NFL Betting Odds: AFC South Predictions 2019


In recent years, the AFC South has consistently been a so-so division. That’s not necessarily a knock on a division that has seen all four teams reach the playoffs in the past two years but rather illustrates that the Titans, Texans, Jags, and Colts have all had good but