The AFC South was the most balanced division in 2019, as it was the only division where first place and last place were separated by four or fewer games. The Houston Texans seem to have a stranglehold on the division of late, as they have won four of the last five AFC South championships. Now that they have dealt star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, is the division wide open this year?
This is the third of an eight-part series where we break down the best season win total bets of every division. And here are all of our 2020 NFL Over/Under Win Totals Predictions.
(odds courtesy of FOX Bet)
AFC South 2020-21 Season Win Totals
Houston Texans (Over 8.5 +110, Under 8.5 -133)
The Houston Texans’ off-season moves have been heavily criticized. In trading away DeAndre Hopkins, they lose a receiver who has played in at least 15 games in all seven years he has been in the league. He has topped 1,100 yards receiving in five on those years and has even led the league in touchdowns once. Given how often other members of the receiving corps get injured, specifically Will Fuller, it makes the move even more puzzling.
In return for Hopkins, the Texans get running back David Johnson and a second-round pick. The Texans and Cardinals also swapped fourth-round picks in the deal. Sandwiched around 2018 when Johnson played in all 16 games, he only played in one game in 2017 and in just nine games last year. Johnson is set to replace current free-agent Carlos Hyde, who is coming off a 1,070-yard season.
Outside of the Hopkins-Johnson trade, the biggest move for the Texans was signing cornerback Bradley Roby to a three-year contract. He looks to help a defense that finished 28th in yards allowed last year.
Though J.J. Watt missed half of last season with a torn pectoral, the poor defensive numbers are too much to ignore heading into 2020. That coupled with the offense not looking as explosive as year’s past are a recipe for a down year. The Texans get many of their toughest opponents (Baltimore, Green Bay, Minnesota, and New England) at home. However, they also make trips to Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Chicago.
Head coach Bill O’Brien has five winning seasons and four divisional titles in six years with the Texans. However, this year is setting up to be one of his worst.
Verdict: Take Houston UNDER 8.5 wins
Indianapolis Colts (Over 8.5 -110, Under 8.5 -110)
The Colts were left in a tough spot entering 2019 as quarterback Andrew Luck announced his sudden retirement in the preseason. Though quarterback Jacoby Brissett started 15 games for the Colts in 2017, he clearly was not in their plans to be the starter going forward.
Indianapolis made a big splash in the off-season by signing former Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to a one-year deal. Indianapolis was many people’s predicted landing spot for Tom Brady. Instead, the Colts signed Rivers before Brady ever made his intentions clear.
Rivers will play behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. The Colts stabilized their offensive line by re-signing left tackle Anthony Castonzo. In addition, they added a huge piece to their defensive line by trading for former 49ers tackle DeForest Buckner. Buckner has totaled 19.5 sacks over the last two years.
Like the Texans, the Colts get many of their toughest opponents (Baltimore, Green Bay, and Minnesota) at home. Unlike the Texans, the Colts benefit from avoiding a crossover game against Kansas City while their AFC East opponent is the Jets.
The Colts certainly have all the pieces necessary to make a big leap forward in 2020. They finished 7-9 in 2019 despite a number of games missed from key players. With the dependable Rivers under center, that should be good enough for two more wins to push them over their predicted total.
Verdict: Take Indianapolis OVER 8.5 wins
Jacksonville Jaguars (Over 5.5 +100, Under 5.5 -120)
The Jacksonville Jaguars finished a disappointing 6-10 in 2019. The Jaguars must have liked what they saw in the 12 games that rookie Gardner Minshew II started at quarterback, as they traded Nick Foles to the Bears for a fourth-round pick. Minshew threw for 3,721 yards and 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions.
Jacksonville appeared to spend much of the off-season shedding big contracts and creating cap space. The Jaguars traded defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback A.J. Bouye. They replace them with additions like middle linebacker Joe Schobert and cornerback Darqueze Dennard. In addition, they add Rodney Gunter and Al Woods for depth on their defensive line.
Jacksonville’s floor is a team that can be one of the worst in the league, while their ceiling is to hover around .500. The continuity with Minshew at quarterback will help, as will playing six games against beatable divisional opponents. However, their range of outcomes is too big in order to feel confident in a wager on their win total.
Tennessee Titans (Over 8.5 +100, Under 8.5 -120)
The Tennessee Titans finished the regular season 9-7, needing a win in Week 17 over the Texans to clinch a playoff spot. However, they became the surprise team of the playoffs as they knocked off the Patriots and Ravens on the road in consecutive weeks. The Titans then jumped out to an early 17-7 lead over the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game, only to be outscored 28-7 the rest of the way.
The Titans have had a relatively quiet off-season compared to the rest of the league. Their offense returns mostly intact while linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. is their biggest addition on defense. Beasley led the league in sacks in 2016 and is coming off an eight-sack year last year.
Tennessee showed a ton of commitment to quarterback Ryan Tannehill after he went 9-4 as a starter last year. While Marcus Mariota moved on to the Raiders, Tennessee signed Tannehill to a four-year extension.
Tennessee’s toughest non-divisional games are trips to Baltimore, Green Bay, Minnesota and Denver. For them to surpass the 8.5 projected win total, they will likely have to dominate their divisional opponents. While that is possible, I am not sure they can replicate the “lightning in a bottle” they got from Tannehill last year.