Welcome to Bet Labs 2017 NFL preview series where we will look at all eight of the league’s divisions. As part of the preview, we will highlight each team’s chances of winning their respective division and take a look at their season win total.
To create our projections we simulated the 2017 NFL season 10,000 times using team projections and adjusting for Strength of Schedule.
2016 Record: 12-4
Home Games: NYJ, BAL, NE, NYG, DAL
Away Games: TEN, WAS, BUF, MIA, PHI
Here is what we said about the Raiders in last year’s preview:
The Raiders enter the season with legitimate hopes of ending a 13-year playoff drought. Derek Carr emerged as a franchise quarterback (32 touchdowns, 13 interceptions last year), Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree combine for one of the best receiver tandems in football and the offensive line could dominate. Khalil Mack is a terrifying defensive threat and leads an improving unit. If everything breaks right for Oakland the team could be on top of the AFC West at the end of the season.
The 2016 season basically played out as we forecasted, if it wasn’t for Carr’s leg injury at the end of the season the Raiders would have made some noise in the playoffs. Carr should be 100% entering the season and the offense should click once more with their franchise quarterback taking the snaps. The wild card is the defense that finished 21st in weighted DVOA. Making the playoffs isn’t enough; as the team is +1750 to win the Super Bowl (7th best odds).
The Vegas win total for the Raiders is 9.5 games. After 10,000 simulations the team’s most likely record is 9-7. There is a 55.8% chance the Silver and Black win 9 or fewer games giving value to the UNDER (+105).
Kansas City Chiefs
2016 Record: 12-4
Home Games: PHI, WAS, PIT, BUF, MIA
Away Games: NE, HOU, DAL, NYG, NYJ
Can the Chiefs build upon the successful of the 2016 campaign? KC won the AFC West for the first time since 2010 and clinched a first round bye for the first time since 2003.
The offseason was a bit of a mixed bag. The team resigned Eric Berry, the star of their defense that finished 14th in DVOA. Kansas City traded a bunch of draft capital to acquire a quarterback of the future in Patrick Mahomes but then they released veteran receiver Jeremy Maclin, which thrusts Tyreek Hill into the No. 1 spot. The offense still has an elite tight end in Travis Kelce but it also has Alex Smith. The former No. 1 pick ranked 12th in defense-adjusted yards above replacement, middle of the road, and what you would expect for a quarterback considered a “game manager”. The offense and defense were slightly above average last year and the special team’s unit was elite. Does that sound like a 12-win team? KC was 7-3 in games decided by eight or fewer points; they were a bit lucky to win as many games as they did a season ago.
Regression is coming to the City of Fountains. The team’s most likely record according to the simulations is 9-7 (20.6% chance of occurring). The team’s season win total is also 9 games. There is a 56.4% chance KC wins 8 or fewer games and there is value betting the team’s UNDER (+120).
2016 Record: 9-7
Home Games: DAL, NYG, NE, CIN, NYJ
Away Games: BUF, PHI, MIA, IND, WAS
The Broncos entered the 2016 season as the defending champions. Denver started the year 4-0 but a 2-4 record against division opponents helped snap a five-year run as AFC West champs. The Broncos missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Denver’s defense was fantastic last year finishing first in DVOA. The unit should be excellent once again as John Elway made moves (signed Domata Peko, drafted DeMarcus Walker) to improve the defense against the run, was 21st in defensive rushing efficiency.
The team’s biggest issue is its offensive line. Denver finished 30th in rushing DVOA and the Broncos quarterbacks were pressured on more than 30% of their dropbacks. Elway signed Ronald Leary and Menelik Watson and then drafted Garett Bolles in an attempt to fix the line.
If the offensive line holds up and the defense remains the class of the NFL then the Broncos can retake the division. However, if the line continues to struggle and the combination of Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch don’t develop it will be another disappointing season in Mile High.
Our simulations see the Broncos going 7-9, a large part of that record is due to a tough division. The team’s season win total is 8.5. There is a 69.8% chance the team wins 8 or fewer games. There is value on the UNDER (-125).
Week 1: Chargers vs. Broncos
This Pro System is 56% ATS, +64.6 units since 2005
Los Angeles Chargers
2016 Record: 5-11
Home Games: MIA, PHI, BUF, CLE, WAS
Away Games: NYG, NE, JAX, DAL, NYJ
Injuries plagued the Chargers offense last season. Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson, Danny Woodhead, Travis Benjamin, Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry and Melvin Gordon all missed time. Philip Rivers played well but without weapons the team finished 24th in weighted offense.
The defense took a huge step forward going from 28th to 10th in DVOA. The unit should be a strength of the team in 2017 with Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Brandon Mebane and Jason Verrett all returning.
Can the Bolts stay healthy this fall? It could mean the difference between finishing at the bottom of the division or competing for the AFC West crown.
The Chargers have a win total of 7.5 games. There is a 46.7% chance the team wins 8 or more games and a 53.3% chance they finish 7-9 or worse. With the current juice associated with the win total there is no value betting the over or under.
AFC West Division Odds
In a tight division, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if any of the four teams won the AFC West. The Raiders are the favorites and according to 10,000 simulations there is value on Oakland +170.
Check back next week when we preview the NFC South.