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AFC West Preview

AFC West Preview

AFC West Preview
By Joe Nelson

The NFL draft gets all the attention in the spring but the recent release of the 2014 schedule can be a more telling factor in how a team will fare next season. Take a look at the four teams in the AFC West in this schedule preview. Three teams from the West made the playoffs last season with the Broncos winning the AFC Championship. The schedules for this division are among the toughest in the NFL in 2014 however so a decline is very possible across the board.

Denver Broncos: From 1999 to 2007, there was a clear trend of the Super Bowl loser struggling the next season with seven of those nine runner-ups falling to a losing record the next season. The last two seasons, the Super Bowl loser wound up back in the conference championship game, but in the last 20 years, no Super Bowl loser has returned to the big game the next season, a troubling trend for the Broncos. Denver made some aggressive off-season moves notably bringing in DeMarcus Ware as the Broncos know that with Peyton Manning, the window for a championship is narrow at this stage in his career. Denver will face a much tougher schedule in 2014 after coasting to brilliant numbers in the regular season last year through one of the weakest schedules in the league. Denver has to play nine 2013 playoff teams this season as the AFC West plays the very tough NFC West teams and the Broncos will draw Indianapolis and Cincinnati as well as the entire AFC East.

Outside of the division, the Broncos have several very challenging road games, playing at Seattle, at New England, and at Cincinnati and in eight road games Denver faces teams that were a combined 75-53 last season. Denver has a stretch of three consecutive road games in November and the challenge of that run is increased by starting across the country in a huge game at New England. The primetime schedule could also wear on the Broncos with five night games ahead including having to play three division games following up primetime night games either Sunday or Monday. Denver is an older team and an early Week 4 bye might not be ideal. The first three games of the season are very tough with the Colts, Chiefs, and Seahawks in the first three weeks before the bye week. Denver also closes the season with three of the last five games on the road including potential cold weather games in Kansas City and Cincinnati. Early in the season, the Broncos will play the Chiefs, Seahawks, Cardinals, Jets, 49ers, and Chargers in succession as the offense will likely see a huge step back in production simply based on the quality of defenses faced compared with last season. Denver is still the team to beat in the AFC, but it will be a much tougher path in 2014.

Denver Broncos 2014 Schedule Numbers:
2014 Opponents Win Percentage in 2013: .570 (2/32)
Games vs. 2013 Playoff Teams: 9 (four home, five away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 10,131
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2 including a back-to-back-to-back
Primetime Games: 5 (1 Thursday, 3 Sunday night, 1 Monday night)

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs went from 2-14 to 11-5 in one season with Andy Reid. The schedule played a role but Kansas City had a lot of talent on the roster following the disastrous and tragic 2012 season. The Chiefs will be a prime candidate to slip in 2014 with a much tougher slate and the league better prepared for how the offense will look as the Chiefs were one of the early surprise teams last season. Kansas City had an epic meltdown in the playoffs last season which could be difficult to overcome, but if there is any consolation, the Chiefs have the easiest schedule in the division in terms of 2013 win percentage. Kansas City only plays three 2013 playoff teams outside of the division, though it is a very tough group featuring New England, San Francisco, and Seattle. The Chiefs get the Patriots and Seahawks at home as they will avoid two of the toughest venues in the league unlike some of the division counterparts. The schedule before a Week 6 bye is brutally tough with road games in Denver and San Francisco plus a Monday night game with the Patriots, but the slate is reasonable in the back half.

The final four road games of the season are all against teams that missed the playoffs in 2013 and the only set of back-to-back road games comes early in the year. The road games with San Diego and Denver come in relatively favorable situations for the Chiefs as they will catch the Broncos coming off a huge opening game with the Colts and they have a bye week before heading to San Diego. In a division race that could be very tight, it could make a huge difference if the Chiefs are able to steal a big road win in the division. The Chiefs will take on substantial travel miles this season despite being about as close to the middle of the country as can be as Kansas City plays every road game outside of its own central time zone. The Chiefs have a very difficult schedule and falling from 11 wins would not be a surprise, but this is not a team that should endure a significant collapse and Kansas City might actually have the best path in the division.

