After the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck from the Colts in the preseason, Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans were on a mission to win the AFC South– and they did. Most headlines, though, belonged to the Tennessee Titans, who were the buzzsaw of the AFC in 2019. The Titans made a miraculous run at the AFC title game despite a 9-7 regular season. It was a gambling nightmare for many, where those who bet the Colts were out of money almost instantly, and the rest lost years off their life watching both Houston’s heroic comeback in the AFC Wild Card game and their complete meltdown against Kansas City the following week.
This page will serve as a guide to betting the AFC South for 2020, complete with 2019 results, the outlook on 2020, past division winners, and where to bet on the division. Before all of that, a strong word of advice: shop around. Just because FoxBet offers Houston at +350 doesn’t mean everyone will; a few extra minutes of looking around could pay off big time.
AFC South odds
2019 AFC South results
If you bet the Houston Texans in 2019, allow us to extend our condolences. The road from exuberance from Andrew Luck’s retirement, to watching the Bills’ Josh Allen hand over the AFC Wild Card game, to blowing a 24 point lead to Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs was one wild ride. The Texans scored regular season wins over the Chiefs and Patriots, but were blown out 41-7 by the Ravens. One week, Deshaun Watson tossed 426 yards and five touchdowns against Atlanta (217 yards and three touchdowns to Will Fuller) and another the Texans had more net punting yards (267) than total offensive yards (229). After Luck’s retirement, the Texans jumped to +150 favorites in the AFC South, edging out the Jaguars (yes, the Jaguars), who moved to +220. It was a season of valleys and troughs that ultimately ended in the same heartbreak experienced by Titans and 49ers fans in 2020.
Tennessee was the buzzsaw of the AFC in 2020, beginning with a Week 1 43-13 thrashing of the hyped-up Cleveland Browns. Though headlines that following week were dominated by the failure of Cleveland, Tennessee officially put the league on notice. The Titans took care of business against teams they needed to, scored a thrilling victory over the Chiefs, but also looked shoddy at times through Week 6 when they started 2-4. That Week 10 victory over Kansas City sparked the winning formula: hand the ball to human bulldozer Derrick Henry, (averaged 149 yards per game from weeks 10-15 and over 6.5 yards per carry against the Ravens in the playoffs) and launch the ball to rookie AJ Brown (averaged over 100 yards per game from weeks 11-16). It worked all the way up until the AFC Championship game, where, like everyone before and after them in the playoffs – they blew a lead to Kansas City and their dream season was over.
Talk about being blindsided: the Colts lost franchise quarterback Andrew Luck after the preseason had started. Luck walked away from the game for personal reasons, leaving Indianapolis with Jacoby Brissett and Brian Hoyer in the quarterback room. From there, it was a rough season for Frank Reich and company, who dropped five of their last six games, including one to one-win Jacksonville in Week 17. The offense had just five games of 200 or more passing yards all season long (finished 30th in NFL in passing), and was generally uninspiring. The bright spot of the Colts is their offensive line (ranked best according to PFF), which returns nearly everyone including All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson. It was a year to promptly forget for Indianapolis fans.
With the magic of 2017 well behind them, the Jaguars were looking to just be competitive in the AFC South last season. There was reason for excitement behind former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles joining the team and taking over starting duties, but he got injured in Week 1 and missed most the rest of the season. His replacement, Gardner Minshew grew a massive following because of his swagger and playing style, and he managed a .500 record as a starter with a 21-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His favorite target, DJ Chark, exploded in being one of the NFL’s best young receivers, but former star running back Leonard Fournette (4.3 yards per carry, three touchdowns on 265 carries) proved to be majorly ineffective. For the situation the Jags found themselves in, they made the most of it.
2020 AFC South outlook and predictions
The Texans had one of the most ridiculed off-seasons in league history, with incompetency being declared on GM/head coach Bill O’Brien. He traded away Deshaun Watson’s favorite target and arguably the best receiver in the league, DeAndre Hopkins, for an aging David Johnson. To replace Hopkins’ production at receiver, Houston settled for Randall Cobb, who’s coming off a decent year in Dallas but has not recorded more than five touchdowns since 2015. The draft class was quiet, but Deshaun Watson is still Deshaun Watson and the Texans sit at around +350 to win the division, good enough for third in the AFC South. Houston was given the eighth hardest schedule in the NFL (0.518 opposing win percent from 2019) but open the year at Kansas City, versus Baltimore, at Pittsburgh, and versus Minnesota. O’Brien needs to steal a win or two at the beginning of the year, or he might be facing the hot seat.
