The AFC South has been the most competitive division in the NFL for several seasons and that appears to be case once again. Jacksonville, Houston and Tennessee are all tied for the top spot with Indianapolis just a game back and they’ll all be battling throughout the remainder of the season. Houston has emerged as the favorite following the strong play of Deshaun Watson, who has transformed the Texans offense. But they will have to deal with the loss of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the rest season, which will impact the play of the defense.
Watson has thrown 12 touchdown passes in the last three games and he leads the NFL with 15, a number that equals the output of last year’s starter Brock Osweiler. The Texans scored at least 30 points in a franchise record four straight games and Watson just keeps getting better. Houston survived without Watt last season and they didn’t have an offense. Now that they do, the group will have to carry the team, and it looks favorable in a division that doesn’t have a clear-cut favorite.
The Titans got a glimpse of life without Marcus Mariota and it wasn’t pretty. He returned to action Monday night against Indy and led the Titans to win over the Colts, ending a two-game losing streak and an 11-game skid to their division nemesis. In the six quarters Mariota was shelved with a hamstring injury, the Titans managed just 212 yards and 10 points with Matt Cassel leading the way. The Colts may not get their QB back after Andrew Luck had a setback. Winning the division is likely out of the question and it would be smart of them to shut Luck down for the year.
Leonard Fournette and defense have led Jacksonville, but the league’s second-leading rusher could miss some time after sustaining an ankle injury, seriously impacting the Jags odds. Turning the offense over to Blake Bortles will be a mistake. The Jags lead the NFL in sacks and turnover differential and that group will have to continue hounding opposing quarterbacks to stay afloat in the division.
Houston Texans +150
Tennessee Titans +160
Jacksonville Jaguars +300
Indianapolis Colts +1200
1. Tennessee Titans ( 3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS, 4-2 O/U )
1. Jacksonville Jaguars ( 3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS, 4-2 O/U )
1. Houston Texans ( 3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS, 4-2 O/U )
4. Indianapolis Colts ( 2-4 SU, 3-3 ATS, 5-1 O/U )
Titans ( -5.5, 46 ) at Browns, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET – CBS
Jaguars at Colts ( +3, 44 ), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET – CBS
It’s no secret what has held the Indianapolis Colts back the last two seasons. A poor salary cap situation led to the Colts needing to trim their roster, so they rolled their dice with a young, inexperienced offensive line and paid dearly. Andrew Luck only lasted half of 2015 as a result of a shoddy offensive line and he was sacked 41 times last year behind one of the worst pass protection units in the NFL. For Indianapolis to get back to the playoffs, the offensive line has to find some consistency. Continue
The Houston Texans have officially hitched their wagon to Deshaun Watson. Rick Smith and the front office effectively surrendered two first round picks and a second round pick for the right to take Watson at No. 11 overall in this year's NFL Draft. It's inevitable he'll end up under center at some point over the course of this season. He's got the team around him to succeed for sure, but Texans fans and bettors alike will have to be careful to put too much stock in what Watson may or may not be able to bring to the table. Continue
The Jacksonville Jaguars are trying to follow the blueprint that the Dallas Cowboys laid out last year. However, the Jaguars don’t have anywhere near the Cowboys had heading into 2016. The franchise is excited about Leonard Fournette though and the hope is that he can help this offense by opening things up in the passing game as well. If the passing game can’t get going this season, it will likely be curtains for the Blake Bortles era. Continue
The Tennessee Titans appear to have struck gold in selecting Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 pick back in 2015. Mariota took a massive step forward in his second season and looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the AFC for much of the season. His season ended in Week 16 with a fractured fibula, but he returned to the field for minicamp workouts in May and seems fine. Provided he is healthy, this team is a legitimate playoff contender in 2017. Continue
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