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Odds to Win the AFC South: Jaguars, Texans Leading the Pack at Sportsbooks

Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars hands off the ball to teammate Leonard Fournette #27 during the first quarter in the preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on August 18, 2018 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

For years, the AFC South was widely considered one of the weakest divisions in the NFL. But thanks to an influx of young talent in recent seasons, the race to be crowned AFC South champion could be one of the most exciting races in the upcoming 2018 NFL season.

At Bovada, the Jacksonville Jaguars are slight +175 favorites to win the division for the second year in a row, with the Houston Texans (+185), Tennessee Titans (+325) and Indianapolis Colts (+550) behind them on the oddsboard.

Here’s a betting breakdown of each team’s chances to win the South:

Can the surprising Jaguars keep the momentum going?

After spending the majority of the past decade in the basement of the division, the Jags raised eyebrows around the NFL in 2017 by finishing with a 10-6 SU record en route to earning the franchise’s first AFC South title. Jacksonville’s run ended with a 24-20 setback to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game, but the campaign was widely considered to be a massive success by pundits across the league.

Jacksonville had the best defense in the NFL in 2017 as well as the best pass defense in football by a huge margin. The offensive line received a boost in the form of ex-Carolina Panther guard Andrew Norwell, which will only help quarterback Blake Bortles build off a strong season.

Leonard Fournette is a monster in the backfield, and while the loss of Allen Robinson looks bad on paper, they did make it all the way to the AFC title game without him a year ago. Due to the stellar defense, the Jaguars look like a legit Super Bowl contender, and I’m surprised they aren’t favored by more to win the AFC South.

Behind a healthy Watson, Texans could make a serious leap

The Houston Texans haven’t had the best track record with quarterbacks in the 16-year existence of the team, but they’ve landed a franchise signal-caller in Deshaun Watson. Watson, who was in the middle of a historically great rookie season before tearing his ACL during practice in early November, looks ready to go for Week 1, which is great news for Texas fans and bettors alike.

With offensive weapons like DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller around Watson on offense as well as offseason acquisitions Tyrann Mathieu and Aaron Colvin to bolster the defense, the Texans could be one of the most exciting squads in the NFL in 2018. The health of three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt is a concern, but he did make his return to game action in Saturday’s preseason contest against the Rams.

Whether the Texans make the leap into the upper echelon of the NFL depends on the play of Watson, but if the Clemson product performs the way he did in his six starts in 2017, it could easily happen.

Is a coaching change the spark Tennessee needs?

The Tennessee Titans snuck into the playoffs last year and even managed to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card round, but the enthusiasm surrounding this team is not nearly as high as it is for the two clubs listed above them on the odds chart. Despite the postseason win, head coach Mike Mularkey was given his walking papers in the offseason, as the franchise decided to hand the coaching reins to first-time bench boss and longtime Patriot Mike Vrabel.

With Vrabel at the helm, it may take the Titans some time to get off the ground while learning a new system, so it’s safe to say this is a transition year for Tennessee. The Titans are a better team than they were in 2017, as the free-agent acquisitions of Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis and Harold Landry provide a badly needed injection of talent to the roster.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota had an up-and-down season but could be in line for a bounce-back campaign with new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur running the show. Tennessee figures to be in the wild-card conversation, but with Jacksonville and Houston in the division, a run at the AFC South banner might be a stretch.

Injury status of Luck continues to linger over the Colts

It doesn’t seem that long ago that the Indianapolis Colts were the cream of the crop in the AFC South, but those days are clearly in the rear-view mirror now. On the heels of an extremely frustrating 4-12 season, the Colts are once again expected to be on the outside looking in according to Bovada. Whether that happens or not is going to come down to the status of star quarterback Andrew Luck.

In a league like the NFL where having a top-notch quarterback can make or break a team, the absence of Luck last season was painfully evident. A shoulder injury that had been lingering since 2015 ended his chances of playing a snap in 2017, and in early February it was announced the Stanford product would need an additional surgery.

Luck is on track to start the season under center for the Colts, however, so if he can avoid hitting the shelf, the Colts could be a sneaky futures bet. Longtime coach Chuck Pagano was let go in the offseason in favor of ex-Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, which was a necessary step since Pagano had seemingly worn out his welcome in Indy.

Odds to win the 2018 AFC South
Jacksonville Jaguars+175
Houston Texans+185
Tennessee Titans+325
Indianapolis Colts+550

Odds as of August 29 at Bovada