Texans, Titans and Colts figure to battle it out for the top spot
The AFC South has three contenders and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Houston Texans probably have the most talent, but their biggest question mark is how healthy will their stars be. J.J. Watt, David Johnson, Will Fuller V, and Brandin Cooks all have had their injury issues in the past. The Indianapolis Colts added Philip Rivers, who will play behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, and the Tennessee Titans just keep getting it done overall. With that, let's take a look at the AFC South's win totals.
(Numbers courtesy of the Westgate's Superbook)
Over 7.5 Wins -110... Under 7.5 Wins -110
Offense: Deshaun Watson is back, but the weapons around him are drastically different. First off, his No. 1 wide receiver is no longer DeAndre Hopkins, as he was traded to Arizona. Attempting to replace him are two newcomers, Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb, along with Kenny Stills and Will Fuller. David Johnson came back in that trade with the Cardinals, and we'll see how healthy he can be and how head coach Bill O'Brien breaks down the carries with Duke Johnson there as well. The offensive line is alright, but Watson could still be under duress often.
Defense: It's all about J.J. Watt's health as he tries to stay on the field and be the disruptor he was earlier in his career. There's talent at linebacker with Whitney Mercilus and Zach Cunningham, while Bradley Roby patrols the corner along with Gareon Conley, who comes over from the Raiders. Vernon Hargreaves III had potential that he never realized in Tampa Bay and is now the third corner.
Schedule Note: Houston plays the Colts twice in the span of three weeks from Dec. 6-20. If they are still in the division race by then, the Week 14 game in Chicago could be a flat spot.
Prediction: I like the over here. I can see 9 wins with good health.
Over 9 Wins -150... Under 9 Wins +130
Offense: It's Philip Rivers' team now in what could be his final season in the NFL as he gets to lead a real contender to finish things out. I'd argue his play tailed off towards the end of his Chargers tenure, so we'll see if the new surroundings help out. He's got a solid QB room with Jacoby Brissett still there, along with rookie Jacob Eason. I really like the running back group after Indy added Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor to Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines. The wide receiver group got an upgrade as well after they drafted USC's Michael Pittman Jr. with the 34th overall pick. Trey Burton strengthens the tight end options, joining Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox.
Defense: We'll see what Xavier Rhodes has in the tank at cornerback as he joins veteran TJ Carrie in the secondary. Rhodes used to be one of the league's best, but he routinely got beat in his last few seasons with the Vikings. Darius Leonard is a stud linebacker with some depth at that position. The front line was bolstered by the addition of DeForest Buckner from the 49ers via trade.
Schedule Note: Much like the Texans, the Colts have a home game vs. Green Bay sandwiched around divisional games against the Titans, which could decide how high they finish.
Prediction: Nine wins are what I came up with, so this is a solid number here.
Over 4.5 Wins -120... Under 4.5 Wins EVEN
Offense: The Jags really seem to be tanking for Trevor Lawrence, and it shows on offense where there just isn't a ton of talent. Gardner Minshew II will be the quarterback, and that's what they've told all the free-agent signal-callers. Minshew better not get hurt because things get bleaker behind him with Joshua Dobbs and rookie Jake Luton from Oregon State. Leonard Fournette is at running back for now, but he doesn't seem to be a happy camper. Out wide get to know Laviska Shenault Jr. who could be busy behind Chris Conley, DJ Chark Jr., and Dede Westbrook.
Defense: The best player on this side of the ball is Yannick Ngakoue, who is playing on the franchise tag for a team that he actually doesn't want to play for. There's some talent here with Josh Allen up front, Myles Jack and rookie K'Lavon Chaisson at linebacker, and heralded Florida corner CJ Henderson in the secondary. This is clearly a very young unit.
Schedule Note: Jaguars alternate home and away games for most of their slate. Last eight games feature matchups with four playoffs teams from last season as well as visits from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago.
Prediction: The under is the play here, especially at even money. I have them with three wins.
Over 8.5 Wins -130... Under 8.5 Wins -110
Offense: Most of the pieces are back on offense from a group that found some success and upset the two top seeds in the AFC playoffs before falling to Kansas City. Ryan Tannehill has taken a stranglehold of the quarterback job although there's not much of a safety net, with Logan Woodside and Cole McDonald backing him up. Derrick Henry is back at running back as well, and it'll be Year Two for highly successful A.J. Brown at wide receiver.
Defense: The defense is also pretty much intact. They added Vic Beasley Jr. at linebacker, and he's going to improve a pass rush that was already pretty stout. The depth signing of Johnathan Joseph and the drafting of Kristian Fulton help out an already-strong secondary that is led by Malcolm Butler and includes Kevin Byard. There shouldn't be much of a step back for Tennessee.
Schedule Note: During Weeks 4-10, this team has five of six home games plus a bye.
Prediction: I like the over here. I think three teams in this division will have nine wins.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.