Kansas City Chiefs 2014 Schedule Numbers:
2014 Opponents Win Percentage in 2013: .559 (7/32)
Games vs. 2013 Playoff Teams: 7 (four home, three away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 10,593
Back-to-Back road game sets: 1
Primetime Games: 3 (1 Thursday, 1 Sunday night, 1 Monday night)

Oakland Raiders: While the Raiders have been a dysfunctional franchise most of the last two decades with short term plans and a constant state of transition, there is a lot to like about what the Raiders did in the off-season. Oakland did some positive things last year in a 4-12 first season under Dennis Allen as they ran the ball with some success and were capable defensively especially against the run. The offense showed some promise even battling through three different starting quarterbacks and fighting injuries. Oakland picked up several quality veterans in free agency led by Matt Schaub to take over at quarterback as well as several pieces on defense. Oakland also had a draft class that was well reviewed led by Khalil Mack and several other defensive players to add depth. Unfortunately for the Raiders, success may have to wait another season as the AFC West looks like the most difficult division in the conference and Oakland has drawn one of the league’s absolute toughest schedules.

The Raiders will play nine games against 2013 playoff teams as a result of every game in the division fitting that role and the fourth place draw of Cleveland and Houston looks fairly daunting relative to most seasons as those teams could be greatly improved even in transition seasons. Oakland has road games at New England and at Seattle, nearly impossible places to win and the final month looks brutal with a home date with the 49ers and the road meetings with the Chiefs and Broncos. The first half of the schedule is more reasonable for the Raiders as they only play one winning team from 2013 in the first four weeks before the bye week in Week 5. That bye comes after a trip to London as the Raiders are surrendering a home game this season to make things even more challenging. Including the trip across the pond, the Raiders will travel over 20,000 miles for nine away games, by far the most travel miles in the league. If the Raiders do manage a respectable start to the season, they will face a gauntlet starting in November facing seven teams that were a combined 76-36 last season. The only primetime game of the season for the Raiders is a short week Thursday night game that follows up a huge division road game at San Diego as well. Expect the Raiders to be a competent team in 2014 but it might not show up in the standings.

Oakland Raiders 2014 Schedule Numbers:
2014 Opponents Win Percentage in 2013: .578 (1/32)
Games vs. 2013 Playoff Teams: 9 (four home, five away)
Miles Traveled for 9 road/neutral games: 20,251 (includes London)
Back-to-Back road game sets: 1
Primetime Games: 1 (1 Thursday)

San Diego Chargers: With wins in the final four games of the regular season last year, the Chargers snuck into the playoffs and San Diego upset Cincinnati in the Wild Card round before falling narrowly against the Broncos. That late run and the resurgent season from Philip Rivers made it a very successful first season for head coach Mike McCoy. Expectations will be elevated moving forward and the Chargers will have a tough 2014 schedule along with the rest of the division. San Diego is a team that could create an early buzz in 2014 as they have a favorable early season schedule. They only play one 2013 playoff team in the first six weeks and while they do have to play the Seahawks, that game is at home and they catch Seattle off what will be a hyped opener with the Packers knowing that the Seahawks have a Super Bowl rematch in Week 3 as well. The Chargers also catch Denver in what could be a favorable Thursday night spot in Week 8, with the Broncos coming off a primetime game with a physical 49ers team the previous week and with the Broncos staring at the Patriots in the following game. As usual, this could be a Chargers team capable of beating some of the elite teams in the NFL, but also capable of losing to anyone. Houston, Oakland, and Washington combined to win nine games last season but three of those wins came against the Chargers.

San Diego has a late bye week in Week 10, but they will pay the price for the favorable early schedule with a brutally tough final five weeks. The Chargers play at Baltimore to close November before a December schedule that features teams that went 48-16 last season. The final two games of the season for San Diego are at San Francisco and then at Kansas City, with home games with New England and Denver before that. A 4-0 close to the season seems pretty unlikely for the Chargers in 2014, so San Diego will need a strong start to stay in contention late. San Diego has three East Coast games and significant overall travel as well and they have a few awkward primetime games with a Monday night game to open the season plus a late season Saturday game. Look for the Chargers to start the season looking like a serious contender, but this is a team that could limp into the postseason if they find a way to get there.

