Conor McGregor is a legendary UFC fighter. Not many combatants can take a year off from fighting, announce their next bout, and instantly be established as the overwhelming odds-on favorite in the UFC 257 picks. Yet that's exactly how The Notorious one rolls. He will headline UFC 257 on Jan. 23, facing Dustin Poirier in a rematch of former UFC world lightweight champs. McGregor is the -235 favorite in the bout.
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NFL Division Previews: AFC West Preview
1. Denver Broncos, -175
New coach, old quarterback, same results. The Broncos have won the AFC West each season since they made a splash signing Peyton Manning after his infamous neck surgeries. But Manning enters the season at 39 years old and showed signs of slowing down in the second half of 2014. Even if Manning declines a bit in 2015, the team is still stacked with talent on both sides of the ball. The receiving core features the always dangerous Demaryius Thomas and an excellent possession receiver in Emmanuel Sanders. Even with their talent, the key for the Broncos may be from a revitalized and deep backfield. C.J Anderson came out of nowhere in 2014 and enters 2015 as one of the NFL top running back. The depth will help spell Anderson, with Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman each likely to see their share of carries to help keep both Anderson and Manning fresh.
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos have some elite defensive players able to keep the Broncos in just about every game. Von Miller and Demarcus Ware provide the Broncos will a potent one-two punch on the pass-rush. The secondary is loaded with talent as well with the feisty Aqib Talib, the underappreciated Chris Harris Jr. and the hard-hitting safety T.J Ward. The team's balance makes them once again the favourite to win the AFC West in 2015.
2. San Diego Chargers, +500
The savvy veteran quarterback, Philip Rivers, recently signed an extension to finish up his career as a Charger. As the veteran has many individual achievements throughout his career, he lacks a Super Bowl ring and will be entirely focused on winning one before he retires. Rivers has a strong and deep offense surrounding him, albeit it lacks a true game charger like the Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas or Kansas City’s running back Jamaal Charles. The signing of veteran Stevie Johnson helps fill that void, if he can play like he did in Buffalo from 2010-2012. Johnson’s never played with a QB nearly as talented as Rivers and with a tall red zone threat in Malcom Floyd and the soft hands of Keenan Allen, things should open up for Johnson. The backfield is filled with talent, but determining who plays when and where will be their largest problem – and it’s not too bad of a problem to have. Talented 1st round pick Melvin Gordon will likely get the bulk of the carries with Danny Woodhead and Brandon Oliver having third down duty. Charger great, Antonio Gates, is suspended the first 4 games of 2015, but Ladarius Green should fill in admirably to start the season as the teams’ top tight end.
The defense is not striking fear into the eyes of many opponents, but it has enough talent to help the Chargers contend for a Wild-Card spot. If the line-backing group can stay healthy, Donald Butler, Melvin Ingram and Manti Te’o should be the greatest element of the Chargers defense. Safety Eric Weedle continually gets the job done and has been the best defensive player on the Chargers for a couple of years now.
3. Kansas City Chiefs, +325
The offense of the Chiefs may not be very entertaining to watch, outside of the amazing Jamaal Charles, but it has been efficient. The Chiefs receiving core was just plain awful in 2014, with the group failing to catch a single touchdown in 2014. The chiefs added one of the top receiver free agents in the offseason in Jeremy Maclin. Maclin had a career year in 2014, but that came in a passing friendly Philly offense. Still his addition and the emergence of Travis Kelce at tight end will help the Chiefs passing game take a positive step forward in 2015. The key for Chiefs is still Jamaal Charles. When healthy, it’s easy to argue he is the top running back in the league. Knile Davis provides the Chiefs with a reliable backup.
The Chiefs have one of the best defensive units in the NFL. The group has few weakness and features the runner-up Defensive Player of the Year in Justin Houston. Houston is joined by Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson to make the best group of linebackers in the league. With depth in the secondary and Dontari Poe plugging up the middle, the Chiefs are as formidable as they come.
4. Oakland Raiders, +1400
They are young, they are gaining talent, but they still are two steps behind their division rivals. The Raiders have gone 10 long years without a playoff appearance and it will continue in 2015. The upside of the Raiders is they are finally looking like they are building an actual team, instead of signing old players to bad contracts. Derek Carr had some flashes of greatness in his rookie season and he should take a large step forward in 2015. The main reason? The drafting of wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper was a Heisman Finalist in 2014 – a very impressive feat for a WR, and has all the intangibles to be a great NFL receiver. The defense is similar to the offense, as it has some good young talent, but hasn’t quite enough to really be competitive in 2015. Veteran Charles Woodson will be an important mentor to the young group and will help them evolve into a stronger unit over the next season.
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