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Bettors bank on Raiders to close gap on Chiefs in loaded AFC West

Twenty-eight seconds. That’s all that separated the Raiders from a sweep of their 2020 season series with the five-time defending AFC West champion Chiefs.

The Raiders won a 40-32 shootout at Kansas City in the first meeting and led the second showdown in the final minute at Allegiant Stadium before the Chiefs pulled out a 35-31 win on Patrick Mahomes’ 22-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce.

Kansas City is on a historic run in the division. It’s 31-5 against AFC West foes since 2015, the best divisional record of any team in a six-year span since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, according to NFL Research.

Can the Raiders end the Chiefs’ division reign this season? Bettors are banking on it at BetMGM despite the fact that the Silver and Black are 18-1 long shots to win the AFC West behind heavily favored Kansas City (-275) and the Chargers (+450) and Broncos (7-1).

The sportsbook will lose mid six figures if the Raiders win their first division crown since 2002, according to MGM Resorts director of trading Jeff Stoneback.

“The Raiders are the largest liability we have of any team in any division,” he said.

The Chiefs are the NFL’s largest division favorites, but longtime Las Vegas bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich said Denver, Los Angeles and the Raiders are capable contenders.

“The Chiefs are two-dollar favorites, but two-dollar favorites go down daily,” he said. “The Broncos, it comes down to whether Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock can give them good quarterback play.

“The Chargers just need to stay healthy defensively, and the Raiders need to improve on defense and have the Chiefs stumble a little bit.”

A safer bet on the Raiders would be over their season win total of 7½. That’s the same number they went over last season, and they will have an extra game on the NFL’s first 17-game schedule.

Betting on their games to go over the total also might prove profitable. The Raiders were 10th in scoring offense last season (27.1 points per game) and 30th in scoring defense (29.9 ppg) en route to the NFL’s best over-under record at 12-3-1.

“Their defense was not good last year, and I don’t really see how it’s going to be good this year,” Circa Sports manager Chris Bennett said. “The offense has got some potential, but that division is really tough.”

Here’s a quick glance at the rest of the division:

Kansas City Chiefs

Season win total: 12½ (-110)

Make playoffs (yes/no): -1,200/+795

Super Bowl odds: 5-1

The Chiefs will try to join the Miami Dolphins (1972-74), Buffalo Bills (1991-94) and New England Patriots (2017-19) as the only teams to play in the Super Bowl three consecutive years.

Kansas City — led by Mahomes, Kelce, receiver Tyreek Hill and a revamped offensive line — is the consensus favorite to win Super Bowl LVI after it was whipped 31-9 by Tampa Bay in February’s NFL title game.

“Their offensive line was decimated by injuries in the Super Bowl,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said. “I still think the Chiefs are the best team in the league.”

Los Angeles Chargers

Season win total: 9½ (u-120)

Make playoffs (yes/no): +115/-135

Super Bowl odds: 45-1

The Chargers lost 16 one-possession games the past two seasons largely because of game mismanagement by former coach Anthony Lynn. Los Angeles figures to reverse that trend under new coach Brandon Staley, the Rams’ former defensive coordinator.

Quarterback Justin Herbert is poised for a big season after throwing for 31 touchdowns as a rookie.

“The Chargers already had a Super Bowl-caliber team that found a way to lose games last year,” Red Rock Resort sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “Their defense, when healthy, is really good. If Herbert continues to develop, they’re definitely a playoff-bound team.”

Denver Broncos

Season win total: 9 (u-115)

Make playoffs (yes/no): +170/-195

Super Bowl odds: 75-1

The biggest question mark is at quarterback on an otherwise loaded roster featuring outside linebackers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain II and receivers Courtland Sutton, K.J. Hamler and Jerry Jeudy.

“Take away the quarterback and Denver’s talent level on both sides of the ball is as good as any team in football,” SuperBook vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “Denver can surprise.”

Best bet

Derek Carr over 24½ touchdown passes (-110 at Caesars Sports): The much-maligned Carr is one of only three quarterbacks with more than 4,000 yards passing and a passer rating of more than 100 the past two seasons. The others are Mahomes and Russell Wilson. The Raiders QB threw for 27 TDs last season and has an extra game to reach 25.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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