NFL Division Picks & Analysis: AFC South Preview & Betting Predictions – Colts Fired Up

Matt RyanOur journey through the NFL now takes us to our final division, the AFC South, home to the Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans.

In the case of the AFC South, we didn’t exactly save the best for last. The division, which last year was won by the Tennessee Titans for the second year in a row, is looking like a two-horse race. The Titans have been the class of the South for the last few years, but in that span, the Indianapolis Colts were never far away. By every estimation, the Colts seem to have closed and even surpassed that gap leading up to the 2022-23 season.

Elsewhere in the division are the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans, who finished last year with the worst and third worst records in the NFL. These two teams could once again end up competing for the first overall pick in the draft.

Will the Titans retain their crown? Or will the Colts’ rebuild finally come to fruition? This AFC South predictions and preview article, with its betting picks implications, aims to answer those questions.

Indianapolis Colts (+2500 Super Bowl, +1200 AFC, -130 AFC South)

Ever since Andrew Luck announced his surprise retirement from the NFL in 2019, the Indianapolis Colts have tried and failed to find their next franchise quarterback. All the while, the team didn’t lack talent, but they were always one quarterback away from being able to take that next step and return to the contending status they enjoyed with Luck under center.

The Colts believe they have found that quarterback in long-time Atlanta Falcons star Matt Ryan. The 2016 NFL MVP, Ryan has enjoyed a 14-year career with more ups than downs. Consistently among the top-15 and oftentimes even top-8 of NFL signal callers, Ryan comes to the Colts needing a change of scenery as much as the Colts needed a change at quarterback. Both sides should benefit from this scenario.

Ryan still has gas left in the tank and he’ll come to a Colts team that has better weapons than Ryan’s last few years in Atlanta. Namely, that of Jonathan Taylor, the league’s top running back. While head coach Frank Reich has said they won’t be running Taylor as much as last year, his presence will still have a massive impact on the passing game. Taylor in the backfield will cause opposing defenses to focus on stuffing the run which will open up Ryan for more options downfield including Michael Pittman, Parris Campbell and Alec Pierce. By default, this division is the Colts to lose.

Tennessee Titans (+4000 Super Bowl, +2000 AFC, +175 AFC South)

The Tennessee Titans under Mike Vrabel emerged a few years ago with a complete overhaul. The former Bill Belichick coaching/playing tree member, Vrabel brought a smash mouth style of defense to the Titans, complete with an offensive reinvigoration that no one saw coming. After a career of being average-at-best with the Miami Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill’s stay in Tennessee has turned heads. Then Derrick Henry arrived and completely flipped everything on its head. The Titans didn’t just become good, they became Super Bowl contenders. In those ensuing years, Tennessee has failed to realize that potential, having not won a playoff game in three years.

In 2022 their position as regular season world-beaters seems more in doubt than ever. Namely because of Henry’s health. This team will go as far as their Pro Bowl running back will take them and last year, Henry’s injury seemed severely to hamper that. He returned in time for the playoffs, but it was clear he was a shell of himself. Now, he’s had an entire offseason to get healthy but with running backs, injuries like the one he sustained can be lingering.

The Titans will need Henry to stay on the field especially given the hit Tennessee took in the passing game. Tannehill now has one less weapon than he had a year ago, a weapon that just so happened to be one of the top pass catchers in the league in AJ Brown. Without Brown, the Titans will rely on a passing game that is now anchored by Robert Woods and tight end Austin Hooper.

Jacksonville Jaguars (+12500 Super Bowl, +6500 AFC, +750 AFC South)

We’ll make this as quick and painless as possible. Last year was an absolute mess for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Urban Meyer experiment, in no uncertain terms, did not work. Trevor Lawrence struggled to boot in his rookie year, showing flaws in his game for the first time in his career. Granted, some of that could, and likely should, be attributed to all of the issues with Meyer, but Lawrence will have to step it up and show the prowess that made Jacksonville pick him first overall in the ‘Tank for Trevor’ sweepstakes.

This year, he’ll have a receiver to throw to as the Jaguars threw some money at former Arizona Cardinals wide out Christian Kirk, but other than that, there is not much to say about the Jaguars. Here’s hoping Doug Pederson, who comes with Super Bowl pedigree and a decent resume, can bring a sense of semblance back to the team. If not, it’s gonna be a long year for the Jags.

Houston Texans (+25000 Super Bowl, +12500 AFC, +3000 AFC South)

The best thing for the Jaguars in 2022 is sharing a division with the Houston Texans, who are projecting to be the NFL’s worst team this season and it’s easy to see why. After a year of not having Deshaun Watson, the Texans will now truly have to move on without their former Pro Bowl quarterback. They seem to be sticking with Davis Mills, perhaps only to perpetuate a losing season that ultimately leads them to a quarterback-rich draft in 2023.

Their roster is bare bones, with a receiving core of Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins, and Phillip Dorsett hardly turning any heads. This is not a team set up to compete or to win a lot of games this year. The rebuild is officially on in Houston.