AFC South preview; Colts to ride easiest schedule to divisional title?

SoSWin TotalDiv. oddsConf. oddsSuperbowl Odds
32Indianapolis Colts92.41529
31Tennessee Titans8.52.751941
12Houston Texans7.54.52961
13Jacksonville Jaguars4.534101201

Indianapolis Colts

Last year 7-9; Third

Last season started with a shock when Andrew Luck announced his retirement leaving them stuck with Jacoby Brissett as starter and ruining their build up to the season. Brissett isn’t terrible by any means, but he’s not the man to take them to a winning record, 3,000 yards just isn’t good enough in this day and age. So they made a move to bring in Philip Rivers from the Chargers, paying him $25m this year and putting him behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.

Rivers has taken a bit of flack for his on-field exploits last year, 23 TDs, 20 INTs isn’t Jameis numbers, but isn’t a million miles off but his offensive line was a sieve and he was under a lot of pressure back there, he’s also not one to care about numbers, if they’re trailing, he’s throwing it whether it’s sensible or not. I believe he’s still got it and giving him time back there he’ll have a good season in Indy.

He’s got a fairly decent cast around him, a WR1 in TY Hilton who’s usually around 1,000 yards on a healthy season, that’s the one area I’m worried about with him though, he’s turned 30 and even in training camp has been put on the PUP with a hamstring tweak. WR2 is either rookie Michael Pittman Jnr, or Parris Campbell who was injured for a lot of last year. Pittman topped 100 receptions for USC last year, 1,200 yards and 11 TDs, he’s a big lad so will be a red zone threat, a la Mike Williams for Rivers. Campbell is a burner and has impressed in camp, he was a sleeper for me in fantasy last year, injuries meant it didn’t pay off but I’m interested to see how he goes this year. Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson helped when called on last year but aren’t really starters.

They’re well set at RB as well with Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines being joined by the 6,000 yard man Jonathan Taylor. Mack finished with over 1,000 yards last year and looked good for the most part averaging 4.4 per carry, while Hines is the pass catching back and should get a lot of targets from Rivers who likes a good dump off, Reich has been quoted saying that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Hines have a 10 catch game at some point during the season. However Taylor is the man we expect to take the main role as the season goes on, and 6,174 in 3 years in college, with 50 TDs means it’s easy to see why he’s likely to take over as the main man in this offense and he’s already gaining good reports in camp.

Jack Doyle will get a lot of targets at tight end, and not do a whole lot with them, he’ll move the sticks in the middle of the park but redzone I think it’ll likely be Big Mo Alie-cox or even Trey Burton who they picked up in FA.

The defense isn’t terrible, on the whole they’re a younger bunch and should improve year on year, they brought in Xavier Rhodes who they’ll be hoping will be able to regain some of his earlier career form. Malik Hooker, Rok Ya-sin were sophomore and rookie last year. They struggled with pass rush last year, so traded their first in this years draft for Deforest Buckner from the 49ers. He’ll definitely improve that area!

By some way they’ve got the easiest schedule in the league according to the win totals of their opposition which will obviously help them for the season, favourites in 10 games, dogs in 6 of them. Opening and closing the season with the Jags who aren’t expected to be good is a pretty big advantage for them.

Colts related player prop bets. (see Oddsheet for bookie)

Last yr.LowestHighest
Philip Rivers pass yds.46154099.5
Rivers TDs2327.5
Marlon Mack rush yds.1.091700.5
Jonathan Taylor rush yds.700.5
TY Hilton rec. yds.501 (10)1050.5

Tennessee Titans

Last year 9-7; Second

The Titans made it to the AFC Championship game last year after beating the Patriots and the Ravens on the road, mighty impressive performances from their defense and Derrick Henry leading them to that game and I’d imagine that’s exactly what they’re looking for again this year. I’d be amazed if they are able to keep up their redzone conversion rate of 77.36% from last year, but Derrick Henry isn’t an easy man to stop.

They signed up Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry to long term contracts, so they’re keeping the main men together. Tannehill was amazingly efficient in his play last year and his introduction taking over from Mariota was the spark that got their season going. He finished the year with 2,742 yards and a passer rating of 117 last season and he rushed in 4 TDs himself as well. He’s no Lamar Jackson but his athleticism works very well in this offense on play action, and RPOs. The games vs the Pats and the Ravens finished with Tannehill throwing just 29 attempts. It’s not that much of a worry as that was the gameplan and 3 of the 15 completions were for TDs in those games.

