2022 NFL futures: AFC West win total picks, plus best bets to win division, make or miss playoffs and more

NFL insider Jason La Canfora breaks down the odds on futures involving the AFC West to give you his best bets
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The AFC West certainly appears to be the most daunting division in football on paper. One could make the case that all four teams harbor realistic postseason ambitions and odds.

A year ago, who could have predicted that the Raiders would undergo all of the turmoil they did – from Jon Gruden's exit, to having recent first-round picks kicked off the team for off-field behavior, to rallying under an interim head coach to reach the playoffs? Sure, this division looks much tougher than it did a year ago, but that goes to show you the kind of variance potentially at play in an exercise like this.

Will the hyper-competitiveness between these teams bring out the best in all of them? Will the tide rise collectively? Or will the gauntlet take a particular hold on some teams more than others, creating some obvious separation? Clearly only the Chiefs have a recent pedigree, although the influx of talent to this division – most notably with Russell Wilson – could alter the landscape considerably. As we saw with the Bengals in 2021, an upstart doesn't necessarily have to walk before it sprints to a playoff run.

With that in mind, here are some wagers worth considering in terms of AFC West futures in the first of our eight divisional betting previews:

Kansas City Chiefs

Lean: Under 10.5 wins (+110)
We tend to think it's a birthright that Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes will take home a division and reach the AFC Championship, but is it really? Maybe they are the latter day Patriots, although I would say in the last two decades of the AFC East we have never seen anything like what's going on in the AFC West this season. There aren't many easy outs on this schedule, and the rest of the division won't be cowering in fear, either.

Sure the Chiefs won 12 a year ago, but this is a different task, and they have to replace some vital contributors like Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu. That's no small task. I could also see them getting off to a slower start than we are accustomed to. The right combination of 10 wins could still win this division if it's as evenly packed as I suspect.

Los Angeles Chargers

Lean: Under 10 wins (-105)
Are we absolutely positive the Chargers are not gonna Charger it up again? Are we certain? I am not. Is there any chance young head coach Brandon Staley feels the heat from someone like Sean Payton possibly being next in line to work with Justin Herbert if it all doesn't come together for this team this year? Is that defense going to take the leap forward everyone will be expecting? If not, with the offenses these guys face, it could get late pretty early. The team's epidemic injury problems also give me some pause.

I'm not certain they are going to eliminate the big plays on defense enough to hit this total. In reality, studying their schedule, this looks like a push to me either way. Ten might be the number right on the spot. But without that half-win either way, I will lean into them going under.

Denver Broncos

Best bet: Over 10 wins (-110)
I like the bump this roster is going to get from the injection of a stud quarterback with fresh blood at the position. For similar reasons as to why I expect the Vikings to make things happen in the other conference, Vic Fangio was not a head coach; he was too much a tyrant when it came to offensive play (old school conservative to his core). This group will be eager to buy what Nathaniel Hackett is selling, especially early on.

And who better to serve as chief salesman than Wilson, who finally gets to work with a head coach who is deeply invested in his side of the ball and his position? Hackett knows how to reach Russ from being a part of the staff working with Aaron Rodgers, and the weapons are there. I love how the schedule sets up in the middle, when this team should be really rounding into form. They get the Jets and Jaguars before a Week 9 bye and then go to Nashville (the Titans will regress), followed by the Raiders at home and  a trip to Carolina. I see a real run there propelling the Broncos to land over this total.

Las Vegas Raiders

Lean: Over 8.5 wins (+105)
They won 10 a year ago. They will have a scary good offense under Josh McDaniels. They have a legit home field now. I believe some of what they accomplished a year ago can carry over, and while the defense isn't yet where I'd like for it to be on paper, they have the bookend pass rushers who could turn any game on his head.

The Raiders tend to play well against the Chargers, and I'm factoring that into this play, as well as the LAC Under. It doesn't seem crazy to me that three teams reach the playoffs from this division, or that everyone finishes with at least nine wins. There also isn't a lot of plus money to be had here unless you are really going outside the box with the evaluation, so give me the Raiders here.

AFC West winner

Best bet: Broncos +250
We know how significant a factor Mile High can be when the Broncos are an actual stable organization. And now that they finally have a true franchise passer, and a new regime in place, I can see them making a real leap in the standings. Unlike years past, falling behind 10-0 won't deflate the sidelines. The Broncos also get the easiest schedule on paper in the division, which tilts the scales for me. There isn't much value in going chalky with the Chiefs here, and I am already building in a bit of KC fallback in regular-season win total into my overall examination of the division.

More AFC West picks

Raiders to make playoffs (+190)
McDaniels made it as a rookie coach in this division years ago, and he has too much at his disposal to not have Las Vegas at least close to the position it was in a year ago. I've got a look to a few of the longer shots at some point in this exercise, and I like the numbers here. There is not a better stable of pass catchers in the league, and I believe the offensive line will be improved just enough to have the Raiders surprise some people. They can win a shootout, and probably will have to do so quite often.

Chargers to miss playoffs (+145)
Well, if you're paying attention, you can see where I am going with this. If everything else I have laid out falls relatively into place, then I could see the Chargers being too far behind the pack here. The AFC is so loaded. I believe the Raiders will be in this race until the very end, and I just have a hard time believing the Chargers really do put it all together after being fooled by them too many times before. Maybe that's my bias at play, but I have a few reservations about them getting over the top in 2022.

Broncos to win AFC (+850)
I don't know about a rookie head coach winning it all. But you know by now I am buying the Broncos as becoming an immediate AFC bully again. There's plenty of talent, and I suspect the entire organization gets a shot of adrenaline once a new owner is named (I imagine by October), and what better way to make a good impression than by going for it at the trade deadline and adding salary after shedding Von Miller a year ago? Everything is shaping up (fingers crossed) for a normal spring, and normal training camp will help things gel in Denver as well. The timing is right.

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Jason LaCanfora