2021 Betting Review: AFC West

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2021 Betting Review: AFC West

I wanted to do quick-hitting postmortem reports on every team since I spent so much time this summer breaking down all 32 franchises from a betting perspective for the 2021 season. It’s a good way for me to put a bow on the season that just finished while also getting a leg up on my early research for the 2022 season.

AFC West Reviews

1. Kansas City Chiefs

  • Record (ATS): 14-6 (10-10)

  • Season Win Total: 12.5 (under)

  • One-score Record: 5-3

  • Division Odds: -275

  • Playoff Odds: -1000

  • Over/Under record: 12-8

  • PPG: 28.2 (4th)

  • PPG Allowed: 21.4 (8th)

  • Point Differential: +116 (5th)

Season Review

The Chiefs made NFL history by hosting their fourth consecutive AFC Championship Game, but they walked away from this historic stretch with just one Super Bowl victory after the Bengals shocked them in the title game. Patrick Mahomes outdueled Josh Allen in an all-time classic game in the Divisional Round, but they could muster just three points on eight possessions after halftime in the AFC Championship Game after Mahomes threw for TDs on each of their first three drives. The Chiefs won 11 of their final 13 games (including the postseason) and both of their losses came at the hands of Joe Burrow. Kansas City continued their dominance in the AFC West with their sixth consecutive division title, and they ripped off another win streak of at least five games, which they’ve done in each of Andy Reid’s first nine seasons.

The Chiefs reached 12+ victories for the fourth consecutive season with Mahomes at the helm, but he had a down season for his lofty standards. He still threw for 4839 yards and 37 touchdowns, but he also posted career-worsts in interceptions (13) and YPA (7.4). Opposing defenses made Mahomes take a more methodical approach to move the ball through the air last season by using more two-deep safety looks. Travis Kelce’s run of three straight seasons as fantasy’s TE1 came to an end at the hands of Mark Andrews. Kelce still averaged 16.4 FPG, which was more than two points per game than the TE3 Rob Gronkowski (14.3).

What to look for this off-season

The Chiefs don’t have a glaring weakness entering this off-season like they did last year after the Buccaneers’ front seven exposed Kansas City’s offensive line in their loss in Super Bowl LV. They do have priority free agents like Orlando Brown, Tyrann Mathieu, and Charvarius Ward who are set to hit the open market. Kansas City needs to figure out what they’re doing at the #2 WR spot with Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson hitting free agency. Kelce will turn 33 years old next season and they need to add another passing game weapon for Mahomes. They pursued JuJu Smith-Schuster last March and he’ll hit free agency again after missing most of the season with a shoulder injury. Kansas City could also look to beef up its defensive line after allowing the second-most YPC (4.8) last season, which ranked ahead of only the Steelers.

2. Las Vegas Raiders

  • Record (ATS): 10-8 (8-10)
  • Season Win Total: 7 (push)
  • One-score Record: 7-2 (0-1 postseason)
  • Playoff Odds: +350
  • Over/Under record: 8-10
  • PPG: 22.0 (18th)
  • PPG Allowed: 25.8 (26th)
  • Point Differential: -65 (23rd)

Season Review

The Raiders had an eventful second season in Las Vegas, which concluded with special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia leading the franchise to just their second postseason appearance since they lost to Jon Gruden’s Buccaneers in the Super Bowl during the 2002 season. Gruden entered the 2021 season leading the Raiders before he resigned after four games for homophobic, racist, and misogynistic emails that he sent a decade earlier while employed by ESPN. The Raiders also dealt with a tragic player controversy with Henry Ruggs killing a woman in a high-speed DUI crash in early November. Fellow 2020 first-round pick Damon Arnette was released a week later for brandishing firearms and making terroristic threats in a video, and Nate Hobbs was arrested after their Week 17 victory on suspicion driving under the influence. Even with all of the unnecessary drama, the Raiders experienced a two-win improvement from 2020.

