NFL Schedule Analysis – AFC West


Denver Broncos

2019 record: 7-9
Last playoff appearance: 2015
Bookies over-under for Broncos wins: 7.5
Punt Sports projects: 8 wins

Denver’s floor and ceiling are rather far apart. If Drew Lock — who went 4-1 as a starter last year — blossoms with new weapons in Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, the Broncos could push for double-digit wins. If Lock flops, Denver might wind up with a top-five pick in next year’s draft. Most likely, the result will be somewhere in the middle.

Upset watch: The Broncos are a thorn in Tom Brady’s side, as the only team he has a losing record against (8-9, including playoffs). Von Miller, in particular, has hounded Brady, totalling 7.5 sacks, 19 QB hits and an interception in seven meetings. Brady’s new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are just 2-7 all-time against Denver, with the last victory coming in 1999.

Longshot wager: The Chiefs have won four straight AFC West titles and are comfortably the largest division favourite (-556) across the league. Likewise, the Broncos have rather long odds (+1000). But while the reigning Super Bowl champions appear entrenched, one injury could change things in a hurry, making Denver a decent dice roll.

Denver Broncos 2020 schedule

Sept. 14 vs. Tennessee Titans
Sept. 20 at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sept. 27 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Oct. 1 at New York Jets
Oct. 11 at New England Patriots
Oct. 18 vs. Miami Dolphins
Oct. 25 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Nov. 8 at Atlanta Falcons
Nov. 15 at Las Vegas Raiders
Nov. 22 vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Nov. 29 vs. New Orleans Saints
Dec. 6 at Kansas City Chiefs
Dec. 13 at Carolina Panthers
Week 15 vs. Buffalo Bills
Week 16 at Los Angeles Chargers
Jan. 3 vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Kansas City Chiefs

2019 record: 12-4
Last playoff appearance: 2019
Bookies over-under for Chiefs wins: 11.5
Punt Sports projects: 12 wins

Kansas City won 12 games a year ago despite Patrick Mahomes being banged-up throughout the year and missing most of three games. The Chiefs certainly have weaknesses (cornerback and interior O-line depth, in particular), but the game’s best quarterback can compensate. Their biggest challenge is an improving division and avoiding complacency.

Upset watch: The Chiefs swept the Los Angeles Chargers in 2019, but L.A.’s defence limited Mahomes to 35-of-57 passing for 356 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in perhaps his two worst outings all year. The Chargers also have a run-heavy offence that can control the clock and poke at the Chiefs’ biggest weakness, stopping the run.

Longshot wager: The best defensive player in football over the final few months of 2019 was Tyrann Mathieu, who thrived while being deployed all over the field by coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Mathieu’s odds to win Defensive Player of the Year (+4000) are tied for 21st, which seems like great value considering his team’s prime-time exposure.

Kansas City Chiefs 2020 schedule

Sept. 10 vs. Houston Texans
Sept. 20 at Los Angeles Chargers
Sept. 28 at Baltimore Ravens
Oct. 4 vs. New England Patriots
Oct. 11 vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Oct. 15 at Buffalo Bills
Oct. 25 at Denver Broncos
Nov. 1 vs. New York Jets
Nov. 8 vs. Carolina Panthers
Nov. 22 at Las Vegas Raiders
Nov. 29 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dec. 6 vs. Denver Broncos
Dec. 13 at Miami Dolphins
Dec. 20 at New Orleans Saints
Dec. 27 vs. Atlanta Falcons
Jan. 3. vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Las Vegas Raiders

2019 record: 7-9
Last playoff appearance: 2016
Bookies over-under for Raiders wins: 7.5
Punt Sports projects: 7 wins

The Raiders started 2019 at 6-4, but a 1-5 finish did them in. More alarming was their minus-106 point differential, third-worst in the AFC and sixth-worst in the NFL. The linebacking corps is improved, but what about the pass rush and secondary? On offence, Derek Carr is merely a high-end caretaker, limiting the team’s ceiling, especially in a tough division.

Upset watch: Jon Gruden will surely be motivated for Week 7, when he’ll face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the first time since they fired him in January of 2009. We wouldn’t be surprised if Gruden saves some of his best schemes for that Sunday Night Football matchup. It also helps that the Raiders’ offensive line matches up pretty well to the Bucs’ stingy defensive front.

Longshot wager: Many consider Gruden too old-school, but his offence has been sharply designed with plenty of modern elements since he returned in 2018. With Henry Ruggs and more weapons on board, 2020 could bring more big plays and perhaps some Coach of the Year consideration. Gruden’s odds (+3500) are longer than all but six other coaches.

Las Vegas Raiders 2020 schedule

Sept. 13 at Carolina Panthers
Sept. 21 at New Orleans Saints
Sept. 27 at New England Patriots
Oct. 4 vs. Buffalo Bills
Oct. 11 at Kansas City Chiefs
Oct. 24 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nov. 1 at Cleveland Browns
Nov. 8 at Los Angeles Chargers
Nov. 15 vs. Denver Broncos
Nov. 22 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Nov. 29 at Atlanta Falcons
Dec. 6 at New York Jets
Dec. 13 vs. Indianapolis Colts
Dec. 17 vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Dec. 26 or 27 vs. Miami Dolphins
Jan. 3 at Denver Broncos

Los Angeles Chargers

2019 record: 5-11
Last playoff appearance: 2018
Bookies over-under for Chargers wins: 8
Punt Sports projects: 9 wins

Despite earning a top-six draft pick, the Chargers have an excellent roster, but there are two major concerns: quarterback and left tackle. Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert (at least for now) are best as complementary pieces, and short of signing Jason Peters, the blind side could be a mess. Those weaknesses could limit the Bolts’ ceiling considerably.

Upset watch: Will Tyrod Taylor still be starting when the Chargers visit his former team, the Buffalo Bills, in late November? Even if it’s Justin Herbert under center, the Chargers match up well, especially on defence, where they have enough cornerbacks to handle the Bills’ receivers and the dynamic edge rushers to give Buffalo’s protection trouble.

Longshot wager: In a contract year and perhaps looking to regain the spotlight from his brother, Joey Bosa could have a monster season. He was unlucky to have “only” 11.5 sacks last season (as he had 31 QB hits), and his Defensive Player of the Year odds (+2000) are twice as long as Nick Bosa’s and equal to teammate Derwin James. That’s a nice value.

Los Angeles Chargers 2020 schedule

Sept. 13 at Cincinnati Bengals
Sept. 20 Kansas City Chiefs
Sept. 27 Carolina Panthers
Oct. 4 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Oct. 12 at New Orleans Saints
Oct. 18 New York Jets
Oct. 25 at Miami Dolphins
Nov. 1 Jacksonville Jaguars
Nov. 8 Las Vegas Raiders
Nov. 22 at Denver Broncos
Nov. 29 at Buffalo Bills
Dec. 6 New England Patriots
Dec. 13 Atlanta Falcons
Dec. 17 at Las Vegas Raiders
Dec. 26 or 27 Denver Broncos
Jan. 3 at Kansas City Chiefs