AFC West Preview: Can The Kansas City Chiefs Avoid Super Bowl Hangover?

Posted on: August 25, 2023, 09:21h. 

Last updated on: August 27, 2023, 12:19h.

The Kansas City Chiefs are the betting favorite at -165 odds to win the AFC West division title for the eighth consecutive season.

Patrick Mahomes Travis Kelce
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce celebrate a win in Super Bowl LVII against the Philadelphia Eagles. (Image: Getty)

The Los Angeles Chargers are at +340 odds to win the AFC West, followed by the Denver Broncos at +550 odds and the Las Vegas Raiders at +1200 odds.

The Broncos are the last team other than the Chiefs to win the AFC West after they rattled off five straight division titles between 2011 and 2015.

You have to go as far back as 2009 to find a division winner that wasn’t the Chiefs or Broncos. When they were playing in San Diego, the Chargers won the AFC West in four consecutive seasons between 2006 and 2009.

The Raiders haven’t won a division title in two decades, and they have yet to win an AFC West title since they moved to Sin City. The Raiders last won AFC West in 2002, which capped off a run in which they won three consecutive division titles as the Oakland Raiders.

Kansas City Chiefs: Champs the Team to Beat

  • AFC West Odds: -165
  • Super Bowl Odds: +600
  • 2022 Record: 14-3
  • 2023 Win Total: 11.5 o/u

Over the last four seasons, the Chiefs won the Super Bowl twice and were a runner-up once, thanks to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, and head coach Andy Reid. The Chiefs won Super Bowl LVII during a so-called transition year with a very young squad.

The defensive standout, Chris Jones, is a contract holdout, so that’s something to watch.

Yet again, the Chiefs are the team to beat in their division, conference, and league. However, winning the Super Bowl in back-to-back seasons in the modern era is a near-impossible task. The 2004 New England Patriots were the last team to win consecutive championships.

The Chiefs have to fend off the Super Bowl hangover and adjust to a new offensive coordinator. Eric Bieniemy was the top OC in the NFL for the past few seasons, and the Washington Commanders offered him a huge pay jump to leave Kansas City.

Matt Nagy returns to the Chief as their OC. He was their OC for two seasons in 2016-17 before becoming the Chicago Bears’ head coach. Nagy was fired after four seasons in Chicago. Reid brought Nagy back last year as the quarterbacks coach. When Bieniemy left for Washington, Reid promoted Nagy to his old position as the OC.

The Chiefs are the consensus favorite to win the Super Bowl at +600 odds and the betting favorite at +350 odds to win the AFC championship for a fourth time in the last five years. The Chiefs have a win total of 11.5 over/under this season, and they’re cofavorites with the Philadelphia Eagles for the highest projected win total at DraftKings.

Los Angeles Chargers: Bolts Best Chance to Usurp KC

  • AFC West Odds: +340
  • Super Bowl Odds: +2500
  • 2022 Record: 10-7
  • 2023 Win Total: 9.5 o/u

The Chargers are +340 odds to win the AFC West. They’re the closest competition for the Chiefs and the value pick on the board to win the AFC West this year.

Quarterback Justin Herbert played most of last season with a fractured rib cartilage and still led the Chargers to 10 victories and a wild-card berth. The Chargers didn’t go far, and were picked off by the Jacksonville Jaguars during Wild Card Weekend.

Running back Austin Ekeler is one of the top dual threats in the NFL, but he believed he was underpaid. He requested a trade in the off-season when contract extension talks fizzled out. The Chargers had no desire to trade one of their supreme offensive weapons and reworked the final year of his contract, which now includes an additional $1.75 million in reachable incentives.

The Chargers have a dynamic wide receiver duo with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. When the two are healthy, they might be among the top tandems in the NFL, but health is a huge concern. Allen missed seven games last season, and Williams missed four games in the regular season, plus a playoff game with a back injury.

The Chargers selected Quentin Johnston with a late first-round pick out of TCU. Johnston is one of the top incoming rookie wide receivers, and he’s an ideal insurance policy if Allen and Williams are injured.

Denver Broncos: Sean Payton, Rocky Mountain Savior

  • AFC West Odds: +550
  • Super Bowl Odds: +4500
  • 2022 Record: 5-12
  • 2023 Win Total: 8.5 o/u

Sean Payton is the new sheriff in town, and he’s cleaning up the mess after a disastrous 2022 season that included a late-season firing of rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett. The Broncos also spent the most money in the NFL on guaranteed free-agent contracts this off-season, and they bolstered last season’s shaky offensive line.

The Broncos have a strong defense, but quarterback Russell Wilson is the big question mark. Wilson struggled last season from multiple injuries and his failure to sync up with the offense. Payton took the Broncos job because he wanted to coach a team with a star quarterback. Fans are eager to find out if Wilson is truly washed up or if Payton can help Wilson rejuvenate his career after a disappointing first season in Denver.

The Broncos have a hexed wide receiver room. Once again, they enter this season with multiple injured wide receivers. Tim Patrick suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. K.J. Hamler has a heart condition, and Jerry Jeudy, their top wide receiver, will miss the start of the season with a hamstring injury.

There’s no shortage of hippies in Colorado, so perhaps the Broncos will hire a healing energy expert to cleanse the bad vibes by burning sage in the wide receivers’ room.

Rookie wide receiver Marvin Mims, Jr. will have a chance to prove his worth while he ascends the depth chart during an injury-riddled preseason.

Oddsmakers don’t have much faith in the Broncos, even after Payton took over as head coach. The Broncos have a win total of 8.5 o/u, which is an improvement compared to last year’s five-win season.  But the bookies don’t think they can be a playoff squad.

Las Vegas Raiders: Better Luck Next Year

  • AFC West Odds: +1200
  • Super Bowl Odds: +8000
  • 2022 Record: 6-11
  • 2023 Win Total: 6.5 o/u

Avoid betting the Raiders on the futures market unless you want to fade them. The Raiders are +300 odds to make the playoffs, according to a prop bet at DraftKings. The Raiders are a favorite to miss the playoffs at -475 odds.

Even the addition of Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback isn’t enough to persuade future bettors. The Raiders parted ways with Derek Carr in favor of Jimmy G., but All-Pro wide receiver Devante Adams is dinged up, and star running back Josh Jacobs is in the middle of a bitter contract holdout.

Josh McDaniels was a stellar offensive coordinator during his tenure with the New England Patriots, working alongside Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. However, McDaniels struggled as a head coach. He barely cobbled together six victories in his first season with the Raiders in 2022.

The Raiders are the worst team in a stacked division, including the defending Super Bowl champion. They face a tough schedule in the first half of the season and could easily find themselves 2-10 heading into their bye week in early December. And that’s if Jacobs ends his holdout and rejoins his team.

The last five games are also tough, and the Raiders will be hard-pressed to find four victories this season.