe neck injury. Denver is a slight favorite to win the AFC West this year at +170, 15/2 to win the AFC Championship and 16/1 to win Super Bowl XLVII.
The San Diego Chargers are notoriously slow starters but came out hot last season, winning four of their first five games, but they quickly fell apart and became a huge disappointment thanks to a six-game losing streak that ended up costing them the division title. San Diego lost its most important offensive weapon in the offseason when All-Pro wide receiver Vincent Jackson signed a multi-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This year, the team is counting on quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Ryan Mathews being healthy so they can make another title run in the AFC West. The Chargers are +180 to win the division, 10/1 to win the AFC Championship and 25/1 to win the Super Bowl.
The Kansas City Chiefs have no sympathy for San Diego because they know a thing or two about how injuries can derail a season. They started 0-3 last year and they were cursed by the injury bug right off the bat, losing key starters in RB Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki to season- ending torn ACLs within the first few weeks. Kansas City also later lost QB Matt Cassel to a season- ending hand injury and replaced him with former Bronco Orton, who started the team's final three games of the season and surprisingly ended a perfect season for the Green Bay Packers in Week 15 with a stunning 19-14 victory. The Chiefs finished 7-9 and lost head coach Todd Haley in the process as he was fired after a 5-8 start and replaced by former Cleveland Browns head coach Romeo Crennel, who was serving as their defensive coordinator. This year, they hope to stay healthy and are +350 to win the division, 20/1 to win the AFC Championship and 45/1 to win the Super Bowl.
The Oakland Raiders had a better start than any team in the AFC West last season at 4-2, looking like they would have a good shot to win the division. However, QB Jason Campbell went down with a season-ending collarbone injury, prompting the team to make a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals for the disgruntled Carson Palmer, who had been sitting out up to that point. Palmer appeared in 10 games for the Raiders and showed significant rust, throwing 16 interceptions compared to only 13 touchdowns. Despite the solid start, Oakland dropped six of 10 down the stretch to finish at 8-8 and miss the playoffs, losing a tiebreaker with Denver and San Diego. The Raiders hope a healthy Darren McFadden in the backfield and a new head coach in Dennis Allen can help Palmer rebound. They are +500 to win the AFC West, 30/1 to win the AFC Championship and 45/1 to win the Super Bowl.
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