With DraftKings Sportsbook already releasing odds to win each NFL Division in 2020, we have a chance to look for an edge before free agency and the draft even occur. Here’s how I’d approach betting the AFC South odds.
Tennessee Titans (+160)
It’s really interesting to see where the Titans’ odds came in with so many uncertainties in 2020. Obviously, if we look back at 2019, the Titans had one of the strongest finishes in the NFL, making it all the way to the AFC Championship. Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry were spectacular, but let’s not forget this team still finished a game behind the Texans in the division at just 9-7.
The outlook for 2020 makes it tough to back Tennessee as such a heavy favorite. Tannehill and Henry are both free agents, as is Marcus Mariota. So we have no idea what’s going to happen at the QB position, or with the most dominant RB in the NFL. The Titans also have a handful of key defensive players entering free agency. Even if the Titans wind up with Tannehill back, is he going to have another Pro Bowl season? It feels like 2019 may have been his peak. To address the Tom Brady rumors, it would be idiotic to bet the division because you think he lands in Tennessee. If you think that happens, you can just bet Brady to the Titans at +2000 on DKSB. The AFC South is a tough division because there is no clear-cut bet. But that likely means betting on a heavy favorite that finished 2019 by overachieving is the wrong place to invest.
Houston Texans (+225)
The Texans actually make for pretty strong value here. If we look back at 2019, Houston won the division at 10-6, and has by far the steepest odds of any of the defending division champs — Green Bay is the next-closest at +135 to win the NFC North. The Texans were tied for the best home record in the division at 5-3 and best road record in the division at 5-3. They also had the best record within the division at 4-2. This team isn’t going to win the AFC, but it’s been consistent enough to be the best team in the division.
Three of Houston’s top free agents this offseason will be cornerbacks. So retaining some strength at that position and finding replacements for the ones that leave will be pretty important for 2020. The offensive line is another position that could use some improvement. As long as Houston doesn’t wind up ranking incredibly weak at either of those spots, it’s in a solid spot to potentially repeat as AFC South champions. This is where my money would go in February.
Indianapolis Colts (+250)
The Colts went 7-9 in 2019, but had to work around the shock of Andrew Luck retiring during the preseason. This is a team built around its offensive line, which will need to re-sign or replace Anthony Castanzo next season. Indy can run the ball down your throat, make the necessary throws, and be solid on defense. It flashed a high ceiling last year with some big wins, especially over the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes healthy.
One of the biggest questions for 2020 is who the QB will be. Tom Brady is +2000 to land in Indy, but Philip Rivers is a name to watch, at just +150 to wind up a member of the Colts. Is that an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett? It could be given the strength of the offensive line. I don’t think I’d place a bet on the Colts until I know who the intended starting QB is, but there could be some value here depending on how that story progresses.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+700)
The Jags check in at a pretty long price for a team that finished just four games back of the division winner. So if you think about it in terms of the logjam the AFC South generally is, you can make the argument for value. As fun as Minshew Mania was, we could also see a full season of Nick Foles, which could help the offense be more of a threat.
Jacksonville will have a chance to hit on some draft picks and get back into the mix in this division in 2020. If the team can get average QB play, it has a chance to contend. Free agent losses shouldn’t make much of a difference in the success of the upcoming season. The bottom line is that I think this division is the toughest in the AFC to bet, so taking the longest odds has some merit. The Jags are probably the third place I would look if I actually wind up laying money, though.
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