AFC South Betting Odds and Forecast
The AFC South has been a division that tends to find itself up for grabs late in a season the past few years, and with the ways that Indianapolis, Houston, and last year's AFC runner-up Tennessee have positioned themselves for 2020, this division race could come down to the final weeks again.
Divisions that are expected to be tight like the AFC South are ones where digging for futures wagers can pay off because you aren't asking for outcomes that are on the extreme ends of the range of probabilities. Land on the right team to separate themselves and these are the divisions where doing the homework can be worth the months long investment.
Despite winning the AFC South in 2019, oddsmakers don't believe the Houston Texans will have an easy time repeating in the 2020 NFL season. (AP)
2020 AFC South Title Odds
The Houston Texans come into 2020 as the defending division champions, but with some questionable decisions made in the off-season by their coach and general manager Bill O'Brien that included trading away wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, there is next to nothing from the AFC South betting market in terms of belief in Houston this year. The narrative is that their coach/GM will always get in their way.
Indianapolis went out and got Quarterback Philip Rivers for a hopeful Super Bowl run in the QB's final years, and Tennessee showed that their brand of physical football can take a team far, making the AFC Championship last year. It likely will be a three-team race for this division, and it may come down to who doesn't slip up against a Jacksonville team looking to turn the corner in Year 2 of Minshew Mania.
2020 AFC Championship Odds
Never say never with any of these teams making a run on a future wager on an AFC Championship victory. Last year it was Tennessee making a run to the title game after road wins in New England and Baltimore, and it was just a couple of years ago that Jacksonville went on a similar run before sharing the Titans fate and losing in the AFC Championship. Remember, Tennessee had a multi-score lead on KC in that AFC Title game too.
Tennessee and Houston had big leads in their respective playoff games vs KC and got beat, so whomever one of these AFC South teams earns your best argument in terms of backing them, going all the way to the Super Bowl might be a bit of a stretch as they still might be outgunned by teams like the Chiefs and Ravens.
But easy cases can be made for some marginal risk to be taken on one of the three teams expected to be at the top if you are looking for some variance.
2020 Super Bowl 55 Odds
Nobody in the entire league has worse odds then the Jacksonville Jaguars do, so it's safe to say any futures on the Jags in this category are simply a lottery ticket to win the Super Bowl.
Again though, any significant argument that can hold weight on the other three teams to win the division or even conference should carry the same significance here. Getting through the AFC would suggest that the winner's style from this division would have gone through at least one of Kansas City or Baltimore along the way, if not someone else that's just as good.
No team coming out of the NFC would strike any more fear for the AFC South representative in that scenario, and those listed prices aren't bad to be holding in your pocket by any regard then.
2020 AFC South Win Totals Odds
The coin-flip like projections between the Colts and Titans continue to their season Win Totals, as both have juice to pay on the 'over', the Colts price is just a little steeper (-143). Those head-to-head games between those two teams are going to mean a lot and both of them come in the span of three weeks in November.
At the same time, Jacksonville doesn't even have to match last year's 6-10 straight up (SU) mark to cash an 'over' ticket here, while I'm not sure anything Houston did see leave their roster – by the player's or team/coach's choice – is worth a full 2+ fewer losses. The Texans still have a strong defense when healthy, and QB Deshaun Watson is still there too.
Some of Bill O'Brien's decisions do keep the phrase “head-scratching” alive and well, but that's not unique to this past off-season or that one particular trade. This franchise has won games and division titles recently in spite of O'Brien's decisions, so again it looks like too much negative value has been attached to Houston after the Hopkins trade.
2020 AFC South Playoff PropsIndianapolis: Yes (-152) or No (+125)
Tennessee: Yes (-152) or No (+125)
Houston: Yes (+149) or No (-182)
Jacksonville: Yes (+725) or No (-1250)
The story stays the same for the AFC South division on the whole here, as Indy and Tennessee are in a dead heat for potentially being playoff teams. Houston follows up slightly behind that, and Jacksonville is there pulling up the rear.
But if there is any bettors out there that are high on the Jaguars being the surprise success story in the league this year, obviously a win total 'over' bettor would be the first choice, but grabbing a small piece of the 'yes' on the NFL Playoff Prop odds market at better then 7/1 is always an option for those that shun at the meaning of “risk-averse”.
2020 AFC South MVP ContendersHouston QB: Deshaun Watkins (+2500)
Tennessee RB: Derrick Henry (+4000)
Indianapolis QB: Phillip Rivers (+6000)
Tennessee QB: Ryan Tannehill (+8000)
Houston DE: JJ Watt (+10000)
Indianapolis QB: Jacoby Brissett (+15000)
Jacksonville QB: Gardner Minshew (+15000)
Jacksonville RB: Leonard Fournette (+25000)
QB - Quarterback, RB - Running Back, WR - Wide Receiver, DE - Defensive End
2020 AFC South ROY Contenders
OffenseIndianapolis RB: Jonathan Taylor (+1000)
Indianapolis WR: Michael Pittman Jr (+4000)
Jacksonville WR: Laviska Shenault Jr (+10000)
Indianapolis QB: Jacob Eason (+15000)
QB - Quarterback, RB - Running Back, WR - Wide Receiver
DefenseJacksonville LB: K'Lavon Chaisson (+2000)
Jacksonville S: CJ Henderson (+3300)
Tennessee CB: Kristian Fulton (+6000)
Houston LB: Ross Blacklock (+6600)
Houston S: Jonathan Greenard (+10000)
S - Safety, LB - Linebacker, CB - Cornerback
Interesting approaches are out there for those that are looking on AFC South players for some individual hardware. The Colts appeared to have cornered the Offensive Rookie of the Year betting market within the division as two of their draft picks are among the first 20 on the board.
