Handicapping the AFC South
The AFC South was formed in 2002, and since then it’s been dominated by the Indianapolis Colts. In 13 seasons, the Colts have won the division nine times, including each of the past two seasons.
Odds to Win the 2015-16 AFC South
Indianapolis Colts 1/4
Houston Texans 9/2
Jacksonville Jaguars 20/1
Tennessee Titans 20/1
There’s little reason to expect anything different this season, and the odds reflect that, with the Colts installed as significant favorites, as seen in the odds comparison below.
The Colts won 11 games each of the past two seasons, and the team went out and spent some money in the offseason, bringing in some new toys for star quarterback Andrew Luck to play with.
Added to his arsenal of offensive weapons are running back Frank Gore, who represents a major upgrade at a position that was a huge hole after Ahmad Bradshaw went down, and wide receiver Andre Johnson, who comes over from the rival Houston Texans.
The team then went on to add wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the first round of the draft, giving Luck a reliable deep threat to stretch the defense. However, the team may have been better off spending that pick bulking up a defense that was pushed around by physical offenses in 2014.
The AFC South team that grabbed all the headlines in the days leading up to the draft was the Tennessee Titans. Many speculation that the team would trade away its No. 2 overall selection, but the team instead invested in a franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota.
The Titans were always going to be stuck in rebuilding mode in 2015, and adding Mariota doesn’t change that. The team also brought in another talented wide receiver with character concerns, selecting Dorial Green-Beckham in the second round.
The Houston Texans didn’t make a lot of noise this offseason, but the team quietly had a very good draft, bringing in some key pieces to fill holes on the roster. The biggest splash the team made was letting veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson leave.
Johnson holds just about every receiving record in franchise history, and his departure signals the start of a mini-rebuild. One of those good draft picks, Jaelen Strong, a third-round selection out of Arizona State, will step in opposite DeAndre Hopkins at the wide receiver position and give the team’s starting quarterback a pair of big-bodied targets to throw to.
While the Texans are best positioned to make a run at the Colts, that lack of uncertainty at the quarterback position will be the team’s undoing. Even with quarterback guru Bill O’Brien calling the shots, Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer face an uphill battle.
The Jacksonville Jaguars likely had the best draft of the bunch, but it will be another rebuilding year in Jacksonville. There’s more reason for optimism than there’s been in the past, though.
Blake Bortles looks like he could finally be the answer at quarterback, T.J. Yeldon is a quality running back who could prove to be one of the real steals of the draft, and a young receiving corps will have another year to develop.
2015 AFC South prediction
There’s really only one way to bet the AFC South this year, and that’s by backing the Colts.
The Texans were an intriguing play a year ago, but with Johnson gone from an offense that wasn’t all that potent to begin with, there’s far too great a burden being placed on J.J. Watt and the defense.
The price to get behind the Colts isn’t all that favorable for bettors, and while it’s as close to free money as there is on the betting board, most bettors will be tentative about pulling the trigger. It may be best to look elsewhere for value this year.
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