NFL Predictions: AFC West Odds and Preview with Football Betting Picks
by Robert Ferringo - 8/25/2010
Over the last half-decade the AFC West has been a bit like the Island of Dr. Moreau, with San Diego playing the role of the good doctor while Oakland, Kansas City and Denver are a bit like the Beast Folk: they resemble football teams but are too grotesque to actually be considered authentic.
Since the start of the 2006 season the Chargers have gone an unfathomable 20-4 straight up against their divisional “rivals”. That is partially due to their exceptional skill, but it says just as much about how wide the talent disparity is between San Diego and the rest of the AFC West.
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I would like to say that things will be different this season and that someone will actually step up and challenge the Chargers. But I have no real reason to believe that. Oakland could be a nuisance, but how seriously can we take a team that has won an average of just four games per year for the last seven years? Kansas City is rebuilding but isn’t there yet and Denver is just a mess at the moment. As such, the Chargers are a pretty solid favorite to again take the division crown. And one book has the odds on winning the 2010 AFC West as the Chargers at -340 and Any Other Team at +265.
But now for the good news: The AFC West crosses over against the equally feeble NFC West. That means that, barring a rash of tie games, some of these bottom feeders have to get some wins. My gut for NFL predictions is telling me that, outside of San Diego, one of the other AFC West teams is going to go like 3-1 against the NFC West and use that to springboard to a .500 season. Considering that this division has produced just two teams (out of a possible nine) that have won eight games over the last three years that would be a step in the right direction.
Here is my full 2010 AFC West predictions with odds and betting picks:
San Diego Chargers Predictions
2009 Record: 13-3 (7-1 home, 6-2 road)
2009 Against the Spread: 9-7 ATS, 10-6 vs. Total
2009 Rankings: 10th offense (5th pass, 31st rush); 16th defense (11th pass, 20th rush)
2010 Odds: 9/1 to win SB, 6/1 to win AFC, 1/3 to win AFC West, 11.0 wins O/U
Offense: Phil Rivers may be a dick, but the boy can play. And it doesn’t matter if they bring back Vincent Jackson or not, the Chargers will move the ball and score. Malcolm Floyd, Antonio Gates and Legedu Naanee (who I think has a chance to be really good) are still ample weapons for Rivers. The bigger issue is the predicament of Marcus McNeill, the starting left tackle that is sitting out in a contract dispute. McNeill’s position is completely solidified by the retirement of Tra Thomas, who was brought in to give the Bolts an option at left tackle this year. San Diego loves to throw the ball so I’m surprised by their lax attitude about bringing back McNeill to protect Rivers’ blind side. And I don’t think that their unit will produce at the level they need to without better line options. Ryan Matthews takes over for LaDainian Tomlinson and by all accounts the rookie is ready to go. And as long as this team is getting Darren Sproles quality touches they will be as explosive as any group in the league. Sproles is incredible. The Chargers have been in the Top 5 in the league in scoring for six straight years. A big part of that is the division they play in. But the rest is their talent and Norv Turner’s system.
Defense: The Chargers will start the season without some mainstays on defense, with Shawne Merriman the shadow of his former self and former Pro Bowlers Jamal Williams and Antonio Cromartie wearing different uniforms. Fortunately, DC Ron Rivera is one of the most underrated coaches in the business and continues to get the most out of this group. It is not an accident that Chicago’s defense has been a disaster since Rivera went to S.D. The San Diego front office has done a great job stockpiling young, physical, athletic talent that fits well into their scheme, so I don’t expect a steep drop-off. Stephen Cooper and Eric Weddle are the leaders of the back seven and I think that they have enough bodies to hold up in the front. However, even with top talent they had this team finished just 16th, 25th and 14th in total defense. They can afford to be mediocre if the offense is unstoppable. But if Rivers and Co. step down things could get ugly for the D.
Skinny: San Diego has been the dominant team in the West for the last half-decade, winning four straight division titles and five of the last six. But that has had as much to do with the rest of the division sucking badly as much as it has their talent. They are still a few feet taller than the Raiders, Broncos and Chiefs. But there are some troubling signs that suggest a year closer to their 8-8 2008 than their 13-3 mark last year. Besides significant personnel losses, the Chargers had offensive and defensive yards per point numbers that suggest a worse record this year. They also were +4 in terms of close wins and they have continuously won the Russian roulette that all playoff teams face. This group has been the Cowboys of the AFC, having good-but-not-good-enough talent submarined by incompetent coaching. I could be wrong, but I’m looking for a “down” year out of the Chargers. Yet, with next to no competition here they should be losing in January. Again.
