You can hardly blame the Chiefs for more or less standing pat with virtually the same team that has won 23 of its L27 regular season games. Are they in a position to challenge New England and Pittsburgh for the AFC title ??? Probably not but there are several reasons to think that they’ll be even better with the return of several key starters on defense and the addition of a potential QB (Pat Mahomes) and the replacement (Kareem Hunt) for long tenured RB Jamaal Charles through the draft. Ultimate game manager Alex Smith will be under pressure to take the Chiefs to the next level as the cannon armed Mahomes has gotten rave reviews in Chief’s camp. Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson will address the Chiefs most glaring deficiency which is at linebacker and the pass rush. The Chiefs will battle the Raiders for “Best” in the West.
Current Vegas Odds to Win Division: 2/1
Current Vegas Regular Season Win Total Odds: 9, O -120, U -Even
The Raiders broke out in many ways last year en route to their monster 12-4 regular season. The team figured out how to win division games, win on the road, and also win close games. In fact, the Raiders won six times on the road last year and also went 8-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less. The Raiders success in 2017 will rest on the return of Derek Carr who signed a big money extension in the offseason while rehabbing a broken fibula sustained at the end of 2016. Marshawn Lynch was coaxed out of retirement to help improve the ground game and to eat clock and move the chains late. Oakland used its first three draft picks on defense but it remains to be seen if they will be able to step right in and help this suspect stop unity from the git go. We’ll know pretty quick if 2016 was smoke and mirrors as three of the Black and Silver’s first for games are on the road in very tough venues. The AFC West faces the NFC East this year and the Raiders are riding a 1-8 SU run against Giants/Cowboys/Skins/Eagles since 2005. Bottom line is that if Carr is back to 100% and the defense is even somewhat better, 10 wins should not be a problem.
Current Vegas Odds to Win Division: 3/2
Current Vegas Regular Season Win Total Odds: 9.5, O -115, U -105
With a new coach, and a new city and crib, the Chargers might very well be the biggest wild card in pro football. Anthony Lynn is a polar opposite from Mike McCoy and will be run first which means a healthy dose of Melvin Gordon who was much better in sophomore year. The Bolts drafted Mike Williams out of Clemson to give Philip Rivers another weapon on the outside but a disc problem could sideline him for all of 2017. Gus Bradley has been brought in to run the defense and he immediately instituted the 4-3 to better utilize Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. There is no lack of talent on this team but it will need to avoid the injury bug that has plagued them in recent years and especially last year when the Bolts lost a whopping 355 man games. The schedule is tough with 11 games vs. winning records last year. LAC will also need to win some close games and they were the direct opposite of the Raiders going 1-8 in games decided by a touchdown or less.
Current Vegas Odds to Win Division: 4/1
Current Vegas Regular Season Win Total Odds: 7.5, O -105, U +125
All is not right in the mile high city. The Broncos also have a new coach and coordinators and it has not been a seamless fit by any means. New HC Vance Joseph is a defensive guy who made his name as DB coach in San Francisco, Houston, Cincinnati and most recently as DC of the Dolphins. The Bronco defense is not the team’s problem and the stop unit will once again be among the NFL’s elite. Former Charger HC Mike McCoy has been brought in to run the offense and by all reports, quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch have been VERY slow to catch on. C.J. Anderson will need to be healthy for Denver to run the ball and no help was brought in the help Demaryius Thomas from being doubled on the outside. The Broncos have several things going for them including anearly Week Five bye and four of their first five games at Mile High. If the Broncos are going to challenge the Chiefs and Raiders for a playoff spot they will also have to continue a current 15-3 straight up run in division road games.
Current Vegas Odds to Win Division: 7/2
Current Vegas Regular Season Win Total Odds: 8.5, O +125, U -145