How To Bet AFC West Futures Based on Odds Aaron Rodgers Is Traded to Broncos
Peter Aiken/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers
Action’s Director of Predictive Analytics, Sean Koerner, simulated the 2021 NFL season 10,000 times to project win totals and playoff odds for every AFC West team in order to identify early value on their futures.
The kicker? With rumblings about an Aaron Rodgers trade to Denver, Koerner has factored that possibility into these early simulations.
2021 AFC West Projections
|Kansas City Chiefs||69.1%||22.8%||7.2%||0.9%|
|Las Vegas Raiders||1.0%||8.2%||23.0%||67.7%|
|Los Angeles Chargers||14.5%||38.9%||34.8%||11.8%|
Broncos Win Total Projections
|Make vs. Miss Playoffs||42.8% vs. 57.2%|
Who will be the Broncos’ Week 1 starting quarterback? That’s the only factor we need to consider when betting on their futures right now.
Let’s take a look at BetMGM’s current market for that very prop:
- Drew Lock: +160
- Teddy Bridgewater: +160
- Brett Rypien: +2000
- Any other not listed: +225
Any other not listed” is just a fancy way of saying “Aaron Rodgers.” The future first-ballot Hall of Famer has made it known that he wants out of Green Bay, and Denver is the heavy favorite to land Rodgers if he ends up being traded.
Based on my 2021 NFL simulations, here are the chances of the Broncos going over their 8.5 win total based on each potential Week 1 starter — including Rodgers:
- Lock or Bridgewater: 40.9%
- Rodgers: 88.1%
- Hinton: 0.0%
Those chances are based on whether each of those quarterbacks are guaranteed to be the Week 1 starter, though, which means that when I simulate this season with a 100% chance that Rodgers is the Broncos’ Week 1 starter, they go over their 8.5-win total 88.1% of the time. By contrast, when I simulate the season with a 0% chance that Rodgers is their Week 1 starter, they go over their win total only 40.9% of the time.
But it’s not as simple as there being only either a 100% or 0% chance that Rodgers is traded to Denver, so I created a trade simulator to correctly price the potential blockbuster deal based on Rodgers’ trade props and the Broncos’ Week 1 starter odds at various sportsbooks.
I’m not trying to beat the market for a trade occurring, which is why I used those updated odds to calculate a 30% chance that he’s traded to the Broncos and a 70% chance he stays with the Packers.
When I blend those 30/70 chances of this trade, it gives the Broncos a 53% chance of going over 8.5 wins, with a 47% chance of going under. That happens to be right in line with the market.
However, I’m showing some value on the Broncos making the playoffs (+185) and finishing last in the division (+450). That could be because the market isn’t factoring in how wide the range of outcomes is for Denver to acquire Rodgers (as you can see in the Broncos’ win total chart above).
You do not want to bet on both props, but depending on which team you believe Rodgers will play for in 2021, these currently offer the best value.
- If you think Rodgers plays in Denver: To make the playoffs (+185) at BetMGM
- If you think Rodgers does not play in Denver: Finish 4th in AFC West (+450) at BetMGM
Chiefs Win Total Projection
|Make vs. Miss Playoffs||91.6% vs. 8.4%|
The Chiefs will be looking to bounce back after a humiliating loss in Super Bowl LV.
One of the main reasons they lost to Tampa Bay was due to their offensive line falling apart down the stretch. They addressed this issue with a flurry of offseason moves:
- Free-agent acquisitions: LG Joe Thuney, C Austin Blythe, RG Kyle Long
- Draft picks: C Creed Humphrey
- Traded away: LT Orlando Brown
- 2020 Opt Out Returns: RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
I have the Chiefs ranked as my No. 1 team heading into 2021. As long as Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Chris Jones are healthy, they should be favorites against any other team in the NFL. (Keep an eye out for my NFC South preview to read why it’s premature to make Tampa Bay my No. 1 team.)