The Raiders were headed toward yet another late-season swoon with a 1-5 stretch in Weeks 9-14, and they were sitting in last place in the AFC West after a 48-9 drubbing by the Chiefs in Week 14. Bisaccia kept the train on the tracks with a four-game winning streak by a combined 12 points to reach the playoffs. The Raider used a dramatic overtime victory in the NFL’s final regular-season game to reach the playoffs and to eliminate the rival Chargers from postseason contention. Las Vegas needed four overtime victories to reach their first winning season since 2016, and they sported the worst point differential (-65) among the 14 playoff teams. Bisaccia still became the first interim coach to lead a team to the playoffs since Bruce Arians did it with the Colts in 2012. Derek Carr threw for 4804 passing yards to break Rich Gannon’s previous franchise record of 4689 yards set in 2002, and Hunter Renfrow paced the passing attack with 103/1038/9 in his breakout 2021 season. Maxx Crosby developed into a dominant pass rusher, finishing with eight sacks and NFL-best 101 pressures (per PFF), which was 15 more pressures than the next closest player, Aaron Donald.

What to look for this off-season

The Raiders are onto yet another reboot after Mark Davis’ plan to return to glory in Las Vegas under Gruden went up in smoke. New GM Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels will lead the charge this time and they’ll look to bring some stability to this dysfunctional franchise. Art Shell led the Raiders in 1990-94 and he was the last coach to spend more than four seasons on the job for the franchise. Carr is entering the final season of his five-year contract and he’s set to make a team-friendly $19.9 million in 2022. McDaniels spoke highly of Carr in his introductory press conference and working out a new deal with the franchise’s eight-year starter could be a top priority for the new regime. The next order of business is to reload on defense after they signed a bunch of veterans to short-term deals last off-season. Casey Hayward is coming off an excellent season and the Raiders need to solidify their cornerback position with Brandon Facyson getting picked on across from him last season. The Raiders also need a true #1 perimeter WR with Bryan Edwards failing to live up to expectations through two seasons. They could look to bring back Zay Jones after he finally started to look like a second-round pick in the final months of his fifth season, but he’s hardly a player who should be counted as a centerpiece of this passing attack.

3. Los Angeles Chargers

  • Record (ATS): 9-8 (8-9)
  • Season Win Total: 9.5 (under)
  • One-score Record: 5-5
  • Missed Playoff Odds: -130
  • Over/Under record: 10-7
  • PPG: 27.9 (5th)
  • PPG Allowed: 27.0 (t29th)
  • Point Differential: +15 (16th)

Season Review

The Chargers experienced a two-win improvement going from Anthony Lynn to Brandon Staley, and Justin Herbert continued to improve in his second season, but Los Angeles still left the 2021 season disappointed by the final results. They missed the playoffs for the third straight year after ending the season with a 1-3 stretch in the final four games, which included an unacceptable 41-29 loss to the Texans as 13.5-point road favorites in Week 16. The Chargers still had a chance to reach the playoffs with a win in the NFL’s final regular-season game on Sunday Night Football in Week 18, but they fell to the rival Raiders at the horn in overtime. Staley had a fairly successful first season with his aggressive in-game decision-making, but his analytics-heavy approach blew up in his face at times, particularly in two late-season island games against the Raiders and Chiefs.

At least Herbert is already a full-blown superstar after throwing for 5014 yards and 38 touchdowns, and he finished behind only Josh Allen in FPG with 22.4. The Chargers landed his blindside protector for the next decade with the 13th overall pick in Rashawn Slater, who established himself as one of the NFL’s best left tackles as a rookie. Austin Ekeler realized his full potential with Lynn out of the picture as he tied Jonathan Taylor for the league-lead with 20 touchdowns after scoring just 25 touchdowns in his first four seasons. Ekeler finished with the second-most FP (343.8) behind only Taylor and the third-most FPG (21.5) behind just Derrick Henry and Taylor. Mike Williams also finally started to become a force on the perimeter with a career-best campaign with 76/1146/9 receiving. The Chargers have all the makings of an elite offense for years to come after finishing fourth in yards per game (390.2) and fifth in points per game (27.8).