Oakland Raiders Predictions
2009 Record: 5-11 (2-6 home, 3-5 road)
2009 Against the Spread: 8-8 ATS; 7-9 vs. Total
2009 Rankings: 31st offense (29th pass, 21st rush); 26th defense (7th pass, 29th rush)
2010 Odds: 100/1 to win SB, 50/1 to win AFC, 8/1 to win AFC West, 6.0 wins O/U
Offense: Jason Campbell may not be much better than an average NFL quarterback. But compared to JaMarcus Russell, Campbell might as well be Peyton Manning, Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas rolled into one. Russell was one of the worst NFL quarterbacks I’ve ever seen. And every offensive metric backs up what we already knew: the Raiders offense has been horrendous the past few years. But the most important may be that Oakland’s 21.63 yards per point measure was by far the worst in the NFL. And it is at a level that suggests a big bounce back for Oakland. A big part of the problem was their inability to create big plays in the passing game, as they managed just three pass plays of 40 or more yards in their last 15 games. This team still has a dearth of skill players around Campbell (their wideouts are pathetic). But the offensive line can play physical and this group has an up-and-coming running game. The main thing is that the Raiders need to establish a physical offense that can run the ball and take some pressure off the defense, and they need to be more efficient in key areas like third down and in the red zone. Campbell is a start. But I doubt he’s enough.
Defense: This could be one of the most improved units in football this year. Oakland hasn’t finished higher than No. 22 in total defense the last three years and has been notorious for rolling over in the red zone or when they are behind. But last year they at least started to show some spine. They allowed 4.1 red zone trips per season (second-worst in the league) but were actually No. 9 in red zone defense, stopping opponents short of the end zone 52 percent of the time. Add in a full season of life with Richard Seymour and the stunning coup of adding John Henderson this offseason and things are looking up. So far this preseason the Raiders have looked physical and swarming and with a more competent offense things could work out even better for the Oakland D. Their pass defense is solid, and I think that Michael Huff could have a breakout year at safety. That leaves the linebackers, and I am really digging the depth and the athleticism that their top five guys have. I’m telling you, these guys have the chance to take a Cincinnati-style leap this season.
Skinny: There are actually some stats that suggest the Raiders should be worse than last year. But I don’t see that. I think that this is a bit of an under-the-radar team that is ready to at least be competitive again. Tom Cable, much like his contemporary across the Bay, is instilling a tough, physical brand of football here with the Raiders. They have an improved defense, incredibly better quarterback play, and the hunger of a proud franchise that hasn’t won more than five games in the last seven years. Are the Raiders ready to make a postseason push? Probably not. But I think that they have enough mojo to break through that five-win ceiling they’ve been under for the better part of the last decade.
Denver Broncos Predictions
2009 Record: 8-8 (4-4 home, 4-4 road)
2009 Against the Spread: 9-7 ATS, 7-9 vs. Total
2009 Rankings: 15th offense (13th pass, 18th rush); 7th overall (3rd pass, 26th rush)
2010 Odds: 50/1 to win SB, 25/1 to win AFC, 7/1 to win AFC West, 7.5 wins O/U
Offense: For over a decade the crux of the Denver attack had been a dominating running game keyed by a zone-blocking scheme. Well, that is gone and an offensive line decimated by injury looks like it’s going to subvert anything that the skill players can do. Denver is looking at two rookie starters on the line (not good) and they have been without their best lineman, LT Ryan Clady, all preseason. They could potentially have three brand new starting linemen. They will be trying to protect slow-footed Kyle Orton. Look, people like to bag on Orton, but this guy can quarterback my team any day of the week. He can make all of the throws, his accuracy is above average, his decision-making is exceptional, and the guy is 10 games over .500 in his career. He has respect in the locker room and it’s not his fault that his best wideout heading into this season may be Jabar Gaffney. I know that people are clamoring for heir apparent Tim Tebow. But I’ll be surprised if we see much of Tebow until “garbage time” of this season (December) when the Broncs are out of it. This group is a work in progress and my expectations are pretty low.
