The 2017 NFL season begins in September and all 32 teams are finalising their preparations for the new campaign.
The Denver Broncos were aiming to maintain their stranglehold of the AFC West – having won the division for the past five years – following their Super Bowl triumph in the 2015 season.
However, the Broncos were unseated at the top of the division for the first time since 2011 and failed to return to the post-season, suffering an 8-8 campaign.
The Kansas City Chiefs replaced them to take the AFC West crown, claiming their first title since 2010.
The Oakland Raiders had an excellent season before an injury to quarterback Derek Carr derailed their term late in the term, resulting in them losing out to the Chiefs, despite having an identical record.
Bringing up the rear was the San Diego Chargers in their final season in the city, mustering only five victories in their 16 contests. The club now has to contend with a move to Los Angeles in their bid to three-term playoff drought.
The Chiefs were defeated in the divisional round of the playoffs by the New England Patriots in 2015. They struggled early in the term, but found their form to conquer their rivals, defeating the Broncos and Raiders home and away.
Andy Reid’s men lost only four matches to secure the seconds seed in the AFC, only to suffer a defeat at the same stage of the post-season this time against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The club have made a number of curious decisions in the off-season. First they fired general manager John Dorsey, while former Pro Bowl wideout Jeremy Maclin was released.
The Chiefs then traded up in the first round 2017 Draft to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes to put pressure on Alex Smith.
Kansas City made a few additions during free agency, but their main priority was to retain the services of All-Pro Eric Berry. As a result, Reid’s side could be on their way to be taking a step back from their 12-win campaign with the Raiders ready to whip the AFC West crown out of their hands.
There’s not enough talent surrounding Smith outside of Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce to pose a threat to the best teams in the AFC and even the Raiders. They still have the talent to reach the playoffs, therefore backing them with Bovada sportsbook at -115 to qualify is a solid punt.
The Raiders were robbed last season as Carr’s injury ruined a potential surge into the latter rounds of the playoffs. The quarterback suffered a broken leg against the Indianapolis Colts in the club’s penultimate regular-season fixture, forcing third-stringer Connor Cook into playoff action against the Houston Texans on the road.
Not surprisingly the Raiders were well beaten in the contest, ending their first venture into the post-season for 14 years at the first hurdle.
Carr has recovered from his injury and is set to lead his team for another assault on the division. They secured the services of Marshawn Lynch from the Seattle Seahawks, who came out of retirement to play for his hometown club.
That move could alleviate the pressure on the quarterback, with the former All-Pro being able to run behind one of the best offensive lines in the game. Oakland’s offense was already potent and the added threat of a ground game should allow them to thrive once again, making another 12-win season a strong possibility.
Jack Del Rio’s men were beaten by the Chiefs home and away last season, and will have to overcome their rivals before having any aspirations of challenging the Patriots for the AFC crown.
Their improvements should have the Raiders on course to win the AFC West as their young players on an upward trajectory, with Carr and wideout Amari Cooper continuing their rapport. On the defensive side of the ball Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack will once again be dominant.
Backing Del Rio’s side at odds of +300 with 188Bet to win the division is the option to take.
The Broncos came down from their high of winning the Super Bowl, dropping back to mediocrity. The club failed to win double-digit matches for the first time since the arrival of Peyton Manning in 2012, with the veteran quarterback’s retirement following their Vince Lombardi trophy win leaving a void at the position.
Manning was more a detriment to the Broncos than a positive in 2015, but his experience was still vital in allowing the defense to win the match against the Carolina Panthers. Brock Osweiler’s departure to the Houston thrust Trevor Siemian into the starter’s role as 2017 first-round pick Paxton Lynch not ready for action in his rookie season.
Not even the brilliant Broncos’ defense could cover up the flaws of their offense in the 2016 campaign, while the health issues of Gary Kubiak resulted in the head coach retiring after their 8-8 season.
New head coach Vance Joseph has a massive challenge ahead of him this season to keep the club in the contention for the playoffs. Siemian has to take a huge step forward in his development as the running game could have issues should CJ Anderson not return to form following his injury.
Legendary defensive coordinator Wade Phillips also departed, putting Joe Woods in control of the Broncos’ defense. Injuries and retirements, including DeMarcus Ware’s, have cut into their depth, while age is creeping up on members of the secondary.
Those factors could be the fatal combination that sees the Broncos regress at odds of -160 with TopBet sportsbook to win under 8.5 matches.
Mike McCoy’s time with the Chargers came to an end following their 5-11 campaign, with Anthony Lynn replacing him as head coach.
After 58 seasons in San Diego, the club will not ply their trade in Los Angeles in their new temporary home of the StubHub Center before their new stadium is completed in 2020.
The team have not made sweeping changes to their side in the form of additions, with Russell Okung their biggest splash during free agency to protect Philip Rivers’ blindside. They waved goodbye to their first two picks in the 2013 Draft as DJ Fluker and Manti Te’o were not retained.
Unfortunately for the Chargers their change in location has not brought new luck on the injury front as 2017 first-round draft pick Mike Williams could miss the campaign along with their second-round selection Forrest Lamp.
Rivers remains one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but the health of his wideouts has restricted his ability. Should Keenan Allen remain on the field for the entirety of the campaign, while Tyrell Williams and Hunter Henry take the next stage in their development – there’s a strong chance that the club could get back up to .500.
Young talent is beginning to emerge on defense as Joey Bosa was outstanding in his rookie season, while Jatavis Brown also flashed in the linebacking corps. Remaining injury-free will be the key, and should they have fortune on their side, the Chargers could finish third in the AFC West at odds of +225 with Ladbrokes.
Oakland Raiders To Win The AFC West
Kansas City Chiefs To Qualify For The Playoffs
Denver Broncos To Win Under 8.5 Matches
San Diego Chargers To Finish 3rd In AFC West