San Diego Chargers 2014 Schedule Numbers:
2014 Opponents Win Percentage in 2013: .563 (4/32)
Games vs. 2013 Playoff Teams: 7 (four home, three away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 12,189
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 4 (1 Thursday, 1 Saturday, 1 Sunday night, 1 Monday night)

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Re: AFC West Preview

AFC West Betting Preview
By: Micah Roberts

You might think that a division boasting three playoff teams from 2013 might be a little more balanced in odds, but that's not the case. The Broncos' 1-to-4 price makes them the biggest favorite in the NFL to win their respective division, just ahead of the Patriots at 1-to-3 in the AFC East. There are plenty of skeptics about whether Peyton Manning has what it takes to win the big game when Rex Grossman isn't the opposing QB, but those same folks would have to acknowledge that Manning is the greatest regular-season QB in the history of the league.

The Chiefs and Chargers have raised the bar pretty high for themselves after coaching changes paid immediate dividends. Was that just lightning in a bottle filled with snake oil or are these two teams ready to move forward rather than backwards? And even if they improve, will it be enough to topple the Broncos, who figure to have at least a 12-4 season?

Finally, is there anyone confident enough to throw some cash on the Raiders to win the West at 25-to-1 with new QB Matt Schaub?

Denver Broncos 1-4
Kansas City Chiefs 11-2
San Diego Chargers 11-2
Oakland Raiders 25-1

What the book are seeing with futures

"The Raiders are our biggest jeopardy, not only among AFC West teams, but with the entire league," said LVH SuperBook assistant manager Jeff Sherman, whose shop has lowered Oakland’s odds to win the Super Bowl from 200-to-1 down to 100-to-1. "The liability with Oakland is double that of any other team."

Unlike last season, the betting public has curbed its enthusiasm with the Broncos.

"So many people wager on what they saw last," said Sherman, "and with Denver getting blown out in the Super Bowl, no one is eager to bet them. But we like what they have done in the offseason. They've made great improvements on the defensive side, and they get some injured players back as well. We do extremely well in the futures if Denver, San Diego or Kansas City win it all."

NFC opponents

Last season the AFC West teams went 11-5 against the NFC East (Oakland 0-4), but things get dramatically tougher this season as they'll play the NFC West, the toughest division in football. Last season the NFC West played the AFC South, and buried them with a 13-3 record.

Denver Broncos

Season wins: open 11 OVER -140, currently 11.5 UNDER -140
Super Bowl odds: 5/1
2013 record: 13-3, lost to Seattle in the Super Bowl

Key acquisitions: Aqib Talib (CB), DeMarcus Ware (DE), T.J. Ward (S), Will Montgomery (C), Emmanuel Sanders (WR),

Key losses: Zane Beadles (G), Eric Decker (WR), Mike Adams (S), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB), Roberts Ayers (DE), Knowshon Moreno (RB), Wesley Woodyard (LB), Trindon Holliday (WR), Shaun Phillips (DE), Champ Bailey (CB)

The Linemakers’ take: Denver was the highest-rated team in the NFL for much of 2013 and went OVER the total in 11 of their first 13 games. Everything is still in place to make another great regular-season run, and the defense looks improved as well. A 12-4 season or better looks likely, but such low odds to win the Super Bowl won’t find many takers. One of the biggest questions offensively is whether or not RB Montee Ball can fill the void left by Knowshon Moreno, especially in the short passing game.

The Broncos are “still tops in the AFC,” says The Linemakers’ Kenny White. “I don’t expect them to be better than last season, but they’ll be close to last season.”

What the Broncos are saying: Coach John Fox told NFL Total Access that Manning can be even better than his record-breaking 2013 season: "I think so, we talk about that every day. Whether it is a football team, individual position or even an individual player. You know that's the goal to get better every day. He has worked very hard, he is in the best shape he has ever been in, all his numbers in our weight and conditioning program are all up from a year ago, even before that. There are areas he can improve in and he knows it and he will."

Kansas City Chiefs

Season wins: open 8 OVER -120 and remains unchanged
Super Bowl odds: 40/1
2013: 11-5, lost at Indianapolis in wild-card round

Key acquisitions: Jeffrey Linkenbach (T), Vance Walker (DT), J'Marcus Webb (T), Cory Grissom (DT), Joe Mays (LB), Chris Owens (CB),

Key losses: Branden Albert (T), Akeem Jordan (LB), Kendrick Lewis (S), Dexter McCluster (WR), Quinton Demps (S), Geoff Schwartz (OL), Jerrell Powe (NT), Jon Asamoah (OL), Tyson Jackson (DT),

The Linemakers’ take: Which team shows up this season? The one that started 9-0 and snuck up on the bookmakers, or the team that lost six of their last eight games? Conservative game planning and great defense correlated with the early wins, as the Chiefs stayed UNDER the total in eight of their first 10.