Defense: This group made an incredible improvement from 2008 to 2009, going from No. 29 in the league to No. 7. However, if what I’ve seen this August is any indication this unit is going to look more like the pathetic 2008 edition. They are down four starters from last year’s defense and I don’t see suitable replacements. The secondary is still very solid, with Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey still doing it, and doing it, and doing it well. But the front seven is soft. And when they lost Elvis Dumervil they lost half of their pass rush. Signing Jamal Williams was a great pickup for this 3-4 defense. But they still need to find some rushers and they just don’t have any. Denver has been without several other starters this August so their early results may be misleading. But the more I look at this team the more I see a soft group with little depth that is ripe for a fall.
Skinny: If we’ve learned anything over the last few years it is that Bill Belichick is a football genius and all of his former assistants that get jobs by riding his coat tails end up making fools of themselves. Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis and Eric Mangini have been complete and utter failures, and I think that Josh McDaniels is right behind them. He has gutted this team and right now they are just a mishmash of systems, styles and personnel. They haven’t replaced the talent they’ve lost the last two years, and the talent they had only added up to a mediocre team, so what does that tell you?
Kansas City Chiefs Predictions
2009 Record: 4-12 (1-7 home, 3-5 road)
2009 Against the Spread: 7-9 ATS, 10-6 vs. Total
2009 Rankings: 25th offense (25th pass, 11th rush); 30th defense (22nd pass, 31st rush)
2010 Odds: 100/1 to win SB, 50/1 to win AFC, 9/1 to win AFC West, 6.5 wins O/U
Offense: If they Chiefs want to improve their woeful offensive numbers the first thing they need to do is stay on the field. Kansas City had the second worst third-down offense in the league last year, converting just 27 percent. Part of that had to do with a rash of injuries that zapped them of key skill people. The rest had to do with an offensive line that is still a wreck. They can’t run block, they can’t pass block, and they don’t adjust to any kind of pressure. Other than that they are fine. This team added guard Ryan Lilja but I don’t think that’s enough. And until the line starts to play better I don’t see quarterback Matt Cassel taking that next step. The Chiefs will improve in the run game, however, by virtue of dumping whiny, soft, pussy footing Larry Johnson in favor of one of my favorite players in the NFL, Thomas Jones. All he does is produce. Mix in elusive Jamaal Charles and that’s an excellent 1-2 punch. Also, the Chiefs need Dwayne Bowe to finally get his head out of his ass. The guy is a physical freak and a good receiver. But he has spent more time being injured, suspended, or in a daze than he has being productive. Chris Chambers can be a decent No. 2 and Leonard Pope a serviceable tight end. But in the end it all comes back to improved line play. If they get that their skill position players are that of a mid- to top-level franchise.
Defense: One awful draft decision after another, coupled with a lack of aggressiveness in free agency, has rendered this Chiefs defense nearly useless. They posted the second-fewest sacks in the NFL last year at just 22 for the entire season. That lack of pressure put way too much on a feeble secondary. The results were predictable: their 12.3 yards per completion allowed was No. 29 in the league and their 16 completions of 40 yards or more allowed was No. 30. Should we expect more this year? Well, they almost can’t be any worse just by default, but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement. They never replaced Jared Allen at defensive end and their front seven is completely devoid of speed or playmakers. The secondary will likely start three guys with two years or less of experience. And in the back is not where you want to be green. The Chiefs gave up 34 or more points six times last year. I think we could see a repeat.
Skinny: Last year a lot of my indicators pointed toward a “surprise” year from the Chiefs. It didn’t happen. So now after a two-win and a four-win season I think that the pressure is mounting on the new regime. I still don’t know about Todd Haley. I thought he was a questionable hire and I haven’t seen anything to this point to really sell me on his capabilities. I think the offense, which has improved each of the last three years, could break out. But until they start bringing in some rough, rugged, physical defenders (and until someone in the secondary learns to tackle) and start to consistently hold up against the run this franchise will continue to spin its wheels.
Robert Ferringo is a writer and a professional sports and NFL handicapper for Doc’s Sports. Last year he brought home +62.5 Units for his football picks clients in the NFL and he is regarded as one of the top totals players in the sport. He guarantees a winning football season this year or he will work for free until you turn a profit. You can sign up for his college football and NFL picks and get more information here.
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