As the most popular pro sport in America, the NFL makes headlines 365 days a year. For the first time since 1978, when the slate went from 14 to 16 games, the NFL lengthened the regular season again this year. The 2021 NFL schedule was released on May 12 and all 32 teams will play 17 games over an 18-week season. That means NFL fans get an added week of NFL betting and fantasy football action. It also affects win total bets.
Week 1 opens with Dallas visiting defending NFL champion Tampa Bay on September 9. The week ends with Las Vegas hosting Baltimore in the Monday Night Football fight. Regular season action concludes with Seattle visiting Arizona on Jan. 9, 2022. Wild Card Weekend, Divisional Round playoffs, and Conference Championship Sunday follow. The season ends with Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022, at SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, Cali.
AFC West Division Futures Odds
Looking like the mighty Secretariat during his 1973 Belmont Stakes Triple Crown clinching romp, Kansas City (14–2) was the class of the AFC West last season. The Chiefs won the regular-season division title for a fifth straight year; the longest active streak of any division winner. Following a 6–3 start, during their inaugural season in Las Vegas, the Raiders finished second with an 8–8 record. Despite a solid season, by 2020 NFL Rookie of the Year QB Justin Herbert, Los Angeles (7–9) was third. Struggling on both sides of the ball, Denver (5–11) finished fourth.
Preseason betting options are being offered at several popular USA based sportsbooks. AFC West Division title odds, plus team win totals, are posted on the NFL futures board at FanDuel. While the odds and prices are subject to change, unless there is a serious injury, or a stud player changes teams, the moves will be subtle. Will the Chiefs make it six straight division championships? Will Herbert avoid a sophomore slump? Is Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater the answer at QB for Denver? Will the Raiders claim their first division title since 2002? Let's discuss!
Kansas City has been on a quite a roll posting a 60–20 record over the last five years. Los Angeles is a distant second as the Chargers are 38–42 since the 2016 season. After playoff wins against Cleveland (22–17) and Buffalo (38–24), Kansas City fell short of a NFL Championship repeat as they lost 31–9 to Tampa Bay during Super Bowl LV. Falling well off the pace early, after a 2–7 start, the Chargers closed the season with four straight wins. If Herbert maintains his form, and the defense improves, the Chargers are set up to challenge the Chiefs for the division title.
Denver showed flashes of life early, as they opened the season with a 3–4 record. Struggling on both sides of the ball after that, the Broncos were eliminated from the playoffs following a 48–19 loss at home against Buffalo in Week 15. Seemingly in a perpetual rebuilding mode, Las Vegas looked like they might challenge for a playoff spot last year. Following a 6–3 start, the wheels fell off as the Raiders went 2–5 and were outscored 237–179 during their final seven games. Setting up a possible hedge bet, later in the season, I am taking the generous Chargers moneyline price.
AFC West Champion Prediction: Los Angeles Chargers (+500)
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Kansas City Chiefs – AFC West Win Total Futures
Aiming for a sixth straight division title, plus a third straight Super Bowl appearance, Kansas City enters the season as a huge favorite to win the AFC West. The Chiefs (-290) division-winning price is the lowest of any team. Tampa Bay is the next largest favorite with (-190) odds to win the NFC South. One of the most feared “Big Three” in the NFL, QB Patrick Mahomes, WR Tyreek Hill, and TE Travis Kelce all return for the Chiefs.
While there aren’t many, one area of concern for Kansas City is the offensive line. The unit that protects Mahomes was revamped during the offseason and features five new starters. After their games averaged a 30–23 final score last year, expect the Chiefs to have a “bend, don’t break” style defense again this season. Kansas City has the highest win total at the FanDuel Sportsbook. Bet on the Chiefs finishing with at least 13 wins.
Key Players Resigned: S Daniel Sorensen, RB Darrel Williams, LG Andrew Wylie
Key Additions: LG Joe Thuney, RB Jerick McKinnon, IDL Jarran Reed
Key Departures: WR Sammy Watkins, LT Eric Fisher, RB Damien Williams
Key 2021 Draft Picks: LB Nick Bolton, C Creed Humphrey, DE Joshua Kaindoh
Kansas City Chiefs Win Total Prediction: OVER 12.5 (+100) wins
Los Angeles Chargers – AFC West Win Total Futures
Setting several records, QB Justin Herbert was a beacon of hope for Los Angeles. The Chargers’ first pick, fifth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, took over as the starter in Week 2 and never looked back. Amongst his accomplishments, Herbert set rookie records for the most TD passes (31) and most completions (396). He also had most games with at least 300 pass yards (8) and the most games with at least three TD passes (6).
