Through the first half of the 2016 NFL season, there’s no question regarding what is the league’s best division. The AFC West could produce three playoff teams, and the team that sits in last place might be the best team in football that won’t make the postseason.
Heading into Week 9, the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders sit atop the division with 6-2 records. The Kansas City Chiefs trail them both by just a half-game at 5-2, and all three are in the conversation to compete with the New England Patriots for the AFC title.
The San Diego Chargers are in fourth place at 3-5, but they are more talented than most teams. They have victories over Denver and the first-place Atlanta Falcons, and San Diego might be a legitimate playoff contender in any other division.
Only one team can win the AFC West, though the top three teams nearly have the same odds to finish in first-place, via Sportsbook.ag.
Denver Broncos (+160)
As the defending Super Bowl champions, Denver is rightfully the favorite to win the division. They have five consecutive first-place finishes, and the Broncos are winning with the same formula they used in 2015. Denver’s defense is just about as good as it was a year ago, ranking fifth in points allowed and surrendering fewer than 23 points in each contest. Trevor Siemian is better than Peyton Manning was last season, and he gives the Broncos the best chance of the four teams to win the division title, as well as possibly another Super Bowl title.
Oakland Raiders (+220)
Despite what the odds say, Oakland might be Denver’s biggest competition. Kansas City is more of a sure bet to reach the playoffs, but the Raiders have a higher ceiling than the Chiefs. It all starts with Derek Carr, who is playing better than any AFC quarterback not named Tom Brady. He gives Oakland an explosive offense than can put up points on most defenses. A lot will be determined by the Raiders’ head-to-head matchups with the Broncos, starting with their game on Sunday night in Week 9.
Kansas City Chiefs (+200)
The Chiefs are always good under head coach Andy Reid, and 2016 is no different. After averaging 10 wins over the last three years, Kansas City is looking like a 10-11 win team, once again. Considering all of the bad quarterback play the NFL has had this season, Alex Smith gives the Chiefs a reliable signal caller that many teams don’t have, even if he doesn’t put up big numbers. Between their defense and ability to avoid mistakes, Kansas City has what it takes to win the division and make the conference championship game. An actual run to the Super Bowl, though, might be a long shot.
San Diego Chargers (+2000)
Losing five of their first eight games, the Chargers have dug themselves too big of a hole to win the division. But they’ve had a chance to win every game in the final minutes, and they are only under .500 because of costly, self-inflicted mistakes in crunch time. San Diego ranks third in points scored, and they’ll be a tough matchup for all of their opponents the rest of the season.