And so, hot on the heels of our look at the NFC Divisions, it’s time to look at the AFC, starting with the East, where New England are hotly fancied to repeat.
The New England Patriots are going for four divisional titles in a row now and after winning the East by five clear games in 2011, clearly the other franchises have a lot of ground to make up. However while Bill Belicheck will always give them some kind of advantage, it will be interesting to see how they cope this season now that defenses have learned a bit more about their double tight end strategy. In terms of value, 2/7 is of no use to us so instead we would suggest having a second look at the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills have a nice schedule, offensively they have a lot of different weapons and the introduction of Stephon Gilmore and Mario Williams could be the difference between conceding 25 points per game and conceding 20. The Jets look to be in as much disarray as ever while the Dolphins have a lot of work to do – if the Patriots are to be unseated, the Bills are the team to do it.
The Ravens finally seemed to gain an edge over the Steelers last season but both sides have lost some key players and it will be fascinating to see how they cope this time around. The Cleveland Browns are way too far off the pace while the issue for the Cincinnati Bengals will be avoiding second season slump. There are huge question marks over all three main contenders and if we had to have a bet, it could only be on the Bengals, strictly based on price. There are too many better options however, so we’ll move on.
Lets look at what happened in 2011 at Houston. RB Arian Foster started the year with a significant injury, WR Andre Johnson spent two different spells on the sidelines with a variety of ailments, LB and star defensive player Mario Williams missed the vast majority of the year while quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart both suffered season-ending injuries within a very short time. However, despite all this, Houston got the job done and they secured a slot in the playoffs where they acquitted themselves quite well, even with rookie TJ Yates under centre.
Now let’s imagine for a moment that all these players stay healthy in 2012. Clearly the Texans are streets ahead of their rivals in this division and it’s a surprise that Corals have held their 2/7 as long as they have. Despite this, a return of 28% on a bet that will take half a year to be settled? No thanks, no bet.
From a betting point of view, the West is where it’s at this year. Peyton Manning has arrived at Denver to join Carson Palmer in a division that could easily be called a retirement home for quarterbacks, and consequently the Broncos are the favourites at a best price of 15/8.
Hills are the bookies laying that price and they are right to do so. Even if Manning stays fit all year, which is far from certain, they have been handed a really tough schedule. Their first six games outside the division will be against teams that made the playoffs last season and the Broncos weren’t good in those games last year.
Our choice for this division, by some margin, is the Kansas City Chiefs. Injuries tore the heart out of this franchise last season but Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry are back in harness again, while Peyton Hillis could be a very shrewd acquisition. Matt Cassel is not an elite QB and Dwayne Bowe’s lack of form due to holding out is a concern, but the Chiefs have a lot of the basics well looked after. Stanford Routt is a huge addition as a covering corner, while they still have one of the best run defenses and pass rushing units in the league. 7/2 is freely available and that’s by far the best AFC divisional bet on offer.
AFC Divisions – Antepost Recommendations
Buffalo Bills to win the AFC East – 1pt @ 8/1
Kansas City Chiefs to win the AFC West – 2pts @ 7/2