We’ll be providing a betting preview for each NFL division this week leading up to the first set of full games on Sunday. We continue today with the AFC South. Click here for a list of all the major offseason moves by each AFC South team.
For years, the AFC South was one of the most lopsided divisions in the league. The Colts reigned supreme, winning in seven of eight years, while the Titans, Texans and Jaguars mostly fought for second.
After Peyton Manning’s injury and departure from Indianapolis, you’d think it would result in more competitive balance.
But Houston has risen to power at precisely the right moment. At -450, the Texans are favored to win their division by more than any other team in the NFL.
The AFC South’s divisional futures odds listed at 5Dimes:
Most value: Sure, the Texans will probably win this division, but is there an 82 percent chance they do? That’s what you’d have to hit long-term to break even at -450 odds, and it doesn’t really seem worth the risk. Instead, we’ll take a flier on the Colts. We liked them much more back when they were at 33-to-1 in mid-August, but since then the odds have plummeted. You only have to win 3 percent of the time to break even at those odds.
Texans: 10.5 (over -105)
Titans: 7.5 (over +110)
Colts: 5.5 (over +110)
Jaguars: 5.5 (over -120)
Best bet: Different bet, same team. Andrew Luck should be able to get Indianapolis to at least six wins in his rookie season. The defense is undergoing a shift to a 3-4, and people have differing opinions on how that will affect bookend pass rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The schedule is manageable early, with home games against Minnesota, Jacksonville and Cleveland all within the first seven weeks.
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Somewhat surprisingly, the Titans have shown the most success for bettors over the last six seasons in the AFC South, hitting at nearly 55 percent. Houston was the only team to go above .500 in 2011, posting a 9-5-2 ATS mark.
Here’s a look at each team’s record ATS since 2006 (with last year’s record in parentheses):
Texans: 45-47-4 (9-5-2)
Titans: 52-43-1 (7-8-1)
Colts: 49-44-3 (6-10)
Jaguars: 44-51-1 (7-8-1)
The AFC South is matched up with the AFC East and the NFC North, leaving one opponent each from the AFC North and AFC West as the only differences in the schedule.
Here are the two “swing games” on each team’s schedule:
Texans: at Denver, vs. Baltimore
Titans: at San Diego, vs. Pittsburgh (Weeks 2 and 6, along with vs. NE, at DET, at HOU)
Colts: vs. Cleveland, at Kansas City
Jaguars: vs. Cincinnati, at Oakland
Analysis: You could make a case that Tennessee actually ended up with a tougher draw than Houston, depending on your views of the Broncos and Chargers in the AFC West. The Titans face San Diego and Pittsburgh in the first six weeks, along with road trips to Detroit and Houston and the home opener against the Patriots. Even a road game at Minnesota wedged in between isn’t a gimme. Tennessee could be looking at a 1-5 or 2-4 record in mid-October.
WHO TO FOLLOW
A Twitter follow list for beat writers covering each team.
Titans | Jim Wyatt, The Tennessean