The AFC South turned upside down in 2017. The Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, who had combined for 13 of the previous 14 division championships, both finished 4-12.
The Jacksonville Jaguars won the four-team group for the first time since the NFL restructured its divisions in 2002, winning 10 games. The Tennessee Titans were close behind with nine victories.
In 2018, the division should be stronger. The Texans and Colts are getting some of their best players back from injury and should improve their records. Meanwhile, the Jaguars and Titans don’t figure to take a major, if any, step back.
Here we will preview each of these four teams’ rosters heading into the 2018 season, then give some AFC South betting predictions and picks advice on the futures listed by several of the top oddsmakers for the United States.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2017 record: 10-6, No. 1 in AFC South, Lost in AFC Championship Game)
Was 2017 a one-year aberration or a sign of things to come for the Jaguars? One of the NFL’s most notorious losing franchises won more than five games for the first time in seven seasons last year, seizing 10 victories and winning the AFC South. Not only that, the Jags tied for third in the NFL in point differential (plus-149) and nearly won the AFC Championship game before blowing a lead to the New England Patriots.
Not surprisingly, Jacksonville is keeping a very similar roster heading into 2018. The squad is banking on its continuity leading to more success, and it very likely will do just that.
The Jaguars’ roster is young, hungry and full of stars, especially on defense. Two excellent cornerbacks in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, as well as two elite defensive lineman in Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson, make it a chore to pass the ball on the Jags.
Jacksonville will continue its upward ascension in the NFL’s hierarchy, but a stronger division will prevent an excessively gaudy record.
- Record Prediction: 11-5
- Best Odds To Win AFC South: +185 at Bovada
Houston Texans (2017 record: 4-12, No. 4 in AFC South)
The Texans got rocked by injuries in 2017. They had the most contract money in the NFL that missed games due to injury.
The three most notable injured stars were quarterback Deshaun Watson, defensive linemen J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, who missed a combined 29 games. Watson played like an upper-tier signal-caller as a rookie before tearing his ACL in practice midway through the season.
Houston’s collapse after losing its stars does indicate a depth issue, especially on defense. The Texans ended the year last in points allowed per game (27.3) and got burned frequently in the passing game without the pass rush provided by Watt and Mercilus. Offensively, the personnel was good enough to remain respectable even once Watson went down.
The Texans are a bit of a wild card here. They are a top-heavy team reliant on some players who are returning from major injuries, but it could be another lost season if those guys don’t provide the value they’re capable of.
- Record Prediction: 9-7
- Best Odds: +203 with 5Dimes
Tennessee Titans (2017 record: 9-7, No. 2 in AFC South, Lost in AFC Divisional Round)
The Titans, unlike the Texans listed above them and the Colts listed below them, were a lucky team in 2017. They had the third-fewest games missed to injury in the NFL (120) and had a mediocre point differential of minus-22 despite their playoff berth and winning record.
That’s not to say the Titans don’t have a chance to be very good in 2018. They are bringing in new head coach Mike Vrabel, who was a surprise pick for the job but seems to be a good fit. He will attempt to lead a rebound from offensive and defensive units that both underachieved a bit last season.
Tennessee bolstered its defense with solid personnel, but with other division members getting stronger in 2018, I wouldn’t count on a division title.
- Record Prediction: 8-8
- Best Odds: +333 with Bovada
Indianapolis Colts (2017 record: 4-12, No. 3 in AFC South)
Over the past two offseasons, the Colts have essentially hit the reset button on their franchise, bringing in a new head coach (Frank Reich), general manager (Chris Ballard) and lots of fresh faces for the roster. They are switching from a 3-4 defensive scheme to the 4-3 and are planning to pick up the tempo on offense.
A new approach should do the Colts well coming off a disappointing campaign. Indianapolis has had poor injury luck in both of the last two seasons, and star quarterback Andrew Luck’s shoulder kept him completely out for 2017. He is one of the most valuable players in the league.
Luck’s health is the main X-factor for this team in 2017. If he’s 100 percent, he’s the kind of game-changing talent that can help cover for a clearly below-average defense (which the Colts have) and just average offensive weapons. One area where the Colts definitely should be better is with the offensive line, which they targeted heavily in the offseason.
Indianapolis is a young team with good pieces for the future, but anything less than an MVP-caliber campaign from Luck will find them missing out on a division title. A Luck explosion is certainly possible, but it’s not likely.
- Record Prediction: 7-9
- Best Odds: +575 with 5Dimes
AFC South Predictions, Preview, Picks & Final Recommendations
This is one of those divisions where all four teams should be at least respectable. Any of the four teams have a chance to win, and the odds provided by the betting sites feel accurate in terms of each team’s probability of taking the AFC South.
The Colts and their long odds could be a nice investment if you are optimistic about Andrew Luck’s shoulder returning to full health.
- But the Jaguars are the team that sticks out as the smartest bet to win the AFC South @ +185 with Bovada. That is value odds on a team that was really good last season and is only getting better.