When you browse the NFL odds on each of the favorites to win their division at BetMGM, there’s a clear outlier among the group.
AFC East: Buffalo Bills +125
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens -200
AFC South: Indianapolis Colts +130
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs -455
NFC East: Dallas Cowboys even
NFC North: Minnesota Vikings +160
NFC South: New Orleans Saints -125
NFC West: San Francisco 49ers -110
The odds on the Chiefs are a warning: If you are going to bet on Kansas City to win the AFC West, it’s going to cost you. They have the highest odds and it’s not close.
Kansas City is the favorite for good reason. They have dominated their division in recent years, won a Super Bowl last season, have mostly everyone returning and they have Patrick Mahomes. Picking anyone else seems to be foolish.
But is it?
Many Super Bowl teams struggle the following season
If you were getting even odds on each AFC West team to win the division, you’d run to the window (or your app) to bet the Chiefs before BetMGM changed its mind. But that’s not what we’re talking about.
When a team is an overwhelming favorite — maybe too much of a favorite — that opens up value for other teams. Here are the odds on the other three teams to win the AFC West:
There is some intriguing value beyond the Chiefs, especially on one team. More on that in a bit, but first, we have to make a reasonable argument for Kansas City to take a step back.
Nobody wants Mahomes to get hurt, but we have to account for the possibility. If he’s out for a while, they’re not the same team. They can compete without him because they are more than just one player, but they wouldn’t be an overwhelming favorite to win the West again without their great quarterback.
The best argument is the Super Bowl hangover. As discussed at length in the Chiefs season preview, nobody thinks the Chiefs will take a step back because nobody ever thinks it will happen to a team that just played in a Super Bowl. Every team on this list made a Super Bowl, then did not win their division the following season:
2018: Los Angeles Rams
2017: Philadelphia Eagles
2016: Atlanta Falcons
2015: Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos
2014: Seattle Seahawks
2012: Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers
2011: New York Giants
2010: Pittsburgh Steelers
2009: New Orleans Saints
2008: Pittsburgh Steelers
2007: New England Patriots
2006: Chicago Bears
2005: Pittsburgh Steelers
2004: Philadelphia Eagles
2003: Carolina Panthers
2002: Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2001: New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams
2000: Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants
1999: Los Angeles Rams
1998: Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons
1997: Green Bay Packers
Take a bow, 2013 Seahawks and Broncos, you account for the only time since the 1996 season that both Super Bowl participants won their division the following year!
There are some really good teams on that list, and it’s fair to assume that all of them expected to at least win their division after making a Super Bowl. Right now it’s impossible to make a great argument against the Chiefs in the AFC West. But the Super Bowl hangover happens all the time. And we never see it coming.
Who can topple the Chiefs in the AFC West?
The other part of the equation is finding a team that can knock off the Chiefs.
The Chargers have a ton of talent but also a messy quarterback situation and when’s the last time we could trust them? The Las Vegas Raiders could break through, but they were a ways off last season and a really unusual relocation doesn’t help.
What about the Broncos? Maybe.
Denver was unlucky last season. They lost three games in which they had a win probability of at least 92 percent at some point during the game. Give them all three wins and it’s a 10-6 season. There was also a 15-13 loss at the Indianapolis Colts on a 51-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal with 22 seconds left. The Broncos went 4-1 after Drew Lock became quarterback late in the season, and then had a very good offseason. There’s reason to believe Denver could improve by a few wins.
The Broncos are probably not going to win the AFC West. However, it doesn’t need to be a 50-50 proposition to get good value. At 9-to-1 odds, it might be worth finding out if the Chiefs are the latest Super Bowl team to take a bigger step back than anyone would ever predict.
It also might be worth keeping in mind that BetMGM offers odds on each team to make or not make the playoffs. The Chiefs are +800 to not make the postseason.
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