Kenny and I have a difference of opinion here. The Chiefs won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year, but to me, at last nine wins seem likely. Kenny, however, expects them to regress from last season.

What the Chiefs are saying: Coach Andy Reid is fired up: “I’m ready to go,” Reid said a day before training camp started. “I’m telling you. Like you guys (reporters) are and the fans. There’s just a certain feel you get around this time of year. It’s time to roll.”

Oakland Raiders

Season wins: open 5 UNDER -150, currently 5 OVER -115
Super Bowl odds: 100/1
2013 record: 4-12

Key acquisitions: Matt Schaub (QB), Tarell Brown (CB), Antonio Smith (DE). Carlos Rogers (CB), Austin Howard (OT), James Jones (WR), Donald Penn (OT), Justin Tuck (DE), LaMarr Woodley (LB), Maurice Jones-Drew (RB), C.J. Wilson (DE)

Key losses: Lamarr Houston (LB), Jared Veldheer (OT), Tracy Porter (CB), Mike Jenkins (CB), Rashad Jennings (RB), Phillip Adams (CB), Jacoby Ford (WR), Vance Walker (DT), Jeron Mastrud (TE)

The Linemakers’ take: The Raiders covered the spread in seven of their first 10 games, showing everyone they weren’t as bad as advertised, but then they lost their final six games. Lots of new faces this season, but I don't see any of that having a huge impact or Oakland drastically improving from last season’s 4-12 record.

Kenny White, though, likes the Raiders this season and is playing OVER 5 wins: “I’m an Oakland Raider fan this year. I think they’re going to take the biggest leap in the division.”

What the Raiders are saying: Owner Mark Davis is optimistic about 2014. "I think we've got some football players," Davis said, per the San Jose Mercury News. "At that last mandatory camp, it looked like we had a team.”

San Diego Chargers

Season wins: open 8 OVER -120, and remains unchanged
Super Bowl odds: 40/1
2013 record: 9-7, lost to Denver in divisional playoff

Key acquisitions: Donald Brown (RB), Kellen Clemons (QB), Kavell Conner (LB), David Johnson (TE), Brandon Ghee (CB),

Key losses: Lavelle Hawkins (WR), Derek Cox (CB), Terrell Manning (LB), Johnny Patrick (CB), Stephen Schilling (G), Cam Thomas (DT), Charlie Whitehurst (QB)

The Linemakers’ take: It was amazing to see just how big of a difference a new system and coaching staff made on this team, and their progression might not be over. They kept the QB safe, passed short and efficiently, and the result kept their bad defense off the field while chewing time off the clock. They stayed UNDER the total in 11 of 17 games last season. While I see them involved in wild-card talk late in the regular season, Kenny thinks they're going to take a step backwards in 2014.

“I think things regress to the mean,” says Kenny. “I can’t see (Philip Rivers) having another year like he did (last season)

What the Chargers are saying: New offensive coordinator Frank Reich, on his play calling approach this season: “You have to be an aggressive play caller. That doesn’t mean more passes than runs. It means situational football, knowing what to do, how to take advantage of it and trusting your players to do what you call. I love everything about the no-huddle. You mix the tempo. You mix what you are doing. You keep teams off balance and get them tired. It presents communication problems for them.”

