AFC West Preview

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San Diego Chargers are 3 to 1 Favorites to Win the AFC North

It’s hardly a stretch to pick the Chargers to win the AFC West. Where’s their competition within the division? Perhaps the Broncos? A team that lost it’s long time coach in Mike Shanahan and has Kyle Orton and Chris Simms competing for the QB job! Certainly the Raiders and the Chiefs have a ways to go although hey, in the NFL anything can happen from year to year. So, we’ll go with the obvious choice in the Chargers but must again warn Our readers that if you plan on betting on the Chargers to win the AFC West, we’d advise against it. There’s not much point in laying odds of 3/1 on a wager like that. Betting is all about value and finding prices worth betting. Betting a favorite to win a division in the NFL is rarely a wise choice.

Here’s a look at the AFC West along with their current odds to win the division.


San Diego Chargers (Odds to win AFC West -350) Phillip River’s had an excellent year in 2008 as he led the Chargers to their third consecutive AFC West title. The bookmakers think Coach Norv Turner’s team has an excellent shot at the Four-peat. I have to agree with that assumption. LADainian Tomlinson was hobbled last year but will return in full force in 2009. This is a man who rushed for 1,815 yards and 28 TDs in 2006. If he can play at full force for the entire season, teams opposing the Chargers will be in big trouble.

Quarterback play will be no problem for San Diego. Phillip Rivers was able to remain healthy last year after having reconstructive knee surgery last offseason. The Chargers have an advantage over division rivals in this area, because most will have new QBs and new schemes. Rivers has excellent weapons in WRs Chris Chambers and ViNCent Jackons. The defense could use improvement, but it is not bad by any means. Shawne Merriman is one of the most dominant pass rushers in the NFL and will be back this year. The Chargers must apply pressure and pick up more sacks. Unless there is an unforeseen injury, the Chargers should probably win the AFC West.

Denver Broncos (Odds to win AFC West +500) Josh McDaniels, former offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, replaced Mike Shanahan as head coach during the offseason. Few saw this move coming, iNCluding QB Jay Cutler. Frustrated with the move, Cutler demanded a trade and ended up in Chicago. Kyle Orton and Chris Simms are competing to take Cutlers place, but it seems like Orton has the best chance. Orton was obtained via trade with Chicago whom he did well with last year. He had few weapons, but made little to no mistakes and maximized his team’s chance of winning.

The Broncos are well known for their RBs and that should continue due to their first round draft pick Knowshon Moreno. Denver hadn’t drafted a RB in the first round since 1985. He is a powerful and speedy back who runs with plenty of force. The defense looks weak. The line is average at best, and the same can be said for the secondary. The linebackers are also mediocre in Denver. McDaniels did a great job in New England, but must prove he can do the same kind of job as head coach. The Broncos will undoubtedly regress in 2009.

Kansas City Chiefs (Odds to win AFC West +700) After a horrendous 2-14 record in 2008, the Chiefs installed Todd Haley as head coach. They also made big noise in the free agent market. Kansas City signed several veterans at various positions. They also traded to get QB Matt Cassel from the New England Patriots. While it wasn’t a popular move, they traded Tony Gonzalez to the Atlanta Falcons. Will all this shaking up do the trick for a team that was among the worst in the NFL last year? Perhaps, but the results won’t start to show immediately.

The Chiefs desperately needed a reliable QB, and Cassel proved that he can do the job while substituting for Brady last year. He will quickly learn how lucky he was to be passing to a future Hall of Famer like Randy Moss. The receiver corps is OK at best in Kansas City. The secondary is a bright spot on defense. They have several young guys playing CB and S. Young players made huge strides and GAined valuable experieNCe in 2008. The Chiefs made big moves to get closer to .500 this year, but they are probably 1-2 years away from being a playoff team.

Oakland Raiders (Odds to win AFC West +800) It looks like the never ending rebuilding cycle in Oakland won’t end anytime soon. This team has had Four new head coaches in the past five seasons. Tom Cable will be the latest victim of owner Al Davis. The Raiders finished 2008 with a record of 5-11 and don’t figure to do much better in 2009. Things aren’t all bad though. JaMarcus Russell is an immensely talented young man at QB, but he doesn’t seem to have found his best Game yet. He passed for 2,423 yards and 13 TDs last year while keeping interceptions to a minimum.

The Raiders also have a great weapon in RB Darren McFadden. He was a star at Arkansas, but hasn’t really had a chance to shine yet in the NFL. Look for him to break out with a big year in 2009. The secondary and linebacker corps isn’t great but they are above average. Much of the Raiders success will depend on Russell. He has been decent thus far, but he has to be great for Oakland to win ball Games. The talent is there to win 8 Games, but I’m going to bet against that happening.