While the Houston Texans have won the AFC South in four of the last five seasons, picking the division winner has been a very difficult exercise in the past. This season is no different, with little to separate the Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans. Among widespread uncertainty, one of the few guarantees is that the Jacksonville Jaguars will probably finish rock bottom in the division after embarking on a drastic overhaul of their roster.
Here’s what to expect from the AFC South ahead of the upcoming NFL season.
All odds are courtesy of DraftKings.
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A year from Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement, the Colts have pushed their chips firmly in the middle of the table by landing Philip Rivers in free agency. The veteran quarterback left the Chargers after 16 seasons with the organization and Indianapolis’ season could ultimately boil down to a simple question: Can the 38-year-old still cut it at the top? Rivers has thrown for over 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in each of the last seven seasons, but has also thrown a combined 42 interceptions over the last three years and his touchdown-to-interception ratio last season stood at a troubling 23-20. In Indianapolis, however, Rivers should have plenty of chances to succeed as the Colts return their entire offensive line, which is arguably one of the best in the league.
- Odds to win AFC South: 5/4
- Odds to win Super Bowl: 22/1
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The Titans literally ran over most of the AFC last season, notching road wins in the playoffs against the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens before squandering a 10-point lead against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. Whether Tennessee can sustain such brilliance, however, remains to be seen. Derrick Henry led the rushing charts last season with 1,540 yards over a league-high 303 attempts, but the shelf life of a running back can be notoriously short and the Titans may have to become less reliant on their star to avoid burning him out. On the other side of the ball, meanwhile, head coach Mike Vrabel will be hoping the last-minute addition of star pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney will lift his team’s defense to a higher level. Whether that will be Super Bowl-winning material, remains to be seen.
- Odds to win AFC South: 3/2
- Odds to win Super Bowl: 28/1
A curious offseason in Houston delivered both good and bad news. Last week, the Texans signed Deshaun Watson to a four-year, $160 million extension which ensures the superstar quarterback will be the face of the franchise through to 2025. On the other side of the coin, Houston head coach and de facto general manager Bill O’Brien was widely panned after trading away Watson’s most reliable weapon, as he shipped All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals for a meagre return consisting of running back David Johnson along with a second- and fourth-round pick. O’Brien has taken a gamble by offloading Hopkins, but betting against Watson remains an exercise fraught with risks.
- Odds to win AFC South: 7/2
- Odds to win Super Bowl: 50/1
Despite the franchise suggesting otherwise, operation Tank for Trevor is well underway in Jacksonville. Trevor Lawrence will arguably be the first overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft and the Jaguars appear in pole position to land the Clemson quarterback after a summer in which they have dismantled their roster with gusto. Jacksonville released Leonard Fournette and traded away Yannick Ngakoue, two of the stars of the team that came within five minutes of reaching the Super Bowl three years ago. The latter was so desperate to leave that he took a $6 million pay cut. A long, hard slog awaits the Jags this season.
- Odds to win AFC South: 25/1
- Odds to win Super Bowl: 175/1