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Re: AFC West Preview

AFC West Notebook

Denver Broncos

2013 record: 13-3
Postseason: Lost to Seattle 43-8 in Super Bowl
Off YPG: 457 (1st) - Def YPG: 356 (19th)
Off PPG: 37.9 (1st) - Def PPG: 24.9 (22nd)

2014 Total Win Analysis - LVH Total Win Opening Line - 11

We’ll lean toward the UNDER here. Denver has the 2nd toughest strength of schedule in the NFL this year just behind Oakland. The Broncos opponents this year won over 57% of their games last season. Their early season slate is brutal as six of their first their opponents are teams that were in the playoffs last year (Indy, KC, Seattle, New England, San Diego, & San Francisco). Their other two games during the opening half of the season are @ NYJ (long travel) and vs. Arizona who was 10-6 last year. Their road games outside of the AFC West include @ New England, @ Cincinnati, @ Seattle, and @NY Jets. Not easy to say the least. A lot of things went right for Denver last year. An aging Peyton Manning had a career year that was without injury. He lost two key cogs to that offense as RB Moreno & WR Decker have moved on. The defense was not good a year ago. They finished in the bottom third of the league in YPG allowed and PPG allowed. This team needs to score a pile of points to win games and we’re not so sure they’ll be able to do so at such a high rate (almost 40 PPG last year). This is a playoff team but we think they’ll really struggle to get near last year’s win total.

Betting Notes

-- 2013 ATS-O/U Record: 10-5-1, 11-5
-- If you take out last year’s 10-5-1 ATS mark, the Broncos have been one of the worst ATS teams with a record of 73-91-7 (44%) from 2003-2012.
-- Last year Denver was 6-3-1 ATS as a home favorite but from 2003-2012 they were just 22-39-3 ATS (36%) in that role.
-- Dating back to 1982, Denver is 26-19 ATS (58%) coming off a bye. They have also played 28 OVERS and 17 UNDERS when coming off a bye week.
-- Broncos have faced AFC West rival Chargers 69 times since 1980. During the stretch the two have played to the UNDER 40 times, the OVER just 28 times with 1 push.
-- After starting the season going OVER the total in 10 of their first 12 games, the Broncos went UNDER the number 5 of their last 6 games (including playoffs).

Player & Team Notes

-- The oddsmakers set the Denver total at 50 or higher in 14 of their 16 regular season games last year. The other two were both set at 49.
-- Denver loses key offensive players RB Moreno (1,038 rushing yards) and WR Decker (1,288 receiving yards). They did pick up DB Aqib Talib from New England which will really help in pass coverage (25th in YPG passing allowed last year) if he can stay healthy along with DeMarcus Ware from Dallas who should bolster the pass rush. Von Miller's return on the left side of the defense could have the biggest impact though for the Broncos.
-- Denver led the NFL in 3rd down conversion percentage last year (48%) AND 4th down conversion percentage (90%).
-- The Broncos led the NFL in YPG (457) topping 2nd place Philadelphia by almost 50 YPG. Denver also led the league averaging 6.3 yards per play.

San Diego Chargers

2013 record: 9-7
Postseason: Lost to Denver 24-17 in Divisional Round of playoffs
Off YPG: 393 (5th) - Def YPG: 366 (23rd)
Off PPG: 24.8 (12th) - Def PPG: 21.8 (11th)

2014 Total Win Analysis: LVH Total Win Opening Line - 7.5
Chargers finished last year with 9 regular season wins and the oddsmakers set this year’s number at 7.5. We’ll lean ever so slightly to the UNDER here. Despite giving up just 21 PPG last year, San Diego’s defense was a bit sketchy last year. They finished near the bottom of the league in YPG allowed and YPP allowed. Thus, in our opinion, they were a bit lucky to only allow 21 PPG. Their offense was very solid a year ago. They should be good again this year but the loss of OC Whisenhunt will be a key factor. He was known for his passing game prowess and QB Rivers had possibly his best overall year of his career under Whisenhunt, who has moved on to Tennessee. The Bolts have a very tough schedule this year. Their strength of schedule ranks the 4th toughest in the NFL with their opponents this year winning nearly 57% of their games last year. The AFC West will again be tough with Denver & KC (both in playoffs last year) and the Chargers must play what many consider the toughest conference in the NFL, the NFC West (Seattle, San Fran, Arizona, and an improved St. Louis). They will be an underdog in their first two games @ Arizona and at home against Seattle before a fairly easy 4 game stretch (Buffalo, Jacksonville, NYJ, and Oakland). However from that point on, the Chargers have a brutal slate facing the likes of KC (twice), Denver (twice), @ Miami, @ Baltimore, New England, and @ San Francisco.

