The AFC West is on hard times. This division has not sent a team to the Super Bowl since 2002, the longest drought of any quartet in the NFL. The failure of the Denver Broncos to cash in a #1 seed in last year’s playoffs was attributed, at least in part, to the soft schedule they had played in compiling their 13-3 record—a none-too-subtle indictment of the division. And judging on early numbers posted in the betting markets, expectations aren’t high in 2013.
In the NFL analysis at the links below, TheSportsNotebook measures each team against the Over/Under win prop posted for each one in Las Vegas. Denver is the only team expected to have a winning record.
When you look at the betting odds for each division, the Broncos are such a strong favorite that if you want to go anti-Denver, you don’t even have to pick a team—just wager equal amounts on Oakland (25-1), San Diego (8-1) and Kansas City (5-1) and you turn a profit if an of them come through. Denver joins only New England and Green Bay in holding such a decisive status in their own backyard.
The odds themselves tell us something else about the struggles of this division—The Chiefs had the worst team in the NFL in 2012, and went through a terrible tragedy with the murder-suicide involving linebacker Jovan Belcher. Yet based on the hiring of Andy Reid and the signing of Alex Smith, they immediately jump to the status of preferred challenger. The joys of weak competition.
I’m not going to challenge the conventional wisdom here. I’m not all that high on Denver and doubt I’ll pick them to reach the Super Bowl when final preseason predictions are made next week (though, to be frank, no one else really excites me as a Super Bowl pick). But the Broncos would have to completely fall on their face not to win the AFC West.