The race for the AFC South crown has seen some major acquisitions by both Tennessee and Indianapolis. These two teams figure to be neck-and-neck all year long, with the Jaguars and Texans trying to spoil the party. Health will be a huge factor, as Julio Jones (Titans) and Carson Wentz (Colts) both have a lengthy injury history, and if either miss a lot of time, their respective teams could be in trouble. Jacksonville will spend the 2021 campaign figuring out how to maximize Trevor Lawrence, while Houston just tries to tread water. Let's take a look at the division's win totals.
2021 NFL Win Total Analysis by Division: AFC East I AFC North I AFC South I AFC West I NFC East I NFC North I NFC South I NFC West
Note: Win totals provided by the FanDuel Sportsbook
Houston Texans (Over 4 -120...Under 4 EVEN)
Division Champion Odds: +2300
Offense: Deshaun Watson seems likely to never take a snap for the Texans in 2021, so it'll be Tyrod Taylor's team. The longtime backup finally gets a chance to captain his own team and I'm a believer he'll be more than satisfactory at it. Houston's backfield has several intriguing options including Mark Ingram II, Phillip Lindsay, and David Johnson, as well as Rex Burkhead, who comes over from New England. The WR corps is lacking, especially after the departure of Will Fuller. That means Brandin Cooks takes over as the No. 1 with Anthony Miller, Chris Conley, Keke Coutee, and Alex Erickson among others vying for No. 2. The offensive line may actually be sneaky good, but will they be doing a ton of pass blocking as the team constantly plays from behind?
Defense: Lovie Smith is the defensive coordinator after his time at Illinois. Among the new acquisitions are Maliek Collins (Las Vegas), Christian Kirksey (Green Bay), Jordan Jenkins (Jets), and Terrance Mitchell (Cleveland). Shaq Lawson (Miami) was part of this group, but Houston traded him to the Jets after they lost Carl Lawson to a season-ending Achilles injury. The Texans struggled to get pressure last year; J.J. Watt led with five sacks, and now he's in Arizona. The secondary could be pretty decent with Bradley Roby and Mitchell starting and Desmond King II and Vernon Hargreaves III behind them. Will this group be able to come together?
Schedule Notes: Houston gets a chance to open up with a potential victory when they host the Jaguars. On the other hand, they could potentially be 0-3 11 days into the season with a road trip to the Browns and a home game against the Panthers. The Texans have a Week 10 bye, and before then they have three of four on the road. The payoff comes in late November when the team gets three straight at home.
Prediction: The under may be worth the look at even money. This is going to be the worst team in football.
Related: Houston Texans Depth Chart
Indianapolis Colts (Over 8.5 -145...Under 8.5 +125)
Division Champion Odds: +140
Offense: Putting aside my bias as an Eagles fan for Carson Wentz, this is a great opportunity for him to get a fresh start on his NFL career. Wentz isn't as bad as he was last year, but he's not as good as he was in that near-MVP season. While Wentz missed some time in the preseason, the Colts got a chance to look at Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger, both of whom flashed but also showed they may not be ready yet. The run game is stacked as usual with Jonathan Taylor, Marlon Mack, and Nyheim Hines all back. The rest of the skill positions are pretty much intact although Trey Burton departed. T.Y. Hilton, who will miss the start of the season with a neck injury, led all WRs on the team with 56 receptions but finished second behind Hines. The offensive line is one of the best in football if they can get Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly healthy.
Defense: Indy bolstered its defensive line through the draft by adding Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo in the first two rounds. Paye could see plenty of time alongside DeForest Buckner, who stars inside, while Odeyingbo is recovering from an Achilles tear. The linebacking position could be a little stronger, but of course, Darius Leonard is one of the best in the league. Leonard had 132 tackles in 2020, which was 40 more than the next player. The secondary saw Xavier Rhodes reborn after a couple of down seasons with Minnesota. Kenny Moore II is a solid nickel corner, while Rock Ya-Sin gets ready for his third season. The safety duo is a little young, but Sean Davis comes over from Pittsburgh to help fix that.
Schedule Notes: The Colts get two straight NFC West teams at home to open up the season but then hit the road for four of their next five, including trips to Miami and Baltimore. Beginning Halloween, Indy is home for four of six, and then it gets a mid-December bye. There are some opportunities late to run off some victories to help clinch the division.
Prediction: The over seems to be the play here. Shop around, though, to find something better than -145.
Related: Indianapolis Colts Depth Chart
Jacksonville Jaguars (Over 6.5 +105...Under 6.5 -125)
Division Champion Odds: +600
Offense: The franchise has handed the keys to a rookie quarterback and a rookie NFL head coach in Urban Meyer. Lawrence figures to have the ups and downs of any rookie but will improve as the year goes on. The offense took an early hit losing Lawrence's former Clemson teammate Travis Etienne to a Lisfranc injury in the second preseason game. This means James Robinson, who went from a UDFA to a 1,000-yard rusher last season, will get the chance to carry the load. The WRs got a healthy upgrade with the addition of Marvin Jones Jr. from Detroit and Phillip Dorsett II from Seattle. Add those two to DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr., and Lawrence isn't hurting for weapons. The biggest problem here is the offensive line, which could be one of the NFL's worst.
Defense: The team focused on adding defensive pieces through free agency and picked up defensive linemen, Roy Robertson-Harris (Bears) and Malcom Brown (Saints), linebacker Damien Wilson (Chiefs), and defensive backs Rayshawn Jenkins (Chargers) and Shaquill Griffin (Seahawks) for the secondary. They still need a lot of work, hence the addition of four more players for the defense through the draft. Joe Schobert would have formed a nice LB duo with Myles Jack, but the Jags sent him to Pittsburgh. This is a work in progress once again.
Schedule Notes: The Jaguars have just three true home games through the first eight weeks of the season, with a bye and a trip to London early on. They close out the year with four of their final six on the road, including trips to LA and Tennessee in back-to-back weeks. The schedule is really tough.
Prediction: Lean to the under here. The defense just isn't that good, and there are plenty of good offenses on the schedule.
Related: Jacksonville Jaguars Depth Chart
Tennessee Titans (Over 9 -150...Under 9 +125)
Division Champion Odds: -110
Offense: This side of the ball has so much potential after picking up Julio Jones. Jones has not practiced in the preseason, but pair him off with A.J. Brown, and you've got one of the best duos in the league. Ryan Tannehill accounted for an impressive 40 touchdowns (33 passing, 7 rushing) to just seven interceptions last season. Oh, yeah, don't forget Derrick Henry, who had a whopping 378 carries in 2020. My one worry is the year after RBs get more than 300 carries, they take often a step back the next season. All in all, though, this offense should be spectacular if its stays healthy.
Defense: Tennessee's biggest weakness is on this side of the ball. They added two key pieces in Pittsburgh's Bud Dupree and New Orleans' Janoris Jenkins. The linebacking corps improves so much as Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry enter Year 4. Jeffery Simmons had only three sacks in 2020 but was a bigger disruption than the numbers say. The secondary lost its two starting CBs in Malcolm Butler and Adoree' Jackson, so Jenkins and Kristian Fulton attempt to take over. First-round pick Caleb Farley may see the field sooner rather than later.
Schedule Notes: The Titans have a really tough stretch beginning Oct. 18 as they host the Bills and Chiefs before road trips to Indy and LA to play the Rams. Tennessee gets three of its final five contests at home, with San Francisco having to come to them on a short week Dec. 23.
Prediction: I see nine or 10 wins for the Titans, but I'm not taking the over at this price.
Related: Tennesee Titans Depth Chart