Betting Notes

-- 2013 ATS-O/U Record: 9-6-1 ATS, 7-9
-- Since 2004, the Chargers have THE BEST spread record in the NFL at 93-70-7 (57%).
-- They also have the best spread record in the NFL as a road underdog since 2004 hitting at a whopping 70% (28-12-4 ATS)
-- However, when you make the Bolts a road favorite, they are just 7-16 ATS dating back to 2008.
-- San Diego also sits on the best spread record in the NFL in Division games (since 2004). Their ATS mark against AFC West opponents during that span in 34-22-5.
-- AFC rivals San Diego & Oakland have gone UNDER the total in 13 of their last 19 meetings.

Player & Team Notes

-- San Diego lost a key member of their coaching staff when OC Ken Whisenhunt left to take the head coaching job at Tennessee. He guided QB Phillip Rivers to one of his best years ever last season.
-- Look for the Chargers to run more of an up-tempo, no-huddle offense this year under their new OC Frank Reich.
-- San Diego was 5th in the NFL in Red Zone Scoring opportunities per game at 3.7, but they were just 23rd in the NFL in Red Zone TD scoring percentage at 51%.
-- Chargers are very solid on the offensive line where they bring back all 5 starters from 2013 + 3 backups who have decent starting experience.
-- The Charger defense finished 9th in the NFL in PPG last year allowing just over 21. However, they were near the bottom (28th) in defensive yards per play and (23rd) in defensive yards per game.

Oakland Raiders

2013 Record: 4-12
Postseason: No Playoffs
Off YPG: 334 (23rd) - Def YPG: 364 (22nd)
Off PPG: 20.1 (24th) - Def PPG: 28.3 (29th)

2014 Total Win Analysis: LVH Total Win Opening Line - 5

We lean towards the UNDER here. Oakland really struggled last season, losing eight of its final nine games to limp to a 4-12 record. They made some moves in free agency & the draft, but there are still major questions hounding this team - particularly at quarterback and offensive line. The team lost its best offensive lineman, Jared Veldheer, from a year ago and this unit that struggled a year ago actually got downgraded in the offseason. They also traded away QB Terrelle Pryor and signed Matt Schaub from the Texans. Schaub really struggled last year and was benched in week six. He finished with 10 TD and 14 INT in 10 games. Schaub has been a solid game-managing quarterback in the past, but it's hard to ignore last year's statistics and trust that he will be reliable in a Raiders uniform in 2014. There's also the fact that Oakland has the no. 1 toughest schedule in the NFL, and there's not a lot of reason for optimism here. On top of playing six games against three division foes that made the playoffs in 2013, the Raiders travel to New England, Seattle, and St. Louis while getting Arizona and San Francisco at home. The Raiders will be more recognizable this year after picking up some big names in free agency (more on that below), but we expect another season of turmoil in Oakland.

Betting Notes

-- 2013 ATS-O/U Record: 7-8-1, 7-8-1
-- There aren't too many trends that favor the Raiders. They are just 29-58-1 ATS at home since 2003 (33.3%) - worst in the NFL
-- Oakland is 10-28 ATS as a favorite since 2003 (26.3%) - worst in the NFL by a wide margin (Miami is 31st, covering 37.9%)
-- Also just 59-74-3 ATS as an underdog since 2003 (44.4%), 2nd to last in the NFL over that span
-- Just 16-27-1 ATS vs. NFC squads since 2003 (37.2%), the worst mark in the NFL. This year they catch the NFC West, arguably the best division in the league
-- The Raiders have been a road favorite an NFL-low four times since 2003 (0-4 ATS in those games)
-- Just 1-5 SU & ATS vs. division foes last season with a -13.5 PPG differential in those six games
-- Just 2-9 SU & 3-8 ATS in the last nine home games against Denver. They've failed to cover each of the past two seasons at home as a double digit underdog
-- Oakland and Kansas City have gone 14-3-1 UNDER in the last 18 meetings. Oakland and San Diego are 13-6 UNDER in the last 19 meetings -- The Raiders are a respectable 7-3 ATS against San Diego in the last 10 meetings

