Our NFL preview series continues with the AFC South, as the 2021-22 football season is just days away from kickoff. Last year, this division was won by the Tennessee Titans, as they defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, and Indianapolis Colts to claim the crown and trip to the postseason.
Now, the path to the playoffs once again looks like Tennessee’s for the taking, though Indianapolis did take steps forward to potentially challenge the Titans for the South title. As it stands, the Titans are still the United States’ oddsmakers’ favorites to take home the AFC South but the Colts aren’t far behind. As for the Jaguars and the Texans, this division is really just a two-horse race with both Jacksonville and Houston in various stages of rebuilding.
Tennessee Titans (+3000 to Win Super Bowl; +1500 AFC; -120 AFC South)
With a record of 11-5, the Tennessee Titans just barely edged out the Indianapolis Colts for the divisional title while the Colts reached the playoffs on a wildcard. Might the same happen again? If you are a Titans’ fan, you’ll certainly hope so.
That said, unlike many of the teams expected to finish at the top of their divisions, the Titans muddled through an offseason with more losses than gains, subtracting key defensive players in Malcolm Butler, Jadeveon Clowney, Kenny Vaccaro and more. Where the Titans may have taken a step back on defense, they took a step forward on offense bringing in Julio Jones as an excellent complement to the running game and the star that is Derrick Henry. No one and I mean no one, put up the kind of numbers Henry did last year as he simply annihilated defenses and made Ryan Tannehill’s job as passer that much simpler.
Now, Tannehill has some offensive weapons to extend the field. Coupled with Henry, Tennessee’s offense could be explosive. The defense needs work but looking around the division, it seems what the Titans have may just be enough to win another AFC South title.
Indianapolis Colts (+4000 Super Bowl; +1800 AFC; +150 AFC South)
For a few years now, many have looked up and down the roster of the Indianapolis Colts and thought the same thing: That this team was a playoff-caliber unit with playmakers on both offense and defense. Perhaps not with stars as flashy as those of the Titans, but the Colts are well-rounded and sometimes, that makes all the difference.
Following the untimely retirement of Andrew Luck in 2018, that playoff-caliber team had to deal with guys like Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason, and a brief stint of Phillip Rivers under center. This playoff-caliber team was seen to be just one quarterback away and prior to the 2021 season, the Colts believe they got the guy they were looking for. After a tumultuous end to his tenure as the Philadelphia Eagles’ franchise star, Carson Wentz has found his way back with his former offensive coordinator, now Colts’ head coach, Frank Reich.
If anyone can fix Wentz, it’s going to be Reich. So for Indy, the situation is simple. If Wentz can regain his MVP form of a few years ago, this is a team that won’t just be going to the playoffs but one that has a legitimate shot at contending for a ring. If he plays at the level he did in his latter years in Philly however, Indy will find themselves exactly where they’ve been: Still just one good quarterback away.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+20000 Super Bowl; +5000 AFC; +700 AFC South)
While not expected to contend for anything of value this season, the young Jacksonville Jaguars should be a fun team to watch as their maturation continues under rookie star, Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence was the prize of the 2021 offseason with the mantra “Tank for Trevor” thrown about in several NFL cities. It just so happened that one win was enough for the Jags to land their man.
After going 1-15 last year, there is virtually nowhere to go but up for Jacksonville and they will be banking on exactly that as Lawrence and new head coach Urban Meyer start working together. Things might start slow for Jacksonville but with a division on the line, surprisingly tough games against the Jags could well be the difference between if Tennessee or Indianapolis wins the ultimate prize.
Houston Texans (+35000 Super Bowl; +10000 AFC; +2800 AFC South)
There are 32 teams in the NFL so it’s just a reality of life that every year, one of those 32 has to finish in last. If the odds and NFL analysts are any indication, that team will be the Houston Texans.
Houston, we definitely have a problem: The Texans are going to be bad in 2021-22. There is no getting around that. Their team was essentially dismantled in the offseason with guys like Will Fuller and JJ Watt being granted releases and Deshaun Watson pending both a trade request and legal ramifications.
Watson will almost certainly never suit up for the Texans again, but that is the least of Houston’s issues. They are starting a brand-new head coach in David Culley, who is embarking on his first-ever head coaching job at college or the pros, and are doing so with a patchwork roster of players, none of whom will likely have any great impact.
Here’s to avoiding becoming the first NFL team to go 0-17, because with this Texans’ unit, that’s a very real possibility.
This Preview’s AFC South Picks & Predictions Verdict
Choosing between the Colts and Titans is a bit of a toss-up. I like Tennessee to defend their title but if you want value (and trust in the Carson Wentz revival), then taking the fortified Colts as slight underdogs isn’t a bad way to go and that is my pick for this preview. Indy has a great team. Their success really just hinges on if Wentz can return to form.
- Indianapolis Colts to land the AFC South @ 160 with BetOnline. It is +150 with Bovada and +140 with Intertops.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.