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The Jaguars topped the AFC South last season and turned more than a few heads after rolling to the AFC title game before falling to the Patriots. Let’s check out the four AFC South entries entering 2018 training camp and see what the oddsmakers have to say.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2017 record: 10-6)
Many believe the Jags overachieved last season but some would argue they merely shattered preconceived notions. One player on the roster whose stock has risen is Blake Bortles. The polarizing fifth-year veteran QB helped Jacksonville conquer the vaunted Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs and has become a cooler, more clear-headed decision-maker under center. Although the Jaguars were known for their defense, No. 2 in points allowed trailing only Minnesota, they also managed to rack up the fifth-most points scored in the league. The Jags lived and breathed with a thundering ground game led by rookie Leonard Fournette, but the passing game was less prolific with no real go-to-guy that Bortles trusted more than another.
The Jags said adieu to Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, two of their key receivers in years past – but certainly not last year – while adding former Colt Donte Moncrief and second-round draft pick D.J. Chark of LSU to the receiving corps. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was another free agent signing, designed to bolster Jacksonville’s red zone ability. One huge addition that will go unnoticed by many was the acquisition of former Panthers’ All-Pro left guard Andrew Norwell. The Jaguars made Norwell one of the highest paid guards in the league for a reason and he will take plenty of heat off second-year left tackle Cam Robinson.
A quick click of the mouse brings you to Sportsbook Review, the sports bettors’ bible that shows exactly what all the best online sportsbooks are dealing on every major sporting event and things like NFL futures. Speaking of which, the oddsmakers are making Jacksonville a slight favorite over Houston to win the division at +165 as well as +925 to win the AFC, and +2250 to win the Super Bowl.
Tennessee Titans (2017 record: 9-7)
For the second straight year the Titans ended the regular season with a 9-7 record, but unlike 2016 they got their ticket punched into the NFL postseason parade and even upset the Chiefs at Arrowhead in the wild-card round. The jubilation was short-lived as Tennessee ran into the perennial conference champs and bowed to New England 35-14 in the divisional round. It was a good, solid year but how about this season?
Mike Mularkey is out, which paved the way for Mike Vrabel to get his first head coaching opportunity. That should be good news for Marcus Mariota, who struggled with a run-first offense that took away opportunities for Mariota in terms of a run-pass option. Of course, Mariota battled hamstring injuries as well as a surgically repaired lower right leg throughout much of the 2017 campaign and it showed. If the Titans’ QB can return to the playmaker he was the year before then the Titans will be in good stead, particularly when one considers the addition of an electric runner and a legitimate receiving target in the backfield whom Tennessee signed away from New England in the form of Dion Lewis. This is a definite upgrade from a fading DeMarco Murray (now gone) and will complement Derrick Henry in a change of pace rushing attack. Adding a wideout would have been a nice idea, but Corey Davis showed promise in his rookie campaign and top receiver Rishard Matthews is solid.
Defensively, the Titans should also be better with the addition of another New England Patriot, cornerback Malcolm Butler, and a commitment to improving their linebacking corps by drafting Alabama’s Rashaan Evans in the first-round and Harold Landry of Boston College in the second. It all adds up to what should be a very interesting and successful season for Tennessee. The oddsmakers are dealing the Titans at +365 to win the division, +1700 to win the AFC, and Tennessee to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at +5500.
Indianapolis Colts (2017 record: 4-12)
Will he or won’t he? That’s the big question mark surrounding the Colts’ chances to compete this season and, of course, we are referring to the status of quarterback Andrew Luck. The Colts were lost without Luck last season but their defense was equally as troubling. Therefore, even if Luck does play right out of the gate, will he be just a shadow of his former self or will he get into the groove from jump street? We know he should be soundly protected as the Colts inexplicably drafted two guards in Rounds 1 & 2 with linebacker Darius Leonard wedged between the pair at No. 36 overall.
Wide receiver Ryan Grant, a former Washington Redskin, was signed to replace Donte Moncrief, who took the cash and went to Jacksonville. That doesn’t sound like a good swap and Luck will need more targets than the inestimable T.Y Hilton if he is to succeed. The rushing game hasn’t improved as Marlin Mack is still the incumbent at running back but the question Colts’ fans should be asking themselves is … why?
The oddsmakers are viewing the Colts as skeptically as everyone else and dealing the Colts at +700 to win the AFC South, +1700 to win the conference, and +7500 to win the Super Bowl.
Houston Texans (2017 record: 4-12)
Deshaun Watson was having a dynamic rookie season until he tore his ACL at practice only six games into what turned into a dismal 2017 campaign for the Texans. All reports are that Watson has rehabbed his way back into top form and has one of the most potent weapons at his disposal in wideout DeAndre Hopkins. Unfortunately, the Houston offensive line is subpar and the rushing attack is pedestrian with the triumvirate of Lamar Miller, D’onta Foreman and Alfred Blue in the backfield.
Houston didn’t have a draft pick until the third round, where they had three, and selected Stanford safety Justin Reid, Mississippi State center Martinas Rankin, and tight end Jordan Akins of Central Florida. Defensively, the Texans could boast one of the most feared pass rushing attacks assuming everyone stays healthy. JJ Watt is reportedly completely recovered from his litany of injuries as is Whitney Mercilus. Jadeveon Clowney is becoming the destroyer most predicted he would be and notched a career-high 9 ½ sacks in his fourth season in the league.
The health of the big guns will determine whether or not the Texans will be a threat. It’s too bad Watson didn’t have a better offensive line in front of him but he is talented enough to overcome that deficiency when healthy. Sportsbook Review has all the NFL future odds from the finest online sportsbooks on the planet and currently, the odds on the Texans to win the South are +185 to win the division, +900 to win the conference trailing only New England and Pittsburgh, and +2200 to win the Super Bowl.
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