Overlooked in a stacked AFC, the South boasts at least two teams vying for the division title this season. Not to discount the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Houston Texans, but in all likelihood, this division will come down to either the Tennessee Titans or Indianapolis Colts claiming the title. And with a stacked AFC West, there is a good chance at least two teams from that division will secure Wild Card berths, leaving the division as a must-win for the contenders in the South.
There were drastic roster changes this offseason for several South teams. The Titans traded top wideout A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles while the Colts parted ways with QB Carson Wentz and acquired Matt Ryan for the Falcons as his replacement. The Texans also unloaded disgruntled QB DeShaun Watson, who sat out last season, to the Browns, and the Jaguars moved on from the failed Urban Meyer experiment by hiring Doug Pederson as head coach.
Still, while the Titans and Colts are expected to win the South, the improbable has been proven to happen. It’s a long season with an array of surprises. So do the Texans and Jaguars have a shot to be crowned division champs? Let’s take a look at the win totals.
Win Total Over/Under: 4.5 (+100/-120)
It’s been a rough few seasons for the Texans. The team entered 2021 with a new head coach in David Culley but without QB DeShaun Watson, who demanded a trade amid a legal battle, and DE JJ Watt, who had been the heart and soul of the team since his rookie season. And it was not a pretty year for Houston. The Texans began the season on a high note, defeating the Jaguars on opening weekend, but dropped their next 8 games en route to a 4-13 finish.
If there was one bright spot for the Texans last season, it was the unexpected play of rookie QB Davis Mills. The 3rd-round pick had a surprisingly promising season after Tyrod Taylor went down with an injury, throwing 2,664 yards with 16 TDs and 10 INTs. His play was enough that the Texans chose to draft Derek Stingley Jr. with their 1st round draft pick over another QB. Houston also decided to part ways with Culley after just 1 season at the helm and inked former Bears HC Lovie Smith to a multi-year deal.
The Texans are nowhere near competing for a playoff run, but they are a team with plenty to prove. They managed to accumulate 4 wins last season, and now with the upgrades at defense and offensive line, they should be able to pick up at least one more win. Mills will have an uphill battle in every game, but he has the potential to make some big plays, especially with a year of experience under his belt. Take a shot at the Over.
Win Total Over/Under: 10 (-105/-115)
A year ago, the Colts needed only to win 1 of their final 2 games to clinch a playoff berth. However, Indy squandered any chance of making the postseason by dropping both games to the Raiders and Jaguars. It was a collapse that cost QB Carson Wentz his job as the Colts readily shipped him off to Washington to acquire Matt Ryan from the Falcons. To say that ownership and fans have big expectations for this squad is an understatement. After all, Indy wasted a remarkable season by RB Jonathan Taylor, who led 2021 with an MVP campaign and inserted his name into the best RB in the game conversation.
While Wentz’s numbers show that the QB had a solid season with the Colts, the consensus around the team revealed they had lost faith in the former Eagles gunslinger. Several mistakes and ill-timed turnovers cost the Colts multiple games throughout the season. In a win or bust situation, management felt the team needed to head in a different direction.
Matt Ryan can be the answer to the Colts’ woes. Not only does he bring veteran leadership, but Ryan also has Super Bowl experience and flourished in Atlanta in his prime. That’s not to say the QB is over the hill. Ryan could potentially have a Matt Stafford-like resurgence in Indy, especially with Taylor leading the running game and young WR Michael Pittman in his arsenal.
If this team managed to lock up 9 wins last season with Wentz as QB, there is no doubt they should surpass that mark with Ryan. The Colts have a better defense than the Falcons, and Taylor will complement the passing with his fierce running ability. Also, the Titans lost several key contributors in the offseason and now face a QB controversy with disgruntled QB Ryan Tannehill and rookie Malik Willis competing for the starting job. As long as Indy takes care of the inferior talent in their division, the Colts should easily rack up at least 10 wins. Over.
Win Total Over/Under: 6.5 (+110/-130)
What a tumultuous 2021 season for the Jaguars. While all eyes should have been on No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence, the attention shifted to the off-field antics of haughty head coach Urban Meyer. It was enough distraction to warrant a firing before the end of the season in what turned out to be a disastrous start and end to his NFL coaching career.
A year later, the Jaguars look to bounce back from a miserable 2021 season with another No. 1 overall pick in LB Travon Walker. Jacksonville will also look for Lawrence to shake off his disappointing rookie season and take a step toward being the franchise QB they expected. He has plenty of weapons to do so, with WRs Christian Kirk, Marvin Jones Jr., and TE Evan Engram in his arsenal.
Unfortunately, however, for the Jaguars, it will take a giant leap to double their win total from last season. This is still a flawed team, and it may be more than the new head coach, Doug Pederson, can handle. Still, Pederson is partly responsible for elevating Carson Wentz in his time in Philadelphia and could do the same with Lawrence. With that said, I’m not optimistic it will be enough. The Jaguars will undoubtedly improve from last season, but it may be only another win at the most. Under.
Win Total Over/Under: 9 (-105/-115)
The Titans finished last season with the top record in the AFC, enough to clinch a first-round bye for the playoffs. However, throughout the season, many experts were reluctant to proclaim the Titans the best team in the AFC or give the team the respect they deserved despite Tennessee defeating such powerhouses as the Chiefs, Bills, and Rams. Well, the doubters proved to be correct as the Titans even failed to win a playoff game, losing to the Bengals at home in the AFC Divisional Round. It was a loss that stung throughout the locker room and resulted in star-wideout A.J. Brown’s offseason trade to the Eagles.
To make matters worse, the Titans opted to draft touted QB prospect Malik Willis, out of Liberty in the NFL Draft. That was enough to tick off QB Ryan Tannehill who raised eyebrows by stating he was not there to mentor the young QB. Now, the Titans enter the season with many players questioning Tannehill’s leadership and attitude, which does not bode well for a team who struggled to generate the passing game last season.
Despite the QB controversy, Tennessee still has one of the best running backs in the NFL in Derrick Henry, who can take over a game with one touch of the ball. They also boast a solid defensive unit and a talented head coach in Mike Vrabel.
Yet, there is no denying the void that Brown’s absence leaves in the offense. Add that to the fact that we may see fans demanding the QB job be turned over to Willis if the Titans struggle out of the gate. Still, the Titans have proved over the past few seasons that they are one of the best-coached teams in the league. Vrabel has worked wonders with lesser talent, though this may be a challenging year for him.
We are taking the Under in the team’s win total. We’ve seen teams in the past struggle after suffering a disappointing defeat in the postseason, and the loss of Brown only makes matters worse. Expect Tannehill to begin the year as the Titans’ starter, but don’t be surprised if Willis takes the reins midseason.