Futures Betting Primer for the 2018 NFL Season – AFC West

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AFC West Futures Preview

With the 2018 NFL regular season fast approaching – the first game of the year kicks off on Thursday, September 6 – it’s time for bettors to take a serious look at the futures betting market.

Anything can happen in one game, but over the course of a grueling 16-game campaign, the cream tends to rise to the top in this league. With that in mind, savvy bettors can take advantage of futures betting by pouncing on divisional title odds*, Super Bowl championship prospects, and a few fun proposition wagers based on player performance.

To help you sharpen your futures betting skills, we’ll be covering all eight of the NFL’s divisions, continuing with the AFC West.

*All odds and lines included in this page were provided by online sportsbook Bovada on August 29th, 2018.

Odds to Win AFC West & Super Bowl 53

Team Odds to Win AFC West Odds to Win Super Bowl 53
Los Angeles Chargers +150 +850
Kansas City Chiefs +265 +3300
Oakland Raiders +325 +2500
Denver Broncos +400 +4500

One of the more tightly bunched divisions in all of football, the AFC West has four legitimate candidates for a championship.The Kansas City Chiefs sent signal-calling stalwart Alex Smith to Washington, officially beginning the Pat Mahomes era – but Smith’s absence removes the Chiefs from their usual favorite status. Replacing them are the Los Angeles Chargers, who have Philip Rivers under center for what might be his last hurrah.

And if Derek Carr or Case Keenum can get hot for the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos, respectively, watch out for a surprise team to crash the playoff party. For full information on all four AFC West contenders, see the team capsules below:

Los Angeles Chargers

(+150) to win AFC West – (+850) to win Super Bowl 53

2017 Results:

  • 9-7
  • Missed the Playoffs (on tiebreakers)

Key Additions:

  • C Mike Pouncey
  • TE Virgil Green
  • PK Caleb Sturgis

Key Departures:

  • TE Antonio Gates
  • TE Hunter Henry (injury)
  • OG Matt Slauson
  • DE Jeremiah Attaochu

Top 5 Draft Picks:

  • S Derwin James, Florida State (#7 overall)
  • LB Uchenna Nwosu, USC (#48 overall)
  • DE Justin Jones, NC State (#84 overall)
  • S Kyzir White, West Virginia (#119 overall)
  • C Scott Quessenbery, UCLA (#155 overall)

Key Quote:

“I’m super excited about a handful more years. I don’t have a number in my head.

I laugh when I hear Drew, Brady’s already 41, when I hear them say mid-40s, I go, ‘Y’all can have that.’ I have no desire to get there.

One thing I am thankful about is I know what I’m gonna be doing when I’m done. I’m gonna be coaching high school football somewhere, maybe the very next season.”

– QB Philip Rivers, on setting a target date for his eventual retirement

(Quote link: https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/08/06/dak-prescott-cowboys-training-camp-2018-mmqb-breer)

2018 Schedule:

Week Date Opponent
1 Sep. 9 vs Kansas City Chiefs
2 Sep. 16 @ Buffalo Bills
3 Sep. 23 @ Los Angeles Rams
4 Sep. 30 vs San Francisco 49ers
5 Oct.7 vs Oakland Raiders
6 Oct. 14 @ Cleveland Browns
7 Oct. 21 vs Tennessee Titans
9 Nov. 4 @ Seattle Seahawks
10 Nov. 11 @ Oakland Raiders
11 Nov. 18 vs Denver Broncos
12 Nov. 25 vs Arizona Cardinals
13 Dec. 2 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
14 Dec.9 vs Cincinnati Bengals
15 Dec. 13 @ Kansas City Chiefs
16 Dec. 23 vs Baltimore Ravens
17 Dec. 30 @ Denver Broncos

*(Opponents Went 123-133 in 2017 = 24thMost DifficultSchedule)*

It’s a strange time to be a Charger, what with the relocation from San Diego to Los Angeles still fresh in everybody’s memory.

For QB Philip Rivers, those sunny San Diego days were something special too, as he led the team to playoff runs in four of his first five seasons – including an AFC Championship appearance in 2007. But the Bolts have suffered a power outage of late, missing out on the postseason party for six of their last seven seasons in San Diego.

Their first in La La Land almost ended that drought, as Rivers and the Chargers stormed back from an 0-4 hole to win 9 of their last 12 games. That put them on the fringes of playoff qualification, but the tiebreakers didn’t fall L.A.’s way.

The Chargers would’ve made it too, if not for a 30-13 drubbing by the Chiefs in Week 16. That game essentially decided the West title, giving Kansas City the leg up in a race decided by just one game.

