The 2020 National Football League season is here. Seven months after the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV, we are about to go from zero to 100 in a hurry with no preseason action before Week 1. The lack of exhibition games means a lot less to work with for our 2020 forecasts. At The TSN Edge, we decided to take a closer look at the sports betting information available for all 32 teams in order to get a better idea of what those numbers indicate we can expect for this upcoming season. Here is the latest instalment of our division preview series, focusing on the AFC West.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
AFC West Champion Odds: -455
Team Win Total: 11.5 Wins
Is it possible that the Kansas City Chiefs roster now is better on paper than it was when they won Super Bowl LIV? Patrick Mahomes enters his fourth NFL season as the league’s best quarterback. Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Damien Williams represented an impressive cast of weapons for Mahomes to work with. Then the Chiefs went out and drafted running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round – the final piece in a cast of playmakers that rivals the best the NFL has to offer. Mahomes is the betting favourite to win NFL MVP at +400. He’s also the obvious first choice to lead the league in touchdown passes at +350. Edwards-Helaire is +400 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year – the second choice on the board behind Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. A running back has won that award in three of the last five seasons, with Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley all earning ROY recognition. Kansas City is projected to be the favourite in 14 of its 16 games this season, with trips to New Orleans and Baltimore as the lone exceptions right now. Put it all together and it’s no surprise that the Chiefs are the favourite to be the No. 1 seed in the AFC in 2020.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
AFC West Champion Odds: +700
Team Win Total: 7.5 Wins
Can I say something crazy? Perfect, let’s go. I love Tyrod Taylor and it’s a shame he’s never received a longer look as a starter at any of his previous NFL stops. He’s a dual-threat quarterback that finds ways to win games with both his arm and legs. In 2017, Taylor led the Buffalo Bills to an 8-6 record and their first playoff berth since 1999. That roster wasn’t nearly as talented as the current Chargers roster. After the Bills pivoted to Josh Allen, Taylor got another chance in Cleveland and went 1-1-1 in three games before he went down with an injury and Baker Mayfield took over. Taylor is 23-21-1 in 46 career starts. Most of those wins came in Buffalo where he was throwing to the likes of Charles Clay, Zay Jones and Deonte Thompson. Sure, he had LeSean McCoy, but look at this core in L.A. - it’s stacked. After a disappointing 2019 season, L.A. will play a fourth-place schedule in which they project to be the favourite in eight games. While they remain a long shot to win the AFC West behind Kansas City, they look like the clear second choice to me ahead of the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders. Right now, head coach Anthony Lynn is 28/1 to win NFL Coach of the Year. If Taylor can realize his potential in an offence that features Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry and Austin Ekeler, Lynn could very well force himself in to the conversation for that award.
AFC West Champion Odds: +1100
Team Win Total: 7.5 Wins
Drew Lock and the Denver Broncos were one of the hottest teams down the stretch last season. The 23-year-old took over as the starting quarterback in Week 13 and he led them to a 4-1 record as a rookie over the final five weeks. In those five games, Lock threw for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns. Over a full season, that projects to 3,264 yards and 22.4 touchdowns. Right now, Lock’s passing yards prop total is set at 3,500.5. Of the 23 quarterbacks that started at least 13 games last season, only five of them would have thrown for fewer yards than that 3,500.5 mark last season. One of them was Lamar Jackson, and I think we all know why he didn’t have to sling the ball around the field last year. Not satisfied? Try this: Lock attempted 156 passes in five games as a rookie, which projects to 499.2 attempts over the course of a full 16 games. Of the 78 quarterbacks to throw 500 passes over the last five seasons, only three have thrown for less than 3,500.5 yards. Want to guess who it was? I’ll give you a minute. Ready? Brock Osweiler in 2016 (2,957), Joe Flacco in 2017 (3,141), and Mitch Trubisky in 2019 (3,138). How’d you do? Let me know on Twitter -- @Lukebellus4. I think there is a pretty good chance that Lock throws for upwards of 3,500.5 passing yards in his second year. If he lives up to expectations, the Broncos will have the potential to surprise a lot of people in 2020.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
AFC West Champion Odds: +1200
Team Win Total: 7.5 Wins
VIVA LAS VEGAS. There’s nothing like the bright lights and loud noises of an… empty new stadium in Las Vegas. Damn. Yeah, the first year for the Raiders is going to look a lot different than we all imagined. Las Vegas is coming off of a seven-win season and I don’t see how they improve on that win total. The Raiders are currently listed as 3.5-point favourites for their Week 1 matchup with the Carolina Panthers. After that, they are projected to be the favourite in just three of their remaining 15 games. That would mean it would take a sweep of the games they are favoured in plus at least four upset wins just to get to eight wins. The Raiders are 0-4 against the Chiefs in the Mahomes era. The Chargers and Broncos are both improved on paper, which is reflected in the betting markets. Maybe Derek Carr and company surprise me in their Las Vegas debut.I just don’t see it happening.
*All sports betting information appears as listed by Bet MGM at 11:00 AM ET on Wednesday September 9th, 2020.