2017 AFC South betting preview and odds: Despite poor QB play Jaguars show value

Aug 12, 2017 |

On paper the AFC South appears to be a three-team race between the Titans, Texans and Colts, but with no standout team in the division don't count out the Jaguars, despite the fact Blake Bortles is their quarterback. Covers Expert Power Sports gives you a team-by-team breakdown of each team, including a season win total pick.

Houston Texans (2016: 9-7 SU, 6-9-1 ATS, 6-10 O/U)

Odds To Win Division: +195
Season Win Total: Over 8.5 (+103) / Under 8.5 (-113)

Why to bet the Texans: I'll go through some of the obvious regression that should take place in the next section, but if you're looking for optimism, one can point in two different directions. Those two directions happen to involve the offense and defense. For the former, the drafting of quarterback Deshaun Watson could be huge. Head coach Bill O'Brien has won nine games each of the last three seasons and done so with a cavalcade of terrible signal-callers, such as Brock Osweiler last season. On the defensive side of the ball, JJ Watt returns to a unit that actually ranked No. 1 in yards allowed without him. Also, there is no clear cut favorite in this division, meaning if the Texans do slip, there's no guaranteed challenger to wrest control of the division away from them.

Why not to bet the Texans: They were outscored by 49 points last season, which is more indicative of a six or seven win team. The only AFC teams with worse point differentials last year were Cleveland, Jacksonville and the Jets. After beating the Bears 23-14 in Week 1 last year, the Texans never again won a game by more than a touchdown. In fact, over their final 14 reg season contests, they got outscored by 66 points. When, or if, Watson will be the starting QB is a mystery. The underwhelming Tom Savage figures to begin the year under center. How much can Watt really improve the defensive performance from last year. By virtue of winning the division last year, they are the only AFC South team that must play the Patriots, Steelers and Chiefs this year.

Season Win Total Pick: Under 8.5

Indianapolis Colts (2016: 8-8 SU, 7-8-1 ATS, 9-7 O/U)

Odds to Win Division: +265
Season Win Total: Over 9.0 (+130) / Under 9.0 (-140)

Why to bet the Colts: They have the best QB in the division, Andrew Luck, and also finished with the division's best point differential (just +19) a year ago. If Luck can stay healthy (a big if), then it's difficult to imagine this team not winning more games this year compared to 2016. Efforts have been made to upgrade the roster surrounding Luck and thankfully, awful general manager Ryan Grigson was finally axed. The Colts are expected to be favored in every home game but one this year, Week 10 against the Steelers.

Why not to bet the Colts: Note the asterisk next to the win total. It's off the board as there's already questions about Luck's health and if he misses any time, this team is dead (even in a weak division). Luck isn't the only key player banged up either. Center Ryan Kelly is injured and will miss time in the preseason. It seems as if the entire receiving corps is banged up as well. My view of this team is that they are now "paying up" for overachieving in Luck's first several seasons. Head coach Chuck Pagano seems like a lame duck. The defense just isn't any good. If anything, look to bet the Over with this team.

Season Win Total Pick: Under 9

Jacksonville Jaguars (2016: 3-13 SU, 8-8 ATS, 10-6 SU)

Odds to Win Division: +630
Season Win Total: Over 6.5 (-153) / Under 6.5 (+131)

Why to bet the Jaguars: As you can tell from the odds, the AFC South is expected to be a three-horse race in 2017. But I don't really view any of those three (Texans, Colts, Titans) as substantially better than the Jaguars, so there is some value here. As you can tell by the season win total for 2017, bettors are expecting improvement with the 6.5 heavily juiced to the Over. They had a Pythagorean Win expectation of 5.8 last year, so the won-loss record was a tad bit misleading even if the team was favored in only three games. This year, they're projected to be favored in four and should pull some upsets. Gus Bradley left behind a rapidly improving defense. Top draft choice Leonard Fournette could be a difference maker on offense.

Why not to bet the Jaguars: Again, this team was favored in only three games, so the hype going into last season was never really justified. Personally, I am not a fan of Blake Bortles, whose 2015 numbers were greatly overvalued (mainly by those in the fantasy football community) as he racked up a lot of yards when the team was down. The offense would be better going through a rookie QB as opposed to Bortles, who I do not believe is long for his current job. Over the last five seasons, the Jags have won: 2, 4, 3, 5 and 3 games. So asking them to go Over this year's projected win total seems like asking a lot.

Season Win Total Pick: Over 7.0

Tennessee Titans (2016: 9-7 SU, 7-9 SU, 10-6 O/U)

Odds to Win Division: +195
Season Win Total: Over 8.5 (-145) / Under 8.5 (+124)

Why to bet the Titans: Coming into the year, this looks like the best team in the AFC South. Arguably, they were the best team last year, but a late season injury to QB Marcus Mariota plus a poor record vs. division opponents (2-4 SU) cost them. Some considered taking WR Corey Davis (out of Western Michigan) at No. 5 overall as a reach. I did not. If Mariota stays healthy, the Titans are the rightful favorite to win the division. There's only one game - at present - where they are expected to be a dog of more than three points this year (Week 11 at Pittsburgh). They faded late last year, but this season the final three regular season games are against the 49ers, Rams and Jaguars.

Why not to bet the Titans: Just because they may be better this year doesn't necessarily mean they will win more games. I have them winning the division, but at 8-8 SU. The jump that took place last year (from 3 wins in '15 to 9 in '16) typically necessitates some sort of "leveling off" in year three. I'm a tad bit worried about the hype surrounding a team that won a total of FIVE games in 2014-15. This is a division full of uninspiring head coaches and Mike Mularkey is definitely one of them. The defense was not great last year.

Season Win Total Pick: Under 8.5


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