The race for the AFC South might be the tightest divisional race in the NFL in 2019. There isn’t much separating the favorite (Indianapolis) from the team with the longest odds (Tennessee), and that usually portends a close race between two or three teams throughout the year. The Houston Texans have won this division five teams this decade, while the Indianapolis Colts have won it three times, and the Jacksonville Jaguars have won it once. The Tennessee Titans have not won the AFC South since 2008.
2019 AFC South Odds
Indianapolis Colts -104
Houston Texans +287
Jacksonville Jaguars +443
Tennessee Titans +660
Indianapolis is an odds-on favorite to win the division, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that change over the course of the offseason as money comes in on the other three teams.
Frank Reich is probably the best coach in the division. Indianapolis overcame a 1-5 start and won nine of their last 10 games to make the postseason in 2018, and the Colts knocked off division winners Houston in the Wild Card Round before falling to Kansas City.
Andrew Luck looked great in his first full season back, completing 67.3 percent of his passes, and he nearly threw for 40 touchdowns in this offense. He could be even better this season, and Luck will have plenty of time to throw behind one of the top offensive lines in the league. Quenton Nelson proved that guards can be worth first round picks after a fantastic rookie campaign, and there’s a chance that Nelson and Ryan Kelly both make the All-Pro Bowl team next year.
T.Y. Hilton is back and will likely put up big numbers once more, while Eric Ebron is one of the most reliable red zone targets in the league. If rookie Parris Campbell or another player can emerge as a third option, that will make this offense even scarier.
There were a lot of changes made on the defensive side of the ball. Darius Leonard looks like one of the top linebackers in the league, and Malik Hooker has been good as a safety, but there are plenty of questions to be answered. That is the big concern ahead of Indianapolis in 2019.
Houston has one of the most dynamic young quarterbacks in the game in Deshaun Watson, but they have to keep him healthy. Watson was sacked 65 times (seven more times than any other quarterback in the league), and that’s doubly scary considering he has already had two major injuries in the last five years.
The Texans made protecting Watson a priority in the NFL Draft, and they took right tackle Tytus Howard with their first round pick and drafted left guard Max Scharping in the second round. They also re-signed Seantrel Henderson after he missed nearly all of last season.
This receiving corps could be special with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee pairing up for at least one more season, and the Texans are desperate to find Watson a tight end he trusts. They have now drafted three tight ends in the last two seasons.
If the defense stays healthy, this could be an elite unit. JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are two of the best defensive players in the league, and Whitney Mercilus and Benardrick McKinney are very good linebackers. The secondary is stout too with Tashaun Gipson and Bradley Roby being added to a secondary that already included Johnathan Joseph and Aaron Colvin.
Nick Foles will make or break Jacksonville’s season. The Jaguars are likely going to have to start making major changes to an elite defense in 2020 as players get too costly, so this is their best shot at making some real noise before the salary cap breaks up the team. Foles doesn’t have a lot of great weapons to work with at wide receiver or tight end, and the Jaguars are crossing their fingers that Leonard Fournette can stay healthy and be the workhorse running back he was expected to be after being taken fourth overall.
The Jaguars defense is terrifying. Even if Telvin Smith sits out this year, the team is loaded with talent all over the field. Jalen Ramsey is already an elite cornerback, and AJ Bouye is one of the top corners in the league too. The defensive line has three playmakers in Yannick Ngakoue, Marcell Dareus, and Calais Cambell, and last year’s first round pick Taven Bryan could make a big impact this season. Myles Jack improved a lot last season, and Josh Allen was taken in the first round this year to make the linebacking corps even better.
Tennessee is at a crossroads. The Titans still don’t know whether or not Marcus Mariota is a franchise quarterback, so they traded for Ryan Tannehill in the offseason. Mariota’s numbers have been increasingly pedestrian the last two seasons, and he only has 69 passing touchdowns through his first four seasons.
Corey Davis taking another step forward after a solid sophomore campaign would ease the burden, as would Derrick Henry taking on more of a workload after a very good 2018 season. It would be great if second round pick AJ Brown could provide a spark as well, as Mariota needs all the help he can get.
The defense was third-best in the NFL in terms of points allowed last season, so if the offense can score 24 or 25 PPG the Titans may have something. Most of last year’s starters are back, and there is a lot of value in Tennessee at this price. I would bet on the Titans or the Jaguars before I bet on the Colts or Texans.
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