Value Positions on NFL Futures and Props: AFC West 2019

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:

We’re in the process of running through all eight NFL divisions and looking for good value opportunities in futures and prop betting markets. In this installment, we’ll examine the AFC West which might be the most competitive division in football this year.  

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At least it should be competitive at the top of the division between the defending AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers.  The Chargers were something of a surprise last year but ended up with an identical record as Kansas City at 12-4.  The NFL futures odds at show the Chiefs as the favorite to win the AFC West at -155 with the Chargers at +175.

The other two teams in the division aren’t expected to be competing for the title this year but they could show some improvement.  The Denver Broncos are hoping that new QB Joe Flacco can regain some of the form he demonstrated during his run in Baltimore.  They’re at +1400 to win the division right ahead of the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders at +1800.



The basic premise for the ‘Chargers to Win AFC West’ bet is a simple one.  In our view, the AFC West is a coin flip this season between the Chargers and Chiefs.  And what do you do when you’re getting +175 on one side of a coin flip?  That’s right—you bet it as it represents a very good value.  For whatever reason, the mainstream sports media and casual fan perceives the Chiefs as a more ‘legit’ team than the Chargers.  No rap on the Chiefs as they’re a very good team and definitely have the ability to win the AFC West.  The Chargers bring a few things to the table that the Chiefs don’t, however, and that could end up spelling the difference this year.  For starters, the Chargers have a better defense that finished last year ranked in the top ten in both scoring defense and total defense.  The Chiefs stop unit was awful last year—the defense finished #31 in total defense and #24 in scoring defense.  That they weren’t lower ranked in scoring defense is more of a function of luck or variance than anything else.

The Chargers also have a proven veteran quarterback in Philip Rivers.  Patrick Mahomes is a unique talent and the team should put up insane offensive numbers this year.  On the other hand, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Mahomes suffered a bit of a ‘sophomore slump’.  This is a natural tendency after an exceptional rookie season and there’s another dimension to the possibility that Mahomes might regress somewhat this year—a season’s worth of game film.  Mahomes was a decidedly unknown quantity last season but now the league’s defensive coordinators have film on him to work with in an effort to stop him.  Mahomes’ challenge this year is to diversify his game somewhat—throw a few new wrinkles into the mix along with his obviously off the charts athleticism to keep defenses guessing.  There’s every reason to think that he’ll be able to show this type of development but it could undermine his short term performance.

To employ a timeworn yet completely accurate cliché, Philip Rivers is ‘money in the bank’.  4000+ yards passing for 11 straight seasons.  During that stretch, he’s never thrown for fewer than 26 touchdowns and has averaged 33 per season.  Rivers is 37 years old but he’s playing better than ever and has become a smarter quarterback over the course of his career.  Rivers’ statistical consistency over the past decade is borderline ridiculous but there’s no reason to think that it won’t continue.


The O/U win total for the Broncos at is mildly optimistic for a team that finished 6-10 last year.  In our view, it’s too optimistic.  6-10 is probably right for this Denver team and there are multiple scenarios in which they could regress further.  Not convinced that 34 year old Joe Flacco is a significant upgrade from 31 year old Case Keenum.  Flacco’s statistics not only last year but for the past several seasons are pretty similar to Keenum’s stat line from last year.  We’ll throw out Flacco’s performance last year (9 games) and in 2015 (10 games) since in both injuries sidelined him for a significant part of the schedule. In 2016 and 2017, Flacco played in all 16 regular season games and put up an average of 17 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 81.9 QB rating.  Keenum’s line from last season:  18 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 81.2 QB rating.  Much of Flacco’s success in Baltimore was being a perfect fit at the position for the team around him.  Head coach John Harbaugh and GM Ozzie Newsome knew his skill set and knew how best to leverage it. You could drop a quarterback like Drew Brees or Andrew Luck into any NFL team’s lineup and they would excel.  Not sure Flacco is that type of quarterback.  For the Broncos’ sake, they better hope he stays healthy.  Backup Kevin Hogan has the skills to be a good NFL quarterback but minimal game experience.  After that it’s a couple of rookies with Drew Lock out of Missouri and Brett Rypien out of Boise State.

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