The Chiefs weren’t as dominant last season as their 14-2 record would indicate. They went 8-1 in one-score games and were the first team in NFL history to win six straight games by six or fewer points. It’s unlikely that they’ll maintain that win rate in close games again this season, and a 12-5 record is their most likely outcome (21.9% chance based on my simulations).
Kansas City faced the eighth-easiest schedule in 2020, but is set to face the 11th-toughest schedule in 2021 when factoring in the 30/70 chances of Rodgers ending up in Denver.
My numbers indicate there’s slight value on under 12.5 wins, but I’m not interested in betting against a motivated Mahomes who recently told media:
The only record that I have my eyes set on breaking, which will be new this year, is going 20-0. It’s not really a record to be broken, I guess you would say. I think 19-0 is the record right now, so being able to go 20 and 0, to be the first one to do that would be awesome.
Lean: Under 12.5 (-115) at BetMGM
Raiders Win Total Projection
|Make vs. Miss Playoffs||10.6% vs. 89.4%|
One of the Raiders’ few strengths in 2020 was their offensive line. For some reason, they decided to take a wrecking ball to it and trade away Rodney Hudson, Trent Brown, and Gabe Jackson in the offseason while making another head-scratching decision to sign running back Kenyan Drake to a two-year deal worth $14.5 million to back up Josh Jacobs.
The Raiders did go on to spend their first-round pick on OT Alex Leatherwood as they attempt to rebuild the line, and they made some solid moves on the defensive side of the ball, but their secondary is still an issue — a weakness that Justin Herbert, Mahomes and potentially Rodgers will be able to exploit in two games apiece this year.
Derek Carr is one of the more underrated QBs in the league. He played like a top-10 QB in just about every metric last season: Sports Info Solutions’ IQR (eighth), Football Outsiders’ DVOA (ninth), adjusted net yards per attempt (ninth), and PPA/play (eighth). However, his conservative playing style isn’t enough to overcome their below-average defense.
The Raiders also have the toughest schedule when factoring in the 30/70 chances of Rodgers being traded to Denver, so I’m attacking the under on their win total.
Here are their results from my simulation:
- 6 or fewer wins: 50.3%
- 7 wins exactly: 20.0%
- 8 or more wins: 29.7%
Pick: Under 7 (+105) at BetMGM
Chargers Win Total Projection
|Make vs. Miss Playoffs||47.2% vs. 52.8%|
The Chargers replaced head coach Anthony Lynn with former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley — a move that should improve their defense, which along with in-game decision-making, I believe has cost the Chargers a few games over Lynn’s tenure.
One metric that demonstrates that is their expected win total based on game time spent tied vs. leading vs. trailing: They played more like an 8.5-7.5 team than their 7-9 record indicates, and that -1.5 difference in expected record ranked as the fifth-worst last season. My takeaway from this is that they’ll improve quite a bit with better in-game management.
In 2020, the Chargers had the sixth-worst injury luck according to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric. However, if Joey Bosa and Derwin James can stay healthy for all 17 games, the Chargers should go over their win total.
They also spent the offseason rebuilding their offensive line. They added C Corey Linsley and LG Matt Feiler, and drafted LT Rashawn Slater with the 13th overall pick. It’s one of many reasons I’m bullish on the Chargers heading into 2021.
I’m projecting them for a 9-8 record (20.0% chance), but show quite a bit of value on the over. I have them winning 10 or more games 45.9% of the time and winning eight or fewer just 34.1% of the time.
I also see value in taking the Chargers to finish second in the AFC West at +200. Being in the same division with the Chiefs caps the Chargers’ ceiling, making them likely to finish runner-up.
It’s worth noting that the possibility of Rodgers going to Denver is impacting the Chargers’ odds quite a bit. Here is the fair price I would have for them to finish second based on what happens with Rodgers:
- Rodgers stays in Green Bay: +120
- Rodgers plays for Denver: +290
I would stay away from this prop if you think there is greater than a 50% chance Rodgers ends up in Denver