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Who Will Win The AFC South?

It’s hard to find a more balanced division in the NFL than the AFC South. The two teams that went to the playoffs from the division in 2019 aren’t the betting favorites in 2020. That should tell you everything you need to know about how wide open the AFC South is this season.

Houston Texans

The Texans are the reigning AFC South champs but begin 2020 with the third-best odds to win the division at +350. They also have modest +5000 NFL line to win the Super Bowl, according to DraftKings. While Houston remains in good hands with Deshaun Watson, things will be a little different after the team traded away De’Andre Hopkins. Plenty of talent remains, but key figures Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks have a troublesome injury history that could leave Watson and company a little short-handed.

If the Texans aren’t firing on all cylinders offensively, it’ll be difficult to win given how poor the Houston defense was last season. On paper, the Texans don’t look any better on defense than they did a year ago. If J.J. Watt and the team’s young pass rushers can’t do a better job of pressuring quarterbacks, it’ll be difficult for the Texans to repeat as division champions.

Indianapolis Colts

One year after losing Andrew Luck on the eve of the season, the Colts are the betting favorites in the AFC South at +120. Indy is also +2200 to win the Super Bowl, potentially making them an intriguing dark horse. The biggest reason for optimism is the arrival of Philip Rivers. Granted, Rivers is 38 and coming off a down year, but he should be an upgrade of Jacoby Brissett. Keep in mind that Indy has a top-notch offensive line and had a top-10 rushing attack last year. Adding Rivers to the equation should result in a substantial step forward for the offense.

On the other side of the ball, the Indianapolis front-7 could help give the Colts a top-10 defense. The addition of DeForest Buckner is huge for the Indy defensive line, especially with Justin Houston on the outside. The Colts also have one of the best linebackers in the NFL in Darius Leonard. The Indy defense may not be elite in 2020, but they will be far from a liability and give the Colts a chance to return to the playoffs if Rivers turns out to be a good fit.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are undoubtedly the black sheep in the AFC South heading into 2020. They have the worst Super Bowl odds in the league at +17500 and are +2200 to win the division. This Jags team will compete for one thing this year and that is consensus pick for the worst team in the league. Not only are expectations low, but head coach Doug Marrone is squarely on the hot seat. Marrone is tying his fortunes to second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew, who provided a spark for the Jacksonville offense last year but will need a lot of help around him.

Marrone appears to be banking that the Jacksonville defense can get back to the same level attained in 2017. However, much of the star power from that defense is gone. Instead, the Jaguars will have to rely on four first-round picks from the last three drafts, including a pair of rookies, to give them a formidable defense. If the defense doesn’t improve considerably, it’s questionable whether Minshew can win games on his own.

Tennessee Titans

After reaching the AFC Championship Game last year, Tennessee has high hopes in 2020. Of course, the Titans only have the second-best odds to win the AFC South at +160 along with modest +2800 Super Bowl odds. There is little doubt that the Titans will be able to run the ball with Derrick Henry. The question is whether Ryan Tannehill can live up to his new $118 million contract. Can Tannehill build off what he did last season or will he prove to be little more than a game manager? The people who make NFL expert picks for a living feasted on the Titans last year against the spread, will that trend continue in 2020? 

Meanwhile, there are a few questions about the Tennessee defense, which was instrumental in the team’s playoff run last season. Both Jurrell Casey and Logan Ryan leave big shoes to fill. Plus, the Titans are going without a defensive coordinator after Dean Pees retired. Exactly how that will work and whether it’ll hinder the Tennessee defense remains to be seen.

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