NFL Final Standings Best Bets: Which Divisions Are Harder to Predict?

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Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs scrambles for extra yardage as Joe Gaziano #92 of the Los Angeles Chargers pursues. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP.

Making any NFL prediction is very difficult, especially if it involves future events.

Although some divisions can come across easier than others, a condition reflected in the betting odds, that’s the mechanism of perception based on past experience and performance. The fact is that the NFL is a dynamically changing environment thanks to the ebb and flow of trades, drafts, and personnel. No two seasons are identical. No division remains constant.

Looking at the upcoming 2022 NFL season, a few divisions are shaping up to be extremely competitive and challenging. This shows itself in markets involving various NFL Division odds trading at multiple top-rated online sportsbooks.

What’s the Hardest NFL Division?

One division, in particular, stands out right now as the hardest of the lot. That is the AFC West. This is based on three key factors:

  1. The quality of the division as a whole.
  2. The NFL Strength of Schedule.
  3. The NFL odds.

AFC West: The Hardest To Predict

The AFC West was one of the most active divisions this offseason across the board, with the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos, and Las Vegas Raiders all making wholesale improvements. Throwing down the gauntlet, so to speak, and announcing their intention to give six-time defending AFC West champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, a run for their money.

Bookmakers still favor the Chiefs to win the division. BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review) has priced the Chiefs as the favorites to win at +170. The Chargers and Broncos nip at their heels while the Raiders round out the division as the fourth-best bet.

  • Kansas City Chiefs (+170)
  • Los Angeles Chargers (+225)
  • Denver Broncos (+260)
  • Las Vegas Raiders (+575)

The AFC West Strength of Schedule

The NFL schedule for the AFC West is one of the toughest. The Kansas City Chiefs emerge with the fifth toughest schedule according to the NFL Strength of Schedule rankings, which calculate the combined opponents’ record from the previous season to derive a win percentage.

The Chiefs’ opponents have a 154-135-0 record combined for a 0.533 win percentage (that is tied with the San Francisco 49ers). For most teams, such a schedule would be daunting; that’s not the case here and for good reason. Simply put, the Chiefs have been one of the best teams in the AFC and wider NFL ever since Patrick Mahomes took over as the offensive pivot in 2018.

The same can’t be said of the Raiders, for example. Las Vegas has the seventh toughest schedule in the league. In some respects, this schedule has impacted the Raiders’ odds as they emerge as the fourth-best bet in practically every single AFC West scenario.

  • 5th: Kansas City Chiefs | 154-135-0, 0.533
  • 7th: Las Vegas Raiders | 152-136-1, 0.528
  • 10th: Los Angeles Chargers | 150-139-0, 0.519
  • 15th: Denver Broncos | 147-142-0, 0.509

Denver Broncos Analysis

The Broncos were at the center of one of the biggest trades in 2022, acquiring quarterback Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks. It was one of the biggest trades in modern history that sent seismic shockwaves through NFL betting markets. It’s not every day that a team acquires a nine-time Pro-Bowl and one-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, who is still in his prime at 33 years of age.

On the strength of this blockbuster trade, the Broncos jumped into contention in the AFC West. While they are the third-best bet to win the division at +260, they’re not too far off of the Chiefs at +170 and the Chargers at +225.

Interestingly, in the NFL Division finishing position market with BetOnline, the Broncos are projected to finish second according to the odds. That stands in stark contrast to the overall AFC West division-winning odds market. Having the easiest schedule in the division might be playing into this market.

Broncos’ Division Finishing Position Odds

  • 2nd: +250
  • 1st: +260
  • 3rd: +260
  • 4th: +300

Los Angeles Chargers Analysis

The Chargers made some big moves, including the acquisition of linebacker Khalil Mack to bolster their ranks. Quarterback Justin Herbert is a promising talent and as he prepares for his third year, expectations are very high.

Consensus opinion has the Chargers taking a huge step forward in the 2021-22 NFL season. The Chargers challenged the Chiefs for the division title before settling on a 9-8-0 finish and second place.

The Chargers are tipped as the second-best bet after the Chiefs at +225 to win. In the BetOnline NFL standings market, they’re favored to finish first. That’s telling.

Chargers’ Division Finishing Position Odds

  • 1st: +220
  • 2nd: +230
  • 3rd: +300
  • 4th: +310

Los Angeles Raiders Analysis

The Los Angeles Raiders scored big time with the acquisition of wide receiver Davante Adams. Interestingly, scoring one of the most sought-after wide receivers in the league hasn’t raised their betting value.

The low expectations for the Raiders are down to several factors. One can’t overlook the changes in the back office along with the staffing changes that include new head coach Josh McDaniels. The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator has championship pedigree, but it’s as yet untested in a head coaching role.

Another aspect is Derek Carr. A solid quarterback in the eyes of many, but one that ranks, in comparison to his divisional counterparts, as the fourth-best signal-caller in the group. As such, the Raiders are tipped to finish fourth in both the NFL Division outrights and finishing position market.

Raiders Division’s Finishing Position Odds

  • 4th: +140
  • 3rd: +225
  • 2nd: +335
  • 1st: +575

Kansas City Chiefs Analysis

Six-time defending AFC West champions Kansas City Chiefs made some bold moves, too, though some might say in the opposite direction. The most eyebrow-raising was letting wide receiver Tyreek Hill go. They did bring JuJu Smith-Schuster on board as well as Marquez Valdes-Scantling to help fill the void left by Hill.

The Chiefs’ value remains high with bookmakers as they’re favored to clinch the division as well as finish first in the standings. It’s impossible to go against the Chiefs when their track record of success since 2018 includes four AFC Championship appearances, two AFC Championship titles, and a Super Bowl.

Chiefs’ Division Finishing Position Odds

  • 1st: +160
  • 2nd: +225
  • 3rd: +360
  • 4th: +400