NFL Football Betting: AFC Preview

The NFL season is approaching quickly, with Labor Day in a few days. How do things stand in the AFC in a year when Alex Smith no longer quarterbacks the Kansas City Chiefs and Case Keenum has moved over from the NFC to become the new quarterback of the Denver Broncos?

AFC Favorites

The New England Patriots (+240) are once again the class of the AFC. Let’s not pretend that Tom Brady has lost his edge. He is still the class of the league, one of the elite players in the game. Moreover, with the AFC East still being a mess, New England can still expect an easier ride through its division than any other top Super Bowl threat. The Pittsburgh Steelers (+500) have to go through the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. The Jacksonville Jaguars (+640) could get a test from the Tennessee Titans, a team which made the AFC Divisional Playoffs last year, or from the Houston Texans if quarterback Deshaun Watson is healthy for the full 16-game season. The AFC West has no great team, and is more defined by balance. New England has the best path to the Super Bowl in the AFC. The Patriots have the best chance of getting a top-two seed in the playoffs, which means a first-round bye and then a home game in the divisional round, often with home field in the AFC Championship Game as well. Such was the case last year, such was the case the year before. Not since the 2015 season (Super Bowl 50) has New England played a road playoff game. The Pats went to Denver to play the AFC Championship Game that season. They haven’t played a road playoff game since. They are still the favorite until the ground clearly shifts beneath their feet, and that might only happen if Brady gets injured for a meaningful period of time.

Pittsburgh and Jacksonville should be the next two favorites, but they will likely have to go through New England if they want to win the AFC.

AFC Sleepers

The Denver Broncos, for the price (+1500), are probably the best value on the board in terms of sleepers. Case Keenum just has to be solid, not incredibly great, for this team to thrive. The defense will be strong. Keenum just has to minimize mistakes and convert routine plays to give Denver a good chance at 11 wins. The Broncos will likely get beaten up by the AFC West to the point that they won’t get a top-two seed, but that defense could come alive in the playoffs.

The Baltimore Ravens (+950) are probably overpriced. Joe Flacco has struggled at quarterback over the past few seasons with a bloated contract he has not lived up to. It is hard to put Baltimore in the same class as New England, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville, but the Ravens might not even be better than Denver. If you want a sleeper at a medium price between Denver (low) and Baltimore (high), the Los Angeles Chargers (+1200) fit that slot. Philip Rivers will try to give it one more go. He is not at his best, but he can be very good in spots, and if the Chargers can get better field goal kicking compared to last year, they cold make noise. They have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL.