AFC South Breakdown
July 29, 2015
By Gary Bart
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The Indianapolis Colts are the favorites to win their third consecutive AFC South Division title. They are coming off an 11-5 season that included a trip to the AFC Championship game. I'm stating the obvious that the Colts are in a very weak division and will not be challenged by the Texans, Jaguars or Titans.
Odds to win AFC South - per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
Indianapolis Colts 1/4
Houston Texans 4/1
Tennessee Titans 20/1
Jacksonville Jaguars 20/1
AFC South Win Totals - per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
Indianapolis Colts - 10.5 (Over -150, Under +130)
Houston Texans - 8.5 (Over -110, Under -110)
Tennessee Titans - 5.5 (Over -110, Under -110)
Jacksonville Jaguars - 5.5 (Over -150), Under +130)
Odds Subject to Change – Updated 7.29.15
Listed below are my notes on all four teams and predicted order of finish.
1) Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are coming off a very good 2014 season. They won their first two playoff games before losing 45-7 to the Patriots in the conference championship. Indianapolis had the third ranked offense and No.1 ranked passing attack last season. These statistics look impressive, but they are very deceptive. The Colts played a weak regular season schedule that included only six games against teams that made the playoffs. They were able to run up the score against weak opponents and went just 2-4 against teams that made the playoffs.
Quarterback Andrew Luck is entering his fourth NFL season. He had a breakout season in 2014, throwing 40 touchdown passes with only 16 interceptions. Luck is a good signal caller but I cannot put him in the elite category at this time. He has a habit of making poor decisions at key times, a problem that goes back to his college days at Stanford. Indianapolis will play the second easiest schedule in the entire league. Most observers would think this is a positive situation for this team, but is it a two edge sword? The upside is that the Colts should walk away with the division and will have a very good chance of securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The downside could be that they may not be fully prepared when facing elite teams during the playoffs.
The Colts should win the division. The question is whether or not Andrew Luck can stop making poor decisions in key situations and if the Colts can figure out a way to improve on their 22nd ranked rushing attack. The offseason addition of running back Frank Gore should help the cause for the Colts.
They will also need to find a way to play better defense against good teams. The Colts gave up an average of 41.5 points per game in their four losses to playoff teams last season. That does not include the 45 points they allowed against the Patriots in the AFC title game.
Indianapolis did sign three defensive free agents albeit older veterans during the offseason but they waited until the third round before selecting their first defensive player in this year’s draft, a decision that could be costly. If the Colts can improve on defense they should contend for a spot in the Super Bowl.
2) Houston Texans
The Houston Texans rebounded with a 9-7 record after a terrible 2-14 season in 2013. They drafted Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson with their first round pick in an effort to improve their 21st ranked passing defense. They also addressed a need on offense by taking two wide receivers with their third and fourth picks.
It made sense that the Texans picked two wide receivers in this year’s draft, but I am wonder who is going to throw the ball to them. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick played in 12 games for the Texans last season and was not resigned. Ryan Mallet who has played in just seven NFL games, inexperienced second-year pro Tom Savage and journeyman Brian Hoyer are competing for the starting quarterback position.
Houston has the third easiest schedule in the league. With their lack of experience and quality at the quarterback position, it will be difficult for this team to match last year’s 9-7 record, despite their soft schedule.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville is coming off another disappointing season. They finished 3-13 and were rewarded with the third overall pick in the draft. After some gamesmanship leading up to the draft the Jaguars selected Florida defensive end Dante Fowler. Fowler was penciled in as a starter until he tore his ACL during the team’s first minicamp workout.
The Jaguars addressed their need at quarterback in 2014 when they drafted Blake Bortles with the third overall pick. They also added wide receiver targets Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson in the second round of last year’s draft. Jacksonville may have found their starting running back in Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and they also added two wide receivers in the later rounds to compliment Lee and Robinson.
It will not be difficult for this team to improve on last year’s record, even with the loss of Fowler. Bortles was not very good in the 14 games he appeared in during his rookie season. If Jacksonville can have success running the football with Yeldon and if Bortles lives up to expectations, the Jaguars could surprise a few teams.
4) Tennessee Titans
The Titans were 2-14 last year. When a team wins only two games in a season they usually need upgrades at most positions. They may have helped themselves on offense by picking quarterback Marcus Mariota with the second overall pick in this year’s draft. The drafting of Mariota, along with troubled Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham provides an upgrade at two important skilled positions.
Mariota was a standout in college and he could be a solid leader for the Titans. It is unclear at this point if Mariota will start the season as the number one quarterback or if second-year pro Zach Mettenberger will get the call. I do not see this team contending for a playoff spot. If the Titans are smart, they will not rush Mariota and continue to rebuild.
5-1 Week 6, 10-2 Picks, 6-0 G-Plays
5-2 Run, 10-3 GPlays, 5-0 L5 Thurs
7-3 Streak, 11-5 L3 Sundays
15-7 L4 Sundays, 20-10 L30 Picks
11-5 L4 Sun, 20-9 Picks, 8-2 GPlays
29-15 L44 Picks, +1,120 TY
6-3 Last 9 NFL Guarantees
5-0 L5 Thurs, 11-4 G-Plays, 5-2 Picks
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7-3 Last 10 Guaranteed Plays