The 2022 NFL futures are in full swing across multiple top-rated sportsbooks, covering a wide range of aspects from Super Bowl LVII to Conference and Division winners odds.
The Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills emerge as the top two favourites to win Super Bowl LVII. Consequently, they’re the teams to beat in the AFC Conference and their respective divisions.
The focus of this column is the division odds market as it pertains to the AFC West and AFC East and highlighting potential threats to the dominance of both the Chiefs and Bills in their respective fields. Who are the likely challengers in the AFC West and AFC East that could give this top tandem a run for its money?
Below we take a close look at the odds as per DraftKings Sportsbook to get a sense of how the fields stack up and search for the early value plays in each section.
AFC West: Chargers Loom As Biggest Threat to the Chiefs
By all accounts, the Kansas City Chiefs are the team to beat not only in the AFC West division but also the AFC Conference and Super Bowl LVII. The Chiefs have won five straight AFC West division titles, two AFC Championships and one Super Bowl title since Patrick Mahomes burst onto the scene in 2018.
AFC West Division Winner Odds As Per DraftKings
Kansas City Chiefs -145
Los Angeles Chargers +350
Denver Broncos +500
Las Vegas Raiders +850
Kansas City’s level of consistency is second to none under Mahomes. They’ve only known the success, reaching the AFC Championship game or better since 2018.
For the first time, though, the Chiefs might have a legitimate threat in their immediate neighbourhood. Justin Herbert has transformed the Los Angeles Chargers since winning the starting job in 2020. He won the offensive rookie of the year award in his first year. Last season, he led the Chargers to a surprising victory over the Chiefs at Arrowhead stadium and had the Chargers in pole position in the division standings a few times.
Although the Chargers failed to keep the momentum up and narrowly missed the playoffs after finishing with a 9-8-0 record, there is a lot to like about this team and its young quarterback who will be starting his third year in the NFL in 2022. If there’s a team that can disrupt the Chiefs’ dominance, the Chargers fit the bill.
The Denver Broncos are the surprising third-best bet in this field, priced at +500 to win the AFC West. As things currently stand, the Broncos aren’t worthy of such high estimation and the odds aren’t merited based on the existing talent.
The impetus behind these odds is speculation about what might happen. That is a potential trade with the Green Bay Packers for Aaron Rodgers, which is fuelling the offseason rumour mill.
Of course, should the back-to-back MVP move to Denver, the Broncos would automatically be deemed contenders and their odds would shorten further. But betting on something that hasn’t happened – may not happen – is risky. Moreover, one has to consider whether Rodgers would welcome a trade into one of the toughest divisions in the league after having his way with a relatively relaxed NFC North.
The Las Vegas Raiders are set to begin a new era under Josh McDaniels, but the prognosis isn’t high as they’re the longshots of the division. McDaniels is an unproven entity as a head coach and his pairing with Derek Carr isn’t exactly getting rave reviews at the sportsbook exchange.
Top Pick: Kansas City Chiefs -145
Value Pick: Los Angeles Chargers +350
AFC East: Patriots the biggest threat to the Bills
Two-time AFC East champions the Buffalo Bills are the runaway favourites at -200 to win a third-straight AFC East title. There’s no doubting the Bills are deserved favourites in this section. In the last two seasons, they’ve combined for a 24-9 record, two division titles and one AFC Conference appearance (2020).
AFC East Division Winner Odds As Per DraftKings
Buffalo Bills -200
New England Patriots +350
Miami Dolphins +600
New York Jets +2200
Last season’s campaign ended in the division round of the playoffs in a 78-point thriller against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills lost 42-36 in overtime with Josh Allen never seeing the field in extra time. It marked the second season in a row that the Bills were dumped out of the playoffs by Mahomes and the Chiefs.
The New England Patriots are the second-best bet to win at +350. The Patriots were the surprise package of the 2021 season with rookie quarterback Mac Jones exceeding most expectations. They were the only side to challenge the Bills last season, splitting their regular seeing meetings 1-1, and they came close to clinching the AFC East title.
Where the Patriots go in 2022 remains to be seen as the organisation has seen some staffing changes, namely the departure of Josh McDaniels, who took the head coaching job in Las Vegas. However, with Bill Belichick at the helm and Jones proving his worth as a starting quarterback in the league, there’s a lot to be optimistic about in New England.
The Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets opened as the longshots in the section with odds of +600 and +2200, respectively. Both sides go into 2022 with more questions than answers. The Dolphins still don’t know if quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is the answer. New head coach Mike McDaniel, who replaces Brian Flores at the helm, is another unknown as he embarks on his first year as the man in charge.
The New York Jets are a work in progress. Second-year head coach Robert Saleh might be on a short leash while second-year quarterback Zach Wilson might be on an even shorter leash after his rookie season fell well short of the mark.
Top Pick: Buffalo Bills -200
Value Pick: New England Patriots +350