The main man in this offense and what they gameplan to do is run Derrick Henry 30 times a go, if they do that, they win. He led the league in attempts (303), yards (1,540) and TDs (16) on the ground last season and got better as the season went on, including into the post-season where he ran for 446 yards in their 3 playoff games. They brought in Darrynton Evans in the draft to be the third down back basically upgrading Deon Lewis from last year with a fair bit more explosiveness.

The receiving group is interesting, AJ Brown blew up onto the scene last year with some huge games, he’s basically the Derrick Henry of the receivers, built like a tank and very tough to stop once he gets the ball in space, he started fairly slowly, but finished the season with 5 TDs in 6 games and had long receptions of 65, 16, 91, 60, 34 and 50 yards in those games, unsurprisingly going over 100 yards in 4 of them. Corey Davis hasn’t lived up to his draft position since joining the team but was good in college, Adam Humphries is the possession receiver but wasn’t used a whole lot last year.

They did use their tight ends frequently though, Jonnu Smith officially steps into the shoes of Delanie Walker now, having played in place of him for a couple of seasons now, he’s in line for a good season and i’m actually surprised his numbers were so low last year with just 3 TDs and 439 yards. Anthony Firkser finished the regular season with a single TD, but scored against the Pats and Chiefs in the playoffs playing from the slot.

The defense lost Logan Ryan who is asking too much to get picked up by anyone, but they still have a fairly strong secondary with Malcom Butler, Kevin Byard, Kenny Vaccaro and Adoree Jackson there while the LBs are decent too Vic Beasley, Harold Landry and Rashaan Evans giving them a top 10 run defense last season.

The red zone efficiency is sure to regress. They’ll look to use the same gameplan which isn’t easy to stop but there’s a lot of tape out there now. I think Henry will have a poorer year while the passing game will step up. They’ve got a tough start to the season though, opening in Denver is never easy, Jags… then Vikings, Steelers, Bills, Texans. As the Colts were they’re favoured in 10 games, dogs in 6.

Titans related player prop bets. (see Oddsheet for bookie)

Last yr.LowestHighest
Ryan Tannehill pass yds.2742 (12)3450.5
Tannehill pass TDs2222.5
Derrick Henry rush yds.1,5401325.5
Henry rush and rec. yds.1,7551,509.5
Henry total TDs1813.5
AJ Brown rec. yds.1,051975.5

Houston Texans

Last year 10-6; Winners

Winners of the division last year, they came back to beat the Bills in the wildcard before taking a remarkable 24-0 lead against the Chiefs and still somehow trailing at half time as the Chiefs racked up the points and they may be in a similar position to that this season. They are capable of putting up points but aren’t really capable of stopping teams at the other end.

They’ve got one of the best QBs in the league in Deshaun Watson and while they seem to be taunting him with the moves they’ve made this summer they are trying to tie him down to an extension before the season starts. He threw for 3,852 in 15 games, 26 TDs last season as well as running in 7 scores himself. He’s got the legs, the arm, the motivation to do it all. I did think his decision making in the Bills playoff win was poor but he pulled it out of the bag when needed in the second half of it.

While Bill O’Brien has been derided in most places for trading away DeAndre Hopkins for pennies on the pound and bringing in David Johnson on a big contract. On paper it did look like a couple of ridiculous moves. They have said that they wanted to expand the talent on offense though, instead of having a QB locking on to the one man they’ve now got a few decent enough targets for him. Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb as the main 3 isn’t terrible at all and there’s a ton of pace there, not to mention Kenny Stills as second string as well. They’re players who, if fit (which is a big question mark) can spread the field and get themselves open. Fuller always has muscle injuries, and Brandin Cooks is probably one hit away from missing the season with concussion.

The running back group lost Carlos Hyde who had over 1,000 yards last year and brought in dual threat David Johnson. I might be silly but I’m still confident he’s able to do the job despite a poor year for the Cardinals last year, I think he’ll do better on the ground and he’s better than most RBs in the air as well. Duke Johnson is a similar player to him, and I expect he’ll get 3rd down work for the most part still. They will need Watson to start taking dump offs, but the guys they’ve got there should make it easy for him.

Darren Fells keeps plodding along at Tight end and is someone I’ve been taking as the last TE off the board in a lot of drafts, he’s a decent red zone target 7 TDs from 34 receptions last year for him, and 341 yards, the most of his career. Jordan Akins had more yards than him last year, but just the 2 scores. Safe to say Fells will be someone I’ll be checking odds on early in the season.

The defense hasn’t really strengthened in fairness, Gareon Conley came in at CB late last year and did all right, the main men for them are up front though, JJ Watt won’t play all 16, but he’s still as good as ever and Mercilus alongside him is always capable.