Entering 2018, the script has been flipped, as L.A. has been tabbed as (+155) favorites to win the division. And with Super Bowl odds of (+2000), the Chargers actually rank in the top-10 in terms of Lombardi Trophy chances – a big jump for a team that hasn’t sniffed playoff success in a while now.

As a bettor, backing the Chargers depends largely on your estimation of Rivers as he enters his 15th NFL season. The quote above suggests he has no intention of becoming “Old Man Rivers” like his draft class peers Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, so 2018 could be his grand finale of sorts.

And he certainly has the roster to make a serious run with. Legendary TE Antonio Gates may have retired, but the pass-catching duties now belong to Pro Bowl wideout Keenan Allen, who hauled in 102 tosses from Rivers last year. All-Pro pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram should ensure that Rivers has plenty of offensive possessions and short fields to work with too.

As a result, L.A.’s Win Total has been set at 9.5 (-125 on Over / -105 on Under), putting them above playoff teams from last year like the Jaguars, Panthers, Falcons, and yes – the Chiefs.

The Chargers haven’t reached 10 wins or more since 2009, so the Over may seem like a bold bet, but check out their schedule to see why L.A. has a chance. At 24th in the league in terms of difficulty, the Chargers light schedule gives them a serious shot at matching – or exceeding – the bookmaker’s optimistic outlook.

Kansas City Chiefs

(+265) to win AFC West – (+3300) to win Super Bowl 53

2017 Results:

  • 10-6
  • AFC West Champions
  • Lost 22-21 to the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card Round

Key Additions:

  • S Eric Berry (back from injury)
  • WR Sammy Watkins
  • LB Anthony Hitchens
  • CB Kendall Fuller
  • LB Anthony Hitchens
  • CB David Amerson

Key Departures:

  • QB Alex Smith
  • CB Marcus Peters
  • LB Derrick Johnson
  • DE Tamba Hali
  • OG Zach Fulton
  • WR Albert Wilson
  • DT Bennie Logan

Top 5 Draft Picks:

  • DE Breeland Speaks, Ole Miss (#46 overall)
  • DT Derrick Nnadi, Florida State (#75 overall)
  • LB Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson (#100 overall)
  • S Armani Watts, Texas A&M (#124 overall)
  • CB Tremon Smith, Central Arkansas (#196 overall)

Key Quote:

“I believe I am, but you have to keep learning, keep doing those things every single day and you learn more and more no matter if you’re in your second year of your career or in the 18th year of your career, you’re going to be learning.

So for me, I feel like if I get out there, I can make plays happen, and I’m just going to keep learning, keep getting better every single day.

I came from Texas Tech and had a ton of stats and didn’t win enough games. For me, it’s all about winning. I want to win the Super Bowl. I want to win the championship, and that’s it.”

– QB Pat Mahomes, on whether he’s ready to replace Alex Smith under center, and his goals for his first season as a starter

(Quote link: https://www.arrowheadpride.com/2018/2/1/16962168/patrick-mahomes-speaks-his-top-five-quotes-from-thursday-at-the-super-bowl)

2018 Schedule:

Week Date Opponent
1 Sep. 9 @ Los Angeles Chargers
2 Sep. 16 @Pittsburgh Steelers
3 Sep. 23 vs San Francisco 49ers
4 Oct. 1 @ Denver Broncos
5 Oct.7 vs Jacksonville Jaguars
6 Oct. 14 @ New England Patriots
7 Oct. 21 vs Cincinnati Bengals
8 Oct. 28 vs Denver Broncos
9 Nov. 4 @ Cleveland Browns
10 Nov. 11 vs Arizona Cardinals
11 Nov. 19 @ Los Angeles Rams
13 Dec. 2 @ Oakland Raiders
14 Dec. 9 vs Baltimore Ravens
15 Dec. 13 vs Los Angeles Chargers
16 Dec. 23 @ Seattle Seahawks
17 Dec. 30 vs Oakland Raiders

*(Opponents Went 126-130 in 2017 = T-19thMost Difficult Schedule)*

It’s not every year that you see a two-time defending division champ like the Chiefs listed as an underdog to repeat, but it’s a new day in Kansas City.

QB Alex Smith arrived in 2013, leading KC to five winning seasons in five tries, four 10+ win campaigns, and four playoff appearances during his tenure. But the maddening late-game tactics of HC Andy Reid caused the Chiefs to bow out early every time, losing four playoff games by a combined 11 points.

With the team’s ceiling apparently reached, Smith was traded to the Redskins during the offseason, paving the way for second-year pro Pat Mahomes to take over. Mahomes was a star at Texas Tech, leading the nation in all major passing metrics, but as he mentioned in the quote above, gaudy personal stats didn’t translate to wins.

Mahomes did notch a win in his first and only NFL game last season, however, completing 22 of 35 passes for 284 yards to guide the Chiefs to a 27-24 win over the Broncos in Week 17. That flash of competency – rare for NFL rookie quarterbacks – was enough to persuade the Chiefs’ front office to trade Smith away for a 3rd-round draft pick.

They also snared speedy WR Sammy Watkins away from the Rams, giving Mahomes a receiving threat who can stretch the field in ways reminiscent of Texas Tech’s high-octane offensive attack. But whether that weapon is enough to push the Chiefs over the top to another win the West remains to be seen.

At (+260) to win the division, and (+3000) on a Super Bowl title, Kansas City is the consummate dark horse. Both prices appear to be quite fair, and given the team’s sustained success under Reid – in the regular season anyway – taking a flier on the Chiefs to make it three straight titles might not be a bad idea.

Another opportunity for tremendous value can be found on their Win Total of 8.5 (-120 on Over / -110 on Under). As the moneyline odds suggest, linemakers aren’t quite sure which way to lean on this number, which does seem to be quite low. The Chiefs never went 8-8 or worse with Smith in town, and they’ve made it double-digit wins for three seasons running.

Assuming Reid can get the most out of Mahomes, a schedule that falls into the league’s easier half could be enough to get Kansas City over .500 – and return nearly even money on an Over bet.

Oakland Raiders

(+325) to win AFC West – (+2500) to win Super Bowl 53

2017 Results:

  • 6-10
  • Missed the Playoffs

Key Additions:

  • RB Doug Martin
  • WR Jordy Nelson
  • WR Martavis Bryant
  • LB Derrick Johnson
  • CB Daryl Worley
  • S Marcus Gilchrist

Key Departures:

  • WR Michael Crabtree
  • DE Denico Autry
  • CB T.J. Carrie
  • CB David Amderson
  • K Sebastian Janikowski
  • P Marquette King

Top 5 Draft Picks:

  • OT Kolton Miller, UCLA (#15 overall)
  • DT P.J. Hall, Sam Houston State (#57 overall)
  • OT Brandon Parker, North Carolina A&T (#65 overall)
  • DE/LB Arden Key, LSU (#87 overall)
  • CB Nick Wilson, Wisconsin (#110 overall)

Key Quote:

“You know [Tom] Landry and [Bill] Walsh and Chuck Noll weren’t bad coaches. They did some good things. They did some good things from a fundamental drill standpoint, too.

Showing guys the drills that Jerry Rice did. Showing them how Roger Craig practiced. Those can be great teaching moments. Look, we’re not running a 1964 operation here. But there are some things that happened in 1964 that were pretty damn good.

If you don’t think so, go ahead and have a nice day.”

– HC Jon Gruden, on his oft ridiculed remark that he plans to take Raiders football “back to 1998”

(Quote link: https://www.nbcsports.com/bayarea/raiders/why-jon-gruden-shows-raiders-old-film-far-back-1974)

2018 Schedule:

Week Date Opponent
1 Sep.10 vs LA Rams
2 Sep. 16 @ Denver Broncos
3 Sep. 23 @Miami Dolphins
4 Sep. 30 vs Cleveland Browns
5 Oct.7 @ LA Chargers
6 Oct. 14 vs Seattle Seahawks
8 Oct. 28 Indianapolis Colts
9 Nov. 1 @ San Francisco 49ers
10 Nov. 11 vs LA Chargers
11 Nov. 18 @ Arizona Cardinals
12 Nov. 25 @ Baltimore Ravens
13 Dec. 2 vs Kansas City Chiefs
14 Dec.9 vs Pittsburgh Steelers
15 Dec. 16 @ Cincinnati Bengals
16 Dec. 24 vs Denver Broncos
17 Dec. 30 @Kansas City Chiefs

*(Opponents Went 121-135 in 2017 = T-29thMost DifficultSchedule)*

When the Raiders announced their intention to sign HC Jon Gruden away from the Monday Night Football broadcasting booth, the reaction was decidedly mixed.

Gruden was one of the best coaches in recent Raiders history, leading a stacked team to the 2000 AFC Championship game, and a bitter Divisional round loss to the Patriots one year later. The infamous “Tuck Rule” game left the Raiders on the wrong side of history, however, and by 2002, Gruden had found greener pastures in Tampa Bay, where his Buccaneers beat – you guessed it – the Raiders in Super Bowl 37.

But when Oakland’s brass revealed the details of Gruden’s new contract – $100 million for a 10-year deal – the football world craned its collective neck with a curious glance. That’s a million bucks for every NFL win Gruden has on his career (100-85), a steep investment for a man who hasn’t stalked the sidelines since 2008.

The Gruden debate lies at the center of Oakland’s 2018 season, for better or worse.