What's most interesting though is the fact that Houston QB is by far and away the leading choice for league MVP Betting Odds in this division and yet his team is getting the opposite respect and perspective elsewhere in the market. Only five other players in the league have better odds currently then Watson in the MVP market, and yet, the Texans could get a MVP type season out of their QB and still struggle to get to 8-8 SU? Something doesn't quite add up.
2020 AFC South Predictions
Best Bet/Value on AFC South Division Winner
Best Bet: Houston (+350)
If this division does turn out to be a three-way race at the top between the Colts, Titans, and Texans, I'll gladly take the one of those three with the highest odds and lowest perceived stock value in the division (and perhaps the league) in the market right now. I have yet to hear anyone discuss Houston's potential on the field in 2020 in an overly positive light since they traded Hopkins.
Houston still has plenty of talent on the field, and if a knock on them is how they shrivelled up after getting that big lead on the Chiefs in the playoffs, well, it's not like they were the only team, from this division no less to fall victim to that fate vs the Chiefs.
Speaking of Tennessee, they are a team I've got a tough time believing they'll duplicate their 2019 run, especially when the sample size of Ryan Tannehill's career under center doesn't come close to painting as bright as a picture as his 10 starts in Tennessee do last year. Has to be some regression coming there, especially since Tannehill just got paid.
Which brings me to the Colts, who are just as hard to trust as well. After QB Andrew Luck's surprise retirement late last August, the Colts gave backup-turned-starter a big two-year deal that was effectively a bridge deal. But the Colts couldn't even wait until that 'bridge' was finished being built, as they got googly-eyed at the prospect of luring QB Philip Rivers to town. So they've got an abandoned bridge with Brissett, a new attraction in Rivers who may not even be around after 2020, and no concrete plan for 2021 at the QB position. Both guys are now playing for contracts, and if both see starting time, the potential for internal disaster lurks.
Yes, HC Frank Reich and Rivers have done more with less talent around them in their respective careers, but there is too much potential for this situation in Indianapolis to blow up in their face. Internal drama – say an early season injury to Rivers - only needs the spark of a few losses piling up to turn into a full blown blaze, and with no clear big picture direction, teams like the Colts who seemingly go “all in” for a year or two tend to have adversity strike in new and weird ways. At the current price, they just aren't worth the risk this year.
Best Bet/Value on AFC Championship Winner
Best Value: Houston (+2500)
Again, Houston is a team that is rather undervalued in the market as a whole right now, and given that 23 of the past 30 Super Bowl winners are organizations that made the playoffs the year prior, there are a handful of historical angles that Houston is involved with this year.
That's not to say this wager should be anything more then something of a flyer wager – half unit or less, but in a division that's expected to be tight regardless, the price point here with Houston makes a lot of sense to get behind. The best option is probably to wait though and see who does end up making the playoffs from the South and reassess from there.
Best Bet/Value for Super Bowl 55 Winner
Best Value: Houston (+5000)
Price point is another big reason behind the Texans being the choice right now from the AFC South, although this would be a wager that is far from being placed right now. Houston's got too much football to be played on the field this year before a bettor can really be confident in tying up any money on a Super Bowl future with this team. The same thought can generally be applied to the rest of the teams in this division as well.
Best Bets/Value for AFC South Season Win Totals
Best Over: Houston Over 7.5 wins
The Houston train on these selections doesn't stop here, especially on a wager where a 8-8 SU season gets you the win. Bill O'Brien may not be the king of 8-8 SU seasons like former Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was, but the Texan's have won at least nine games in five of his six seasons there, and the one they didn't was when they lost QB Deshaun Watson to a torn ACL. It's what I mean that this organization continues to win IN SPITE of the decisions O'Brien makes at the top. 2020 should be no different.
Best Under: Tennessee Under 8.5 wins
Tennessee's got a real shot at going sniffing the basement in this division this year, as it's going to be hard to replicate their 2019 success on all levels. For one, they weren't even that good of a team to begin with starting the year 2-4 SU, and were lucky to escape with two one-score victories after that to get to 4-4 SU before taking off later in the year.
Last year's season was nothing more then a hot run by a QB/RB combo that got connected at the right time and took advantage of their opportunities. Opposing teams weren't giving QB Ryan Tannehill any credit at all early on and why would they after what he did in Miami, but that element of overlooking the Titans won't be there this year. For a team that can't really afford to play too many games from behind with their physical, run-first brand of football, that's not particularly a good thing.
Best Bets/Value for Yes/No in the 2020 NFL Playoffs
Best Bet(s): Tennessee “No” or Houston “Yes”
Take your pick, or take a piece of both of these props as I have as it continues the theme of buying low on Houston and selling high on Tennessee that this piece has portrayed quite a bit. Both props come in at plus money - +125 and +149 respectively – so even a split ends up profitable.
Best Bets/Value for Individual Awards
All of these individual award props plays are selections that aren't forced at all simply because these guys reside in this specific division.
Watson is one of those QB's with very similar skill sets to the last two MVP winners (Mahomes, Jackson), and has shown in the past that he's plenty capable of putting the entire Houston team on his back. He's carried this franchise since he arrived in town, and if Houston is going to play up to their potential and be a playoff caliber team again, Watson is going to need to have a big year.
In terms of the rookies, Jacksonville LB K'Lavon Chaisson is going to get plenty of playing time on that Jags defense, and plenty of opportunities to make big plays because of it. He's a guy that could end up leading the Jags in tackles as a rookie, and in a division where running games are a big offensive proponent, Chaisson's name will be heard a lot.
Analysis provided by VI Expert Matt Blunt - Odds & Betting Markets Subject to Change