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2017 AFC West Predictions and Picks

2017 AFC West Predictions and Picks

By Loot, NFL Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

The AFC West has become a pretty good division in the NFL recently. Heading into 2017, the 4-team division can boast of having three winning teams from last season, with the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders both going into the postseason with 12-4 records, with the Denver Broncos narrowly missing out on the playoffs at 9-7. The Los Angeles Chargers have made the move to LA and are expected to improve, as well. The action should be hectic in the AFC West in 2017.

Last season saw a shift of power within the AFC West. Five-time defending division champion the Denver Broncos, fresh off a Super Bowl win the previous season, saw their form dip with the retirement of Peyton Manning and some other losses. They failed to win the division for the first time since 2010, seeing both the Chiefs and Raiders pass them by. Both Oakland and KC were 12-4 and with the Chiefs beating the Raiders in two out of two games in the regular season, they became the AFC West Champions.

Let's take a look at the betting odds to win the AFC West, followed by our analysis and picks:

Odds to Win the AFC West in 2017:
Oakland Raiders +185
Kansas City Chiefs +225
Denver Broncos +300
Los Angeles Chargers +450

A Word about the Odds: The AFC West is expected to be one of, if not the most competitive divisions in the league. We see all 4 division teams bunched up, as the favorite in Oakland is nearly 2-to-1, with the fourth-pick Los Angeles Chargers at just 4.5-to-1. In other divisions, there are leading choices getting worse than even-money, while the projected fourth-place team is receiving true long-shot odds. That's not the case in the AFC West, where all four teams have a pretty legit case to take division honors this season. Let's take a look at the teams in the AFC West and break down their chances.

Oakland Raiders (+185): It would have been nice if QB Derek Carr held up to give the Raiders a real chance in the playoffs following a signature 2017 season. At 12-4, they posted a winning season and made it to the postseason for the first time since 2002. They look to take it a step farther this season and with a few breaks on the injury front, they could make it happen. An already-solid offense added some power with Marshawn Lynch and maybe even guys like Cordarrelle Patterson could make an impact. If some rookies and free agent pickups can deliver on defense, it could be enough to get the Raiders over the hump. They showed a lot of moxie last season for a team so mired in a losing tradition. When the chips were down, more often than not the Raiders delivered. It sets up well for a big 2017.

Kansas City Chiefs (+225): Let's not forget, it was the Chiefs who won this division last season. The thing that throws people off most with the Chiefs is that it's not that easy to readily identify exactly why they are so good, racking up a 43-21 record in the last 4 seasons. Last year, their defense was mid-pack at best, with an erratic offense that didn't always deliver. They just win and teams like that need to be evaluated a different way. They drafted QB Patrick Mahomes, II. with the 10th pick, but otherwise were pretty quiet on the player-acquisition front. Still, what they have was good enough to take down the division last season, with two big wins over Oakland breaking the tie. It could be foolish to regard the Chiefs as anything less than super-legit contenders to take the division again in 2017.

Denver Broncos (+300): After a fast start and some promising QB play early in the season, it looked like the Broncos might actually be able to maintain in defense of their Super Bowl win in 2015. But as the season wore on and the offense struggled, things got a little ragged and the Broncos found themselves out of the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The 2017 season is a pivotal campaign to determine whether the Broncos can make another push or if they recede to the ranks of teams trying to get things on the right track. A lot of stars need to line up right, but the Broncos intelligently addressed issues on both lines of scrimmage and that could make a big difference. Maybe new Bronco Jamaal Charles can still make something happen. With a few things falling their way, the Broncos could very conceivably find themselves in the AFC West mix again in 2017.

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Los Angeles Chargers (+450): They were 5-11 last season, but for those who watched the Bolts throughout the season, it wasn't hard to see that things could have gone a whole lot better. In their first season back in LA and with a new head coach in Anthony Lynn, there is realistic optimism. They lost almost all their key offensive playmakers last season to injury and with better health and the addition of rookie WR Mike Williams, the offense could be a high-flying one this season. Injuries were also critical in rendering the defense a shadow of what it could have been last season. At close to full-health, that "D" could be one of the better ones the Chargers have had since they went to the Bowl over 20 years ago. With some nice moves to beef up that offensive line, the Chargers might catch some people by surprise this season.

Lootmeister's Pick to Win the AFC West this Season: Oakland Raiders

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