Our NFL preview series finishes out with the AFC South, home to the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.
Last year’s surprise team, the Titans earned a wildcard bid before going on to shock the New England Patriots in the playoffs, giving Tom Brady and Bill Belichick their first wildcard weekend loss. Former Belichick disciple Mike Vrabel was huge for the Titans in his first year at the head coaching reigns and Ryan Tannehill, longtime Miami Dolphin, was a revelation in the brand new scenery. This led to the perfect combination for the Titans, who managed to reach the AFC Championship before losing to ultimate Super Bowl winners, the Kansas City Chiefs.
It is worth noting that the Titans didn’t actually win the AFC South last year. That honor belonged to the Texans, who got routed by the Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs. While it may be unlikely for the division to send two teams to the postseason this year, the race for the AFC South crown is wide open. Tennessee and Houston led the way last time but the odds at the sportsbooks for stateside customers have Indianapolis favored to win this year and Jacksonville could well steal some wins as they continue their rebuild. The South won’t be the NFL’s best division by any means but it will be a competitive one. USAbetting looks at how the season might shake out with our preview and AFC South predictions.
+2000 for Super Bowl; +1100 AFC; +120 AFC South, all odds with Bovada
There were a lot of expectations thrown on the Colts prior to the 2019 season and they were expectations the team may have been able to meet had they not been stunned by the announcement of Andrew Luck’s premature retirement. The Colts scrambled to find a QB to replace their franchise leader and struggled as a result. Add to this the injuries that piled up and what looked like a promising offense turned into missing the playoffs and a sub-.500 record.
This year Indianapolis enters the season with a new outlook and new man under center as the team brought in former LA Chargers QB Phillip Rivers. While Rivers is near the twilight of his career, he is already an upgrade over what the Colts had last year. He is decent at best and serviceable at worst at this stage of his career but he is reliable and has a great track record when it comes to staying healthy. Rivers worked well with Keenan Allen in LA and he’ll have a similar receiver in the form of TY Hilton, who if healthy, should have a nice bounce-back year with Rivers under center.
Defensively, the Colts were average last year but through the draft and free agency, took steps to fix some of the holes they had. Their linebacker group is one of their best assets as Darius Leonard has been a star in his first two years in the NFL. The team is looking at a new and improved secondary as well with the biggest get being former Minnesota Vikings’ cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who will now man the position for the Colts.
Rivers is the big X factor here. Depending on what he has got left in the tank will determine what the Colts are able to do this year. As mentioned, he is already better than what the team had last year and he should be able to help make the difference.
+2800 Super Bowl; +1400 AFC; +175 AFC South
The Titans had a fairytale season last year but it’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice. Tennessee’s playoff run was only their second in the last 11 years and they did so with just a 9-7 regular season record. The Titans will need to be better than that if they hope to reach the postseason for a second consecutive year. The team ended their year taking down the Patriots and heavily favored Baltimore Ravens in last year’s playoffs, two big wins that the young Titans can certainly look to as they continue their growth in 2020.
For the Titans to make another playoff run, they will need Tannehill to duplicate his career performance from this past year. He opened up the passing game just enough that the Titans were able to treat that side of things as a threat thanks to solid outputs from AJ Brown and Corey Davis.
With the passing game a threat, it allowed Derrick Henry the opportunity to impose his will all over the field. Henry is an absolute star and he’ll look to continue finding success on the ground as he did in 2019. Henry is a tank, a bruising running back who took no prisoners en route to his league best 1,540 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. In the playoffs, he was brilliant and with Dion Lewis departing in the offseason, Henry should expect to get even more carries than he did last year. For the Titans, Henry will be one to watch as the young running back should put in an MVP-caliber year.
+6600 Super Bowl; +3300 AFC; +325 AFC South
The Texans are still a very good team but they find a way to lose as many big games as they seem to win. Making the playoffs in 2019, the Texans were absolutely overmatched by the Chiefs, which isn’t that bad given how good Kansas City was, but it was a symptom of a much larger problem. Despite having Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best QB/WR duos in the league, the Texans haven’t been able to get over the hump. The team is good and has at times been great, especially when Arian Foster was leading the running game. The Texans have yet to put it all together and with Hopkins leaving in the offseason, their window to do so is slowly closing.
Watson will have his work cut out for him but his offensive unit is still solid. Will Fuller will get the start as the top option and guys like Kenny Stills and new additions, Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb, will need to produce. In the running game, Hopkins’ legs are still good but the team opted not to re-sign Carlos Hyde, despite his 1,070 rushing yards to lead the team. Duke Johnson will have to step up and produce similar numbers for the first time in his career, if the Texans hope to keep pace in the tightly contested AFC South.
+20000 Super Bowl; +12500 AFC; +2000 AFC South
What is there really to say about the team that enters the year with the longest Super Bowl odds of the entire 32-team NFL? The Jaguars seemed on the verge of something not that long ago as the team had the best cornerback in the league in Jalen Ramsey and a defense that had quietly become a force to be reckoned with.
Offensively, the pieces were starting to fall into place and last year, Jacksonville thought they had their man as they signed Nick Foles to be the guy to pull it all together like he did for the Philadelphia Eagles a few years prior. Foles got injured and Gardner Minshew, while having his moments of brilliance, was still just a rookie quarterback. He is not there yet but 2020 will give him a shot to prove if he has staying power in the NFL. Other players to watch will be Leonard Fournette, Dede Westbrook and DJ Chalk, who had a breakout year at wide receiver catching eight touchdown passes.
Defensively, the Jaguars definitely need help as losing Ramsey left a hole that the team hasn’t been able to fill. Their rushing defense was all but non-existent and there is a lot of flux within the unit as the team’s rebuild continues. Jacksonville has some talented pieces but the team isn’t at the point where they could be considered contenders. I don’t believe they are as bad as the sportsbooks’ betting odds suggest but 2020 won’t be a winning year for the Jaguars. There could be some positives but overall, this is a rebuilding year and fans would do well to remember that.
Our Preview’s AFC South Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
Go with the class and the favorite here as the Indianapolis Colts have climbed into the top 10 of the Super Bowl conversation for good reason. This AFC South preview expects Indianapolis to return to the playoffs as divisional champs in 2020.
- As for the picks, our prediction is to have a wager on the Colts @ best betting odds of +130 with 5Dimes.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & 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.