It could be any of these three winning the division to be honest, it’s really close between them, but what has me having the Texans in third place this year is their start to the season, Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers, Vikings. It’s the toughest start of any team this year (Skybet have them at 11/4 to lose all 4). If you want to back them to win the division then do it after the Vikings game, before the Jags game in week 5.

Texans related player prop bets. (see Oddsheet for bookie)

Last yr.LowestHighest
Deshaun Watson pass yds.3,8524050.5
Watson pass TDs2627.5
Brandin Cooks rec. yds.583 (14)850.5

Jacksonville Jaguars

Last year 6-10; Fourth

I think it’s safe to say that most think the Jaguars will be propping up the division again. It was a weird season for them disrupted in week 1 when Nick Foles went down for most of the year and they had to bring in rookie Gardner Minshew earlier than they’d have wanted. Then Jalen Ramsey throwing his dummy out and demanding a trade, they don’t have the defense they used to, the offense isn’t great. It’s not going to be good for them this year.

Gardner Minshew has become a meme and I think that personally I don’t consider him as good as he maybe is because of it. He actually had fairly decent numbers on the whole last year and his athletic abillity really helps him. 21 TDs, 6 INTs in 14 games really isn’t bad at all, as well as running for 344 yards. For a 6th round pick he’s definitely got a lot potential and gets the whole season this year.

He’ll be looking for DJ Chark a lot as the two had a good relationship last year, Chark finishing with 1,008 and 8 TDs last year, good for 9th highest in the league, there’s a ton of hype around him making the step up to the higher tier of receivers and while I don’t think that will happen it does seem he’ll be the main man. Chris Conley will be hoping to stay healthy and can play an important role and 2nd round pick Laviska Shenault will be looking to hit the ground running, he dropped a little in the draft due to a poor combine showing coming in with a core injury, but he’s a yac monster despite not having the best college numbers. Dede Westbrook had a good rookie year before falling off little last year.

They brought in Tyler Eifert at Tight end and he’s another I’m targetting late in fantasy drafts. He played the full season in Cinci last year without any real impact, but his big year came with Jay Gruden as his OC there, and he’s got that position in Jacksonville this year so I expect him to get targeted a lot. Second year Josh Oliver will get even longer to learn the position, and my man the Irishman James O’Shaughnessy is still there too.

Running back is intriguing, Leonard Fournette is the man there, for now. The team has made it clear they don’t really want him, I don’t think he really wants to be there either. He has a weird year finishing with good numbers, 1,152 yards on the ground, but it wasn’t good. He had several games of 4 yards from 15 odd carries before breaking off a big one to make it look like he was decent. Only 3 TDs is almost impossible from 265 carries too, that’ll jump back up again this year, he added a further 76 receptions for just 552 yards at pretty poor efficiency as well. The passing work won’t be there for him this year as they brought in Chris Thompson who played under Gruden in Washington and is a pass catching specialist. Ryqell Armstead will probably at least start the season as the backup to Fournette.

The defense isn’t what it was and Yannick Ngakoue still hasn’t signed the franchise tag as he’s demanding a move. They’ve lost Calais Campbell, AJ Bouye, Ramsey. It’s a bit of a mess back there to be honest. Myles Jack is talented and still there, CJ Henderson was their first pick this year and K’Lavon Chiasson comes in from LSU to help their pass rush next to Josh Allen who had a very good rookie season.

Should be a lot of points in games involving Jacksonville this year, but I don’t think they’ve got enough on offense to damage teams enough to have a winning season. Favourited in just 2 games this season, hosting the Browns and the Bears and I’m not even sure I’d have them as the better team in those matchups. They’re set at 4.5 wins for a reason.

Jags related player prop bets. (see Oddsheet for bookie)

Last yr.LowestHighest
Gardner Minshew pass yds.3,271 (14)NoLines
Minshew pass TDs21NoLines
Minshew women impregnated???27.5
Leonard Fournette rush yds.1,152850.5
Fournette rush+rec. yds.1,6741200.5
DJ Chark1,008975.5

Summary

I think the Colts win it, but it really could be any of the top 3. The Colts have the easiest schedule in the league, best coaching in the division, best offensive line in the division and have upgraded at QB. The Titans found a method that worked last year and will be hoping for more of the same, and the Texans, after a terrible start have the best QB in the division. I would say if you like the Colts take it now, if you like the Texans wait until at least week 3 where they will likely be 0-3.

Best bet (s)

Brandin Cooks UNDER 850.5 receiving yards – 1.91 (888)


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