After he missed six games, due to a hamstring injury, the Chargers hope RB Austin Ekeler will play a full season. Ekeler helps loosen up the opposing defense as he is a threat in the running game and as a pass catcher. Loaded on offense, the Los Angeles defense remains suspect. The Chargers blew leads of 11 points or more four times last season. A three-win improvement is steep, but bet OVER on the Chargers’ win total.
Key Players Resigned: CB Michael Davis, PK Michael Badgley, CB Brandon Facyson
Key Additions: C Corey Linsley, TE Jared Cook, RT Matt Feiler
Key Departures: TE Hunter Henry, QB Tyrod Taylor, S Rayshawn Jenkins
Key 2021 Draft Picks: OT Rashawn Slater, CB Asante Samuel Jr., WR Josh Palmer
Los Angeles Chargers Win Total Prediction: OVER 9.5 (-110)
Denver Broncos – AFC West Win Total Futures
Following their 24–10 Super Bowl 50 win, against Carolina, Denver has posted a losing record during four of the last five seasons. The Broncos’ 5–11 finish last year puts their record at 32–48 since the 2016 season. Loaded with a mix of young and veteran talent on offense, QB Drew Lock struggled as a sophomore. Lock posted just 2,933 pass yards with 16 TD’s and 15 interceptions. He has competition for the starting role this year.
Not the answer the Panthers were looking for, QB Teddy Bridgewater signed with Denver after one season in Carolina. While Lock is the projected starter, Bridgewater may see action sooner rather than later. The Broncos struggled on defense down the stretch last year. Denver was outscored 263–176 during a 2–7 season-ending slide. The defense should be better, but an 8–9 record seems about right for the Broncos.
Key Players Resigned: WR Tim Patrick, S Justin Simmons, IDL Shelby Harris
Key Additions: QB Teddy Bridgewater, CB Ronald Darby, CB Kyle Fuller
Key Departures: RB Phillip Lindsay, CB A.J. Bouye, TE Nick Vannett
Key 2021 Draft Picks: OG Patrick Surtain II, RB Javonte Williams, C Quinn Meinerz
Denver Broncos Win Total Prediction: UNDER 8.5 (+110) wins
Las Vegas Raiders – AFC West Win Total Futures
Nomads no more, the Raiders have settled into their new home at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Playing with fans in the stands, for the first time ever, it will be interesting to hear how load the stadium gets when the Raiders host Baltimore in the Week 1 Monday Night Football game. Las Vegas enters that contest riding a four-game losing streak at home. All four losses were during the Raiders’ 2–5 season-ending losing streak.
Finishing 10th overall, with 27.1 points per game, the Las Vegas offense was decent last season. With QB Derek Carr, TE Darren Waller, and RB Josh Jacobs, the offense should be solid again. Defense continues to be a question mark, after the Raiders allowed 29.9 points per game. Only Detroit (519) and Jacksonville (492) allowed more total points than the Raiders (478) last year. A 7–10 record is well within reach for Las Vegas.
Key Players Resigned: LT Kolton Miller, LB Nicholas Morrow, QB Marcus Mariota
Key Additions: RB Kenyan Drake, WR John Brown, EDGE Yannick Ngakoue
Key Departures: WR Nelson Agholor, C Rodney Hudson, RT Trent Brown
Key 2021 Draft Picks: OT Alex Leatherwood, S Trevon Moehrig, DE Malcolm Koonce
Las Vegas Raiders Win Total Prediction: OVER 6.5 (-145) wins
More NFL Betting from Sports Illustrated
- 2021 AFC East Team Futures - Division Winner and Win Totals Outlook
- 2021 NFC East Team Futures - Division Winner and Win Totals Outlook
- 2021 AFC North Team Futures - Division Winner and Win Totals Outlook
- 2021 NFC North Team Futures - Division Winner and Win Totals Outlook
- 2021 AFC South Team Futures - Division Winner and Win Totals Outlook
- 2021 NFC South Team Futures - Division Winner and Win Totals Outlook
- 2021 NFC West Team Futures - Division Winner and Win Totals Outlook