Updated: Aug 6
For the longest time, the AFC South has been the laughing stock of the NFL. Comparable to the NFC East, the AFC South has constantly been riddled with awful teams that sit at the top of the draft. These bottom-of-the-barrel teams have come to know what to expect, unlike the NFC East where the deluded fans always believe there's a chance before inevitably crashing and burning far below expectations.
Historically the Indianapolis Colts have reigned supreme, and the outcome will be no different this season with Matt Ryan at the helm. The Tennessee Titans command respect too, after being the most disrespected #1 seed in the AFC Playoffs that we have seen in a long time. From there, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans make up the stigma I highlighted in the paragraph above. The Jaguars are looking to begin a fresh culture and build on their young talent once again after Urban Meyer ruined their hopes last season in a bar in Columbus, Ohio. The Houston Texans look to do the same, but with even less promising talent than the Jags and a lot to be desired after the Deshaun Watson situation has left a lot of damage and smoke behind.
Our friends in Vegas have made some fairly predictable props and futures for the AFC South, and I'll walk you through where I think we can jump on without biting the bullet on the bets they want you to take. Without further ado... the 2020 AFC South!
H/T NFL.com for the photo.
- Win Total: 10
- To Win the Division: -130
- Divison Wins Total: 3.5
I have been a Colts fan my whole life, and I have to say it has been a tough scene to watch at times over the past three years now. Seeing Luck retire was extremely difficult and disappointing after the team was finally ready to go with a stellar offensive line, several options on offense, and the best defense we had seen since Freeney, Mathis, Brackett, and Sanders. Now the Colts on their fourth quarterback in four years, but luckily Ryan should be an upgrade on Carson Wentz after last season's disastrous ending.
I am not going to lead you on and say that this team is going to be unstoppable next season. There are still major doubts about how Matt Ryan looked last season, the lack of WR depth, and losing Matt Glowinski on the offensive line. There is definitely a case for Matt Ryan to instantly be an improvement over Carson Wentz, and he will have better support around him than in Atlanta. Reports in Indy are saying that his mentals are similar to Luck, but I do not really value training camp hype with how much certain camps overhype their subpar assets (looking at you, Mac Jones).
The Colts also lost Rock Ya-Sin at corner but improved by acquiring pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue. Ya-Sin was replaced with Brandon Facyson, and Indy drafted safety Nick Cross to add further defensive reinforcements. The defensive unit as a whole should still be solid, and not as much of a worry compared to the offense.
The good news for the Colts is that their schedule is ranked 3rd easiest in the NFL by Warren Sharp. I don't place a ton of value in stuff like revenge games or redemption seasons, but if you are one of those people then it is easy to believe that the Colts will be out for blood. However, I do want to caution on how disappointing Indy's starts to the season have been in recent history. The Colts have lost 8 straight matchups in Week 1, and are 1-11 in Week 1 in the last 12 seasons.
OK, whatever, there are still 16 more weeks in the season and Indy heads to Jacksonville Week 2 which should be an easy win right? The Colts have not won in Jacksonville since 2014, losing the last 7 games as the visitors. Yes, that means Frank Reich has not won a Week 1 with the Colts or won a game in Jacksonville. But surely the home opener will help right the ship? Welcome home Indy... we are hosting Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs for Week 3.
I want to rip the NFL schedulers apart because the Colts have 5 divisional games in the first 7 weeks, facing the Titans in Week 4 followed by the Jags and Titans again in Weeks 6 and 7. This has been a constant problem with AFC South scheduling for years, where the NFL continues to just clump all of the division's games at the beginning or the end of the season. I am sure creating all 32 NFL team's schedules is a difficult challenge, but frontloading or backloading the schedule with a slew of division games for these AFC South teams is absolutely ridiculous and feels half-ass.
Let's put the trends, pessimism, and bias to the side, and look at the upside which I firmly believe in. From Week 4 and on, the Colts can STILL surpass their win total of 10 wins. Facing the AFC West this season is a challenge, but the NFC East should really help drive home that 3rd ranked ease of schedule. Their other matchups include hosting the Washington Commanders where Carson Wentz may emotionally collapse, hosting the Steelers who will either be mid-quarterback controversy or trying out rookie QB Kenny Pickett, and at Minnesota who the Colts have historically dominated with a record of 18-7.
I have the Colts losing at Tennessee, at Las Vegas, and at the Chargers. Throwing the first three weeks out the window, that still is good for 11 wins. The Colts finished 9-8 last season, losing the final 2 games and having a rough start. This team is still built playoff-ready thanks to general manager Chris Ballard, and they came close to exceeding ten wins last season plus hit 11 wins in 2020.