Player & Team Notes

-- Lost standout defensive lineman Lamarr Houston in free agency but replaced him by signing LaMarr Woodley (via Pittsburgh), Justin Tuck (via NYG), and Antonio Smith (via Houston) to fill the void.
-- Allowed 33 pass TD (30th in the NFL) intercepted just nine passes on defense last year (31st). Resigned DB Charles Woodson and brought in CB's Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown - both formerly played for the 49ers - to shore up the NFL's 28th ranked pass defense.
-- Lost leading rusher Rashad Jennings in free agency, but re-signed oft-injured Darren McFadden and brought in Maurice Jones-Drew from Jacksonville.
-- Signed veteran WR James Jones via Green Bay to liven up a receiving corps that was led by Rod Streater with 60 receptions a year ago. Jones has 24 TD receptions over the past three seasons and will be the top WR on the roster.
-- Ranked 29th in 2013 with just 17 pass TD. Schaub will have to improve on that number otherwise coaches will call on rookie Derek Carr (50 pass TD at Fresno State last year) as a replacement.
-- Drafted LB Khalil Mack with the 5th overall pick in the draft. Mack is viewed as the most impact-ready rookies and he will, at the very least, add a punch to the front seven that hasn't been there in recent years.

Kansas City Chiefs

2013 Record: 11-5
Postseason: Lost in Wild Card round to Indianapolis
Off YPG: 337 (21st) - Def YPG: 368 (24th)
Off PPG: 26.9 (7th) - Def PPG: 19.1 (6th)

2014 Total Win Analysis: LVH Total Win Opening Line - 8

Kansas City overachieved last year by winning 11 games when it was projected to finish under .500 (total win opening line last year was 7). At one point, KC was 9-0 with the best record in the NFL. They limped to a 2-5 finish and lost their first playoff game in embarrassing fashion (blew a 38-10 3rd quarter lead at Indianapolis and lost 44-45). The Chiefs had a lot of things go their way in 2013 and we don't expect that to be the case here in 2014; take the UNDER. Before the 2013 season, KC had the 26th strongest schedule in the NFL. After the season concluded, KC actually had the easiest schedule in the NFL. That will change this year as the Chiefs have the 7th toughest schedule. They have to face Denver and San Diego, two 2013 playoff teams, twice in division play. They also have tough conference games against New England, Miami, and Pittsburgh while also drawing the NFC East in non-conference play - meaning Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona, and St. Louis are all on the docket. They also didn't do enough in the offseason to make us believe that they actually improved. With a difficult schedule and an average offense and defense, expect KC to struggle and fail to finish over .500.

Betting Notes

-- 2013 ATS-O/U Record: 9-7, 7-9
-- Further evidence to its weak schedule, Kansas City was 5-1 ATS as an away favorite last year
-- The Chiefs are an NFL-best 14-6 ATS (70%) in non-conference games
-- In division games, the Chiefs are just 11-19 ATS (36.7%) since 2009, 2nd worst in the NFL
-- The Chiefs have finished UNDER the total in 25 of the last 41 home games, or 64.1% of their games - the highest UNDER percentage in the NFL since 2009
-- As a road team, KC is 3rd in the NFL since 2007 with a 34-23 ATS record (59.6%)
-- The Chiefs haven't had a ton of luck visiting Mile High Stadium. They are 2-11 SU & 4-9 ATS the last 13 games at Denver, with an average point differential of -12.6 PPG.
-- KC is just 1-6 SU & ATS in the last seven home games against Oakland

Player & Team Notes

-- RB Jamaal Charles ranked 3rd in the NFL in rushing, amassing 1,287 yards (5.0 YPC) and an NFL-high 12 TD. He was also 3rd in the NFL in total yards - adding 693 receiving yards.
-- Behind Charles, KC had one of the top rushing attacks in the league last year. But that unit will take a hit after losing three starters from the offensive line (OT Branden Albert, OG's Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah).
-- Drafted DE Dee Ford with the 23rd pick in the first round of the NFL Draft. Ford is a pass-rush specialist who will add to the arsenal behind Justin Houston (11 sacks) and Tamba Hali (11 sacks).
-- QB Alex Smith completed 60.6% last year with 23 TD and only 7 INT. Respectable numbers, but KC hardly lit things up through the air. The Chiefs ranked 24th in pass yards and 27th in yards per attempt.
-- Smith helped KC keep its turnover numbers down, leading to a +19 TO differential - 2nd in the NFL only to SB champion Seattle.
-- The Chiefs led the NFL 11 non-offensive touchdowns. They scored seven defensive TD (5 INT returns & 2 fumble returns), two kickoff return TD, and two punt return TD.

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