AFC West Preview by Jim Feist

We have two powerhouse teams in this division. The LA Chargers and the Kansaas City Chiefs are considered legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl as we start the 2019 season.

We also have two rebuilding teams in the Denver Broncos and the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders. I see both the Chargers and the Chiefs about equal in talent.  It would be difficult to choose a winner at this time. Of course, most everyone was believing that Yreek Hill would be suspended for his off-field antics, but that was not the case. That is a big plus for QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense. We are all aware of the prolific offense the Chiefs put on the field last season under Mahomes, but so are all the defensive coordinators throughout the league.

Because of that, I see some regression from the Chiefs offense this season. The Chiefs will most likely be favored in all but one game during the regular season. Vegas has their win total at 10 ½, with the under is as a favorite of -1.25.  Now that Hill will not miss any games, I expect that number to go up. At 10 ½ wins, I would bet the Chiefs to go OVER that win total, even with the potential regression on offense and some key losses on defense.  It is the defensive side of the ball where I have concerns.  HC Andy Reid gives the Chiefs an edge in the coaching department vs the other AFC West teams. I lean over the total on the Chiefs this year.

The Chargers are very solid this year but as I write this, star running back Melvin Gordon is a potential contract holdout. Quarterback Phillip Rivers has been a star for many years but has not delivered playoff wins and a Super Bowl appearance. During his 15 or 16 years in the NFL he has not been clutch in big games, when the opportunity was presented.  But when it comes to regular season games, Rivers has been tough to beat.  Looking at the other side of the ball is where I see the Chargers having an advantage over the Chiefs and most other teams, they will meet this year.  Vegas has the win total for the Chargers at 9 1/2 with the over a -1.48 favorite.  That is a lot of juice to lay, but I lean to the over anyway.

The Denver Broncos with head man John Elway has been a mystery for me to figure out over the years.  A few years ago, the Broncos won a Super Bowl with a very over-the-hill QB named Peyton Manning. Manning might have been the lowest rated QB in the league that year, but the Broncos defense was stellar.  Elway rolled the dice with Peyton and it worked, but since then I had to question his decisions. I don’t however question the decision to go with Joe Falco at QB this year.  Elway likes strong armed QB’s and Joe certainly has that.  Joe doesn’t always look like he is awake and certainly doesn’t show much passion, but he does have the tools.  I do believe this team will be better than many predict. The defense again will be their strength, but the running game and offensive line will also be improved.  Vegas has total wins for the Broncos at just 7-games. I’m betting the Broncos are better than that.

I know the Oakland Raiders will soon be the Las Vegas Raiders, so as a Vegas longtime resident, I should be supportive.  I’m not! I didn’t like the coaching hire with John Gruden. I didn’t see the value in a 10-year, 100-million-dollar price tag to get him. I didn’t like dumping of linebacker Khalil Mack to the Bears and WR Amari Cooper to the Cowboys.  I didn’t like the signing of linebacker Vontaze Burfict, formally with the Bengals.  Adding a malcontent in WR Antonio Brown is sure a big boost if he is motivated to play to his potential.  Only time will tell, and we will have to see.

This is a tough division and with all my concerns, there is a silver lining, sort of.  I do think Raiders’ QB Derick Carr will have a big year passing.  While I don’t have much optimism for the team as a whole, I do think the offense will score points and Carr will have a big year in yards passing and touchdowns.  Might look for prop bets to take advantage of those predictions.  The Raiders win total is set at just 6-games and the over a 1.25 favorite. I’m taking the UNDER with the Raiders this year.