AFC West Betting Preview: There's a Lot to Like About the Broncos

Denver was a solid team last year and could leap to the top of the division with Russell Wilson under center. Which AFC West bets should be on your radar?

If there is ever a downtime for the NFL, this is it. Between the draft and the start of training camps, this is one of the rare stretches on the calendar when there isn't something big happening.

That doesn't mean we have to check out from the action.

NFL odds offers a robust futures market, including odds for each division winner as well as win total odds for every team. With rosters fairly set for most squads, now is a great time to lay some futures bets.

Let's take a look at the AFC West and see where there's betting value to be had.

Raiders Under 8.0 Wins (+130)

The Las Vegas Raiders dealt with a lot last season -- on and off the field -- and impressively overcame it to make the playoffs. It was a nice season. But they weren't as good as their 10-7 record might have you believe.

Vegas posted just the 13th-best point differential in the AFC last season (-65) -- besting only the point differentials of the New York Jets, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars -- and their Pythagorean expected win total was only 7.3. In short, they were very fortunate to go 10-7 and get into the playoffs.

And then this offseason, Russell Wilson joined the division, meaning the Raiders now have to deal with six games of Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Wilson. Whew.

Vegas added a big piece by trading for Davante Adams, one of the game's elite wideouts. That should be a boon for Derek Carr and the offense, although our nERD-based power rankings have them projected to be a middling 14th on that side of the ball. The bigger concern -- especially with the signal-callers they'll be facing in the AFC West -- is the defense. The Raiders allowed the seventh-most points last season, and we project Vegas to have the ninth-worst D this year.

The schedule is rough, too -- even outside of the division. The Raiders' cross-conference divisional matchup is the strong NFC West, although they do benefit from getting the AFC South for their intraconference divisional matchup. Vegas has the third-hardest schedule, per Sharp Football.

All in all, the Raiders overachieved last season in comparison to their underlying numbers, and they have a pretty difficult schedule in 2022.

We rank them a respectable 17th by nERD, giving them a rating of 0.61 points, which is their expected margin of victory against an average opponent on a neutral field. Unfortunately for Las Vegas, that makes them the worst AFC West team by a healthy margin as we rank the Denver Broncos ninth (2.40 nERD), Los Angeles Chargers seventh (3.48), and Kansas City Chiefs third (5.04).

We have the Raiders projected to win 8.2 games. If this bet was priced as more of a toss-up, I'd stay away, but with -155 juice on the over and a +130 price on the under, the under is worth a roll of the dice.

Denver Broncos to Win the Division (+260)

Everyone knows Denver got better this offseason, but I think we still might be sleeping on the Broncos a bit.

Denver was quietly a pretty solid team last year. Their 7-10 record is a little misleading as they notched 8.8 Pythagorean wins and had a +13 point differential. Those numbers are eerily similar to what the Chargers -- priced at +240 to win the division -- produced a year ago as LA had 8.8 Pythagorean wins and a +15 point differential.

And, you know, Denver won't have Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater running the show this season.

Denver did it with defense last year. The Broncos surrendered the third-fewest points in the league, and they fared decently well against Mahomes and Herbert, the top competition in the division. They held the Bolts to 23.5 points per game across two meetings and kept KC to 25.0 per game -- and that's with the Chiefs and Chargers benefitting from three total non-offensive touchdowns over the four games.

Not only is the arrival of Wilson going to lift the offense, but he might also get a boost from all the playmakers at his disposal. Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick are a potent three-headed attack at wideout while Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon give Denver a sweet one-two punch in the backfield. Albert Okwuegbunam has flashed at tight end, too.

Because they came in fourth in the division last year, the Broncos have an advantage over the Chiefs and Chargers in the schedule department as Denver gets to face the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers (with a tougher matchup against the Baltimore Ravens for their other fourth-place foe).

Heading into the offseason, Denver was a quality quarterback away from being really good, and now that they've got said quarterback, the Broncos check a lot of boxes. We have them as the ninth-best team in the league.

Our model is basically right in line with this pricing, giving Denver a 24.8% chance to win the AFC West. I like Denver a smidge more than our numbers do, and I think this division will wind up being a hotly contested three-team race (sorry, Vegas). I'm taking Denver at +260 over the Bolts (+240) and Chiefs (+155) at their odds.