What to look for this off-season

The Chargers are entering a pivotal off-season with the AFC West firmly up for grabs with the Chiefs’ showing some vulnerabilities last season and with Denver potentially ready to make a big move for Aaron Rodgers. Los Angeles is entering its third season with Herbert at the helm and they need to take advantage of his rookie contract window over the next three seasons. The biggest question is just how big of a commitment will they be willing to make to keep Big Mike around after they let Hunter Henry walk last off-season. Williams is coming off a career year in his fifth season, but he still showed a knack for disappearing at times. Los Angeles’ biggest upgrades need to come on defense after their run defense got pushed around last season. The Chargers are prime candidates to draft Georgia’s monster DT Jordan Davis — he’s listed 6’6”, 340 pounds — with the 17th overall pick. They could also look to attack cornerback in the draft or in free agency with slot CB Chris Harris hitting the open market.

4. Denver Broncos

  • Record (ATS): 7-10 (8-9)
  • Season Win Total: 8.5 (under)
  • One-score Record: 1-5
  • Missed Playoff Odds: -165
  • Over/Under record: 5-12
  • PPG: 19.7 (t23rd)
  • PPG Allowed: 18.9 (3rd)
  • Point Differential: +13 (17th)

Season Review

The Broncos brought in a new general manager and a new quarterback in 2021, but they had the same old results they’ve had since they won the Super Bowl in 2015 with Peyton Manning at quarterback. John Elway relinquished his GM responsibilities after 10 years to George Paton, who swung a trade for Teddy Bridgewater for a sixth-round pick the day before the draft. The move likely impacted their decision to pass on the likes of Justin Fields and Mac Jones with the ninth overall pick. They landed a potential defensive centerpiece in Patrick Surtain with that pick, but they could rue the decision if Fields and/or Jones turn into franchise quarterbacks and if they miss out on landing Aaron Rodgers this off-season.

Denver got off to a promising start in 2021 with three victories by a combined 76-26 score, but the victories came against the likes of the Giants, Jaguars, and Jets. Those teams combined for a miserable 11- 40 record (.216 winning percentage) and the Broncos were eventually exposed with a 4-10 finish to the season, which included two different four-game losing streaks. The franchise missed the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season and they ended with a losing record for the fifth straight year. They finished as a top-10 defense in points allowed per game (18.9, 3rd) and in yards allowed per game (326.1, 8th), but their miserable offense kept them from making a serious charge at the postseason. They scored 14 or fewer points in seven of their final 14 games and they reached 30+ points just twice all season. The Broncos didn’t have a single receiver reach 800+ yards despite having guys like Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, and Tim Patrick in the mix. They at least landed a gem in second-round pick Javonte Williams, who burst onto the scene with 203/903/4 rushing and 43/316/3 receiving despite playing in a timeshare with Melvin Gordon.

What to look for this off-season

The Broncos’ franchise is at a crossroads heading into the 2022 season. The Bowlen family put the franchise up for sale after 38 years of ownership, and the team is looking for some stability at head coach with Nathaniel Hackett taking over. The Broncos have cycled through five different leaders since Mike Shanahan left the franchise in 2008. Denver traded away the face of the franchise last season when they moved Von Miller to Los Angeles after 11 seasons and a franchise-record 110.5 sacks. They’re also looking to finally figure out their quarterback situation as they’re back to square one in their search for a franchise quarterback.

Bridgewater became the 10th quarterback to start a game since Manning retired in 2015, and they’re hoping that the 11th QB will be the one this time around. The Broncos are the odds-on favorites at -150 to be Rodgers’ next team if he doesn’t return to Green Bay in 2022. The Broncos are picking ninth overall for the second straight year, and they could address the quarterback position after passing in 2021 if their Rodgers plan falls through. Javonte will be locked in as a first-round pick in fantasy drafts next summer if they decide to let Gordon walk in free agency after a two-year stay. The biggest decisions outside of quarterback will come in their secondary with Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, and Kareem Jackson each hitting free agency in March.

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at 61.5% clip in 2019 and he was a perfect 8-0 on his Best Bets for season win totals in 2020.

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