The health of certain key players could decide the division this season
In the AFC South, you could make a case for any of the four teams to win this division this season. If Andrew Luck can get healthy, then the Indianapolis Colts have the pieces to be really tough. Same could be said for the Houston Texans with Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt. The Tennessee Titans will be solid defensively which can help overcome Marcus Mariota's shortcomings and Nick Foles has won a Super Bowl and could be the final piece that the Jacksonville Jaguars need. Let's take a look at what the Westgate out of Las Vegas thinks of the AFC South.
Over 8.5 wins +130...Under 8.5 wins -150
Offense: Deshaun Watson is another year from ACL surgery which means he could be even more dangerous. Last year he had 31 touchdowns between running and passing to just nine interceptions. Lamar Miller and Duke Johnson, who the Texans acquired from Cleveland on Aug. 8, will handle the backfield work with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Keke Coutee back at wide receiver. Fuller has put up good numbers with Watson under center. The offensive line needs to protect Watson better and the team tried to address that in the draft with Tytus Howard and Max Scharping and in free agency by signing veteran Matt Kalil.
Defense: A lot of the front seven is back intact for coordinator Romeo Crennel and that means hopefully a healthy dose of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney was the subject of trade rumors this offseason after the team used the franchise tag on him. He and Watt combined for 25 sacks in 2018. There are a couple of solid linebackers in Whitney Mercilus and Zach Cunningham. The secondary should be bolstered by the addition of former Bronco Bradley Roby. He joins Jonathan Joseph at corner while Tashaun Gipson and Justin Reid are the safeties.
Verdict: The Texans open their season in New Orleans on "Monday Night Football" against Drew Brees and the Saints. Houston has a couple of tough road assignments but gets three straight at home starting in late November, including contests against Indianapolis and New England. The Texans don't play the Titans until Week 15 and then again in Week 17. I think the over could be worth a look at that price.
Over 10 wins +130...Under 10 wins -150
Offense: The biggest question is Andrew Luck's health. Initially, the team said it was taking it slow with their franchise quarterback because of a calf injury, but then came the surprising revelation from owner Jim Irsay that his absence during training camp was due to a bone issue, which was followed by an admission from general manager Chris Ballard that Luck is dealing with a high-ankle issue. Luck's health aside, the Colts may have the best group of tight ends in football with Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, and a rising Mo Alie-Cox. That offsets the collection of other skill position players, which is somewhat lacking. Yes, T.Y. Hilton is fantastic and a guy who can take the top off a defense, but I'm not sure if Devin Funchess is the answer on the other side. Marlon Mack figures to get the most touches out of the backfield, but the Colts also have Nyheim Hines, Spencer Ware and former Texan D'Onta Foreman battling for positioning behind him.
Defense: The defense added Justin Houston after he was let go by Kansas City. He will provide a boost to the pass rush if he has anything left in the tank. The front seven wasn't that great at getting to the quarterback but Darius Leonard was a revelation with 163 tackles and seven sacks as a rookie last season. I'm still not in love with the secondary as a whole. The Colts tried to address cornerback by drafting Temple's Rock Ya-Sin in the second round. He will join a cornerback group that includes a re-signed Pierre Desir, Quincy Wilson and Kenny Moore. Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers are not terrible starting safeties.
Verdict: The Colts open with road games against the Chargers and Titans before coming home to face the Falcons and Raiders. Their bye comes in Week 6 and is followed by a stretch of four at five at Lucas Oil Stadium. The trade-off comes later when Indianapolis closes with three of its final four games on the road, including a Monday night engagement in New Orleans. Ten is a good number so no play.
Over 8 wins +120...Under 8 wins -140
Offense: The Blake Bortles era is over and now it's Nick Foles turn to be under center. Foles gets to start after being the backup in Philadelphia. He inherits a much weaker group of wide receivers to work with in Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook and now Chris Conley, the former Chief who signed in free agency. Leonard Fournette had a rough season last year and needs to bounce back while Alfred Blue replaces T.J. Yeldon as the backup. New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is going to have to work some magic if he hopes for this side of the ball to click.
Defense: This side of the ball has always been a strength especially against the pass. When you've got a pair of corners like Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye then you can see why. The safety group is not as strong with Tashaun Gipson leaving and Jarrod Wilson and Ronnie Harrison expected to start. The front seven has pass rushers with Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus and adds first-round pick Josh Allen, the consensus national defensive player of the year last season at Kentucky.
Verdict: Jacksonville has three sets of back-to-back road games and will play its annual date over in London in Week 9 against Houston. The Jaguars' toughest road trips are to Carolina and Atlanta while they get Kansas City and the Chargers at home. The money move to the under is the right one so no play.
Over 8 wins +120...Under 8 wins -140
Offense: Marcus Mariota is playing for a contract with the Titans as he tries to impress GM Jon Robinson and the organization. The team traded for Ryan Tannehill to put a little heat on Mariota. The backfield once again will have Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis while free-agent signee Adam Humphries joins Corey Davis and Tajae Sharpe out wide. We'll see if second-round pick A.J. Brown out of Ole Miss can make an immediate impact. The offensive line was strong but Quinton Spain signed with Buffalo and left tackle Taylor Lewan is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs.
Defense: Cameron Wake comes over from Miami while Jonathan Cyprien, Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo all left. The front seven was pretty strong last year led by Jurrell Casey and Wesley Woodyard. Wake's presence should help the big boys in the middle and maybe light a fire into Harold Landry, who was underwhelming as a rookie last season. Adoree' Jackson and Malcolm Butler are a solid duo at cornerback while Kenny Vaccaro and Kenny Byard patrol the safety position. Head coach Mike Vrabel and defensive coordinator Dean Pees have done very good things with this side of the ball.
Verdict: The Titans have three of their first four games and four of the first six on the road including an intriguing opener at Cleveland. The team has a late November bye (Week 11) and doesn't face divisional rival Houston until Weeks 15 and 17. Closing out with the Texans and Saints over those last three weeks will be tough. I see seven or eight wins here so no play.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.