He’s a bona fide quarterback whisperer, coaxing stellar seasons out of an aging Rich Gannon in Oakland way back when, and even a title from game manager Brad Johnson in Tampa. With that in mind, bettors might see those (+325) odds on a West win as quote juice, what with QB Derek Carr calling the shots.

The 2014 Rookie of the Year has showed flashes of brilliance during his brief career, finishing his first two seasons with 53 touchdown tosses – second-most ever after two years behind Dan Marino (68). But after making his second straight Pro Bowl in 2016, while guiding the Raiders to a 12-4 record and a West title, Carr went down in Week 16 with a broken leg.

He returned last year, but the magic was gone and Oakland lurched to a disappointing 6-10 record.

If you believe Gruden’s old-school style and emphasis on QB play will return Carr and the Raiders to their winning ways, betting on them in the West makes sense. And at only 8 (-125 on Over / -105 on Under), the Over on their Win Total offers an attractive option as well.

On the other hand, if you don’t think Gruden’s antiquated approach will translate to the modern era, banging the Under makes perfect sense.

Denver Broncos

(+400) to win AFC West – (+4500) to win Super Bowl 53

2017 Results:

  • 5-11
  • Missed the Playoffs

Key Additions:

  • QB Case Keenum
  • DT Clinton McDonald
  • CB Tramaine Brock
  • P Marquette King

Key Departures:

  • RB C.J. Anderson
  • LT Donald Stephenson
  • CB Aqib Talib

Top 5 Draft Picks:

  • DE Bradley Chubb, NC State (#5 overall)
  • WR Courtland Sutton, SMU (#40 overall)
  • RB Royce Freeman, Oregon (#71 overall)
  • CB Isaac Yiadom, Boston College (#99 overall)
  • LB Josey Jewell, Iowa (#106 overall)

Key Quote:

“Our offense is way better than they were last year. With Case under center, he’s throwing great balls, he’s had great accuracy all of camp. He’s improved from OTAs.

I feel like Case and them are clicking right now, and I expect them to put up points. I don’t see anybody just shutting them down like that with our receivers that we got.

Our O-line is way better. I see them putting up points. At least 30 a game.”

– CB Chris Harris Jr., on the impact newly arrived QB Case Keenum could have on the Broncos offense

(Quote link: https://www.denverbroncos.com/news/with-case-keenum-under-center-teammate-cautions-against-sleeping-on-broncos)

2018 Schedule:

Week Date Opponent
1 Sep.9 vs Seattle Seahawks
2 Sep. 16 vs Oakland Raiders
3 Sep. 23 @ Baltimore Ravens
4 Oct. 1 vs Kansas City Chiefs
5 Oct.7 @ New York Jets
6 Oct. 14 vs LA Rams
7 Oct.18 @ Arizona Cardinals
8 Oct. 28 @ Kansas City Chiefs
9 Nov. 4 vs Houston Texans
11 Nov. 18 @ LA Chargers
12 Nov. 25 vs Pittsburgh Steelers
13 Dec. 2 @ Cincinnati Bengals
14 Dec. 9 @ San Francisco 49ers
15 Dec. 15 vs Cleveland Browns
16 Dec. 24 @ Oakland Raiders
17 Dec. 30 vs LA Chargers

*(Opponents Went 122-134 in 2017 = T-25thMost DifficultSchedule)*

Last season saw QB Case Keenum become a star, as his gunslinging guided the Vikings to a 13-3 record and a deep playoff run.

The Vikes signed top free agent Kirk Cousins though, leaving Keenum to take a deal to become Denver’s new starter. The Broncos will be Keenum’s fourth team, and his sixth stint changing uniforms, but judging by the quote above, his new teammates are happy to have him.

It’s been two years in the quarterback wilderness for Denver, which has struggled to replace legend Peyton Manning after the 2016 Super Bowl win.

Last year’s dismal 5-11 run was marked by poor passing from Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler, but the framework of a good team is still there. WR Demaryius Thomas can still bring down most balls thrown his way, while OLB Von Miller harasses opposing QBs with the best of them. Add Keenum’s arm and accuracy to the mix, and Denver wouldn’t be the most surprising team to experience an instant turnaround.

In a wide-open division, bettors who like Keenum to keep his late-career renaissance going getting great value at (+400) on a West title. Those Super Bowl odds of (+4000) are a little more of a longshot, but Keenum does have playoff experience under his belt. Finally, their Win Total odds of 7 (-170 on Over / +140 on Over) tilt heavily toward the Over, so the bookies seem to think a .500 season or better could be in the cards.


Use this 2018 AFC West futures guide to help you make profitable bets for the upcoming season. Just remember that injuries and other factors can make or break any NFL future wager.

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