As long as Jonathan Taylor stays healthy and Matt Ryan provides more consistency than Wentz, the Colts should be able to see similar success to when they made their run the second half of last year. The schedule for Indy is easier than both of those previous seasons, and if historical trends from Week 1 and Jacksonville are broken, then that is a bonus for my favorite bet of the AFC South.
The Play: Colts OVER 10 Regular Season Wins -135 - to win 2 Units
H/T to AP Photo/Mark Humphrey for the photo.
- Win Total: 9
- To Win the Division: +175
- Division Win Total: 3.5
The Titans were the best team in the AFC during the regular season last year, but have nothing to show for their #1 seed after getting knocked out of their first game by the eventual AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals. The injury to Derrick Henry last year was detrimental to the Titans continued success, but he was able to ultimately return for the divisional round. The Titans traded star wideout AJ Brown to the Eagles, but have added a strong group of reinforcements on offense in Robert Woods, Austin Hooper, and rookie Treylon Burks.
My main question for football fans, bettors, and Vegas is why are the Titans so underappreciated? Mike Vrabel has shown time and time again that this squad can really dig deep against some of the best, especially when they are faced with challenges like Henry's injury last season. Yes, you lost your #1 receiver, but Tannehill is getting multiple new options and an exciting young talent in Burks who has drawn comps to Deebo Samuel and his predecessor Brown. The answer is simple - it is just the assumption they are going to regress, with nothing to back it.
The Titans schedule is the 12th most difficult, but there are some layups in there like the NFC East games and the games against the Texans and Jaguars. I think the win total of 9 is a solid line that they will at least push on. But I firmly believe the value lies in the Titans to make the Playoffs at -115. This squad is built to sustain through the regular season, and they have the personnel to do it. I think it is disrespectful to make it a toss-up on whether the previous season's #1 seed is going to make the playoffs or not, and the major reason driving this logic is that everyone else got better in the AFC. The Titans are not strangers to these tough games in their schedule and have been there before the last few seasons under Vrabel.
The Play: Titans to make the Playoffs -115 - 1.5 Units
H/T to Matt Stamey/Associated Press for the photo.
- Win Total: 6
- To Make the Playoffs: +400
- Division Win Total: 2.5
The Jaguars are an intriguing team as their franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence heads into his second season. This team is super young with a lot of talent on both sides of the ball that just needs to continue gathering experience in order to build success. The Jags have had the #1 pick back-to-back drafts and took Travon Walker out of Georgia this year to help support their pass rush. There are a number of exciting names of stars from college football on this roster, and bringing in Super Bowl champion head coach Doug Pederson is the added element of experience they hope will bring this team forward for the first time in ages.
I don't have a lot to say about the Jaguars from a season outlook perspective because they truly feel like a wildcard. They are going to show up some games and you will see the raw talent show out on the roster. But there will still be a lot of growing pains and games where you just laugh and say the Jaguars are back to being the Jaguars. However, the excitement and value for me is in the return of running back Travis Etienne.
Etienne and Lawrence were an unbelievable tandem at Clemson, but we did not get to see the two work together last season as Etienne was out all year. He is now back and at full strength, which will be an amazing weapon for Lawrence to build off of a disappointing rookie season performance. Etienne is one of the most explosive weapons that the Jaguars have, and I believe that the chemistry he has with Lawrence will really help show off his skills at the professional level. There is fantastic value on Etienne to win Comeback Player of the Year, and that is where I will sprinkle a bit.
I also find the divisional win total to be very interesting. If the Jaguars do continue their historical run against the Colts at home, do they still have 2 more wins in them in the remaining 5 divisional games? Facing the Titans twice is tough, and the Texans are awful but their matchup has always been a toss-up. I would much rather bank on this squad to not get there, because if the Colts break that streak and get a win in Jacksonville then that division win total to go over is as good as dead.
The Play: Jaguars Division Win Total UNDER 2.5 -110 - 1 Unit
The Flier: Travis Etienne Comeback Player of the Year +2500 - 0.25 Units
- Win Total: 4.5
- To Finish Last in the Division: -280
- Division Wins: 2
I could waste your time and my time writing several paragraphs about how garbage the Texans are going to be this year. I won't waste your time. Davis Mills showed some solid moments for Houston last season, but there are not a lot of positives down in Texas right now for NFL football. I find the division win total to be fascinating set at 2... so fascinating that I won't be touching it. There's a reason your sportsbook is probably offering props for the Texans to go 0-17, and all I will advise is to not touch anything with this team whether it is over, under, good, or bad. Don't let any "expert" fool you into thinking they have a good prediction for this team, because the truth is nobody knows what will happen with this dumpster fire of an organization.
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