If you want to impress your friends by predicting the exact order of finish in any of the NFL's divisions, the football odds say the AFC West is your huckleberry.
Stability? In my NFL? Hard to believe, but for back-to-back seasons, the AFC West has seen the same four teams finish 1-4. Only the NFC South can make the same claim, but as we've already seen, there's nothing stable about the NFC South. Those four teams could finish in any order this year. Yes, even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The AFC West, on the other hand, looks ripe for a three-peat. At press time, the Denver Broncos are one of the safest NFL picks out there, priced at between –170 (Bookmaker and JustBet) and –240 (GTBets) to win their fifth straight division title. There's not much gap in the odds between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, but we definitely prefer Kansas City to hold onto second place. And then you have the Oakland Raiders.
Run Peyton Run
Does anyone doubt that the Broncos will win the AFC West? Okay, there are a few question marks. QB Peyton Manning is 39 years old. There's a new head coach in Gary Kubiak. And the offensive line is going to be filled with unproven talent. Maybe things won't work out this year, but we suspect they will. Kubiak had plenty of success with the Houston Texans until injuries caught up to them, and Manning has a long history of performing well with little protection in front of him.
The battle for second between Kansas City and San Diego figures to be a lot more interesting. They both finished 9-7 last year, but the Chiefs were easily the better of the two teams according to the advanced stats. They were good for 9.4 Estimated Wins last year, as per Football Outsiders, while San Diego checked in at 8.0 EW. Pro Football Reference gave the Chiefs a +5.6 SRS last year, fifth overall in the league. The Chargers trailed at +1.9 SRS.
We've already had our say about the Chargers in 2015. Pinning down the Chiefs is a little more difficult; the NFL odds at GTBets have them at +400 to win the AFC West, compared to +500 for San Diego. But the betting public has a way of underestimating coach Andy Reid, despite all the success he's had over the years. The arrival of his former wideout with the Philadelphia Eagles, Jeremy Maclin (85 catches, 10 TDs), should put the Chiefs firmly in second place this year.
And then you have the Oakland Raiders. They've got the lowest range of odds to win their division of any of the league's 32 teams; at press time, Bovada and Sports Interaction have Oakland pegged at +1200, while 5Dimes is far less kind at +3150. The Raiders haven't had a winning season since they lost Super Bowl XXXVIII, and they haven't won more than four games since 2011. Maybe moving back to Los Angeles will help. Everyone's doing it.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Broncos –170 at Bookmaker