In Tennessee, Ryan Tannehill was given the big bucks in the offseason over Henry, who was franchise tagged. The Titans come into 2020 without their best offensive lineman, Jack Conklin, who signed with Cleveland in the offseason. Vic Beasley, who was signed in the offseason, went on hiatus to begin camp, but eventually showed up. Bottom line: it’s been a tough offseason for Tennessee, which is looking to repeat the 2019 magic in 2020. However, many pieces do return in Nashville and the Titans are slated at +175 to win the AFC South, not far behind the Colts (+110). Mike Vrabel has proven to be an effective leader, and even out-Belichicked Bill Belichick (his former coach) in the AFC Wild Card win over the Patriots. There’s much reason for optimism as long as Vrabel heads the Titans, and because of that they are listed at 8.5 expected wins this coming season.
It is the age of Philip Rivers in Indianapolis, who moves from one perfectly-suited system to another. Behind the league’s best offensive line, Rivers is projected to have a great season (potentially his last one) behind a projected 4000.5 passing yards by DraftKings. The Colts also pulled in one of the best regarded draft classes, highlighted by second-round picks Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin) and Michael Pittman Jr. (USC). The Colts also went big and traded the 13th overall pick to San Francisco for All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and signed All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes. If there’s one team that rolled the dice to win now, it’s Indianapolis. They hold a slight advantage over Tennessee at odds to take the AFC South at +120. Most sportsbooks project them for nine wins in 2020 and the Colts crack the top 10 in odds to win Super Bowl LV (+2200). There’s very little going against Indianapolis this season as they have a middle-of-the-road strength of schedule (0.502, 16th in NFL) and handle Minnesota, Baltimore, and Green Bay all at home.
Jacksonville is last in the NFL in odds to win Super Bowl LV (+17500), last in expected win total (4.5), and is around +2200 to win their division at most books. What they are projected to win, however, is the first overall draft pick and possibly the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. The Jags had a very public and very ugly breakup with star defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and tried to part ways with Fournette, who was met with no suitors. Veteran signal caller Nick Foles was traded to Chicago after missing most of 2019 and the reset button has officially been pressed in Jacksonville. The good to come out of the offseason is that Jags co-owner Tony Khan came away looking fairly smart, despite getting into a Twitter spat with Ngakoue, and they were able to move off what didn’t work in 2019. Minshew showed promise and was rewarded with the undisputed starting job this coming season. The Jags have seemingly taken the “rebuild” approach over the “tank” approach to this season.
All of the money is on the Colts as Indianapolis commands an NFL-high 75% of the handle on their division along with an AFC South-leading 49% of all bets. Following the Colts are the Titans, who own 33% of all the bets, but just 16% of the total handle. In third comes Houston, with 17% of all bets but just 7% of the handle and rounding it out is Jacksonville, which has a league-worst 2% of the handle and just 1% of total bets.
Past AFC South division winners
How to bet on NFL division winners
To reiterate advice given here, shop around before diving headlong into the first bet you see; different outlets offer different odds and a minute or two of your time could result in some more money coming your way.
When reading an odds table, there’s several numbers of note. The first is the odds, which tells you who is favored (lower numbers are favored) and how much a successful bet would earn you. For example, a $100 bet on Tennessee (+175) would win you $175 with a total payout of $275. Next is the handle, which tells you what percentage of the total amount bet on the AFC South division winner each team commands. For example, the Texans have 7% of the handle– meaning 7% of all money bet on the AFC South winner has gone to the Texans. Last is the percentage of bets, which refers to the number of bets– not the amount– wagered on each team. The Colts have 49% of all bets, which doesn’t reflect how much was bet (the Colts have 75% of the handle, meaning larger betting amounts are being placed on the Colts).
Although Indianapolis looks like the clear favorite in this year’s AFC South race, it’s not wise to discount the Titans or the Texans. Since the NFL changed to a 16-game format, Wild Card teams to make their conference championship on average returned with 11.5 wins the next season (including five teams winning at least 12 games). Watson is also one of two quarterbacks in the NFL (Russell Wilson) that can win nine or more games annually regardless of who is around him. At the surface, it’s a one-man race; however, the AFC South is still anyone’s division.
NFL division betting previews
|AFC East||NFC East|
|AFC North||NFC North|
|AFC South||NFC South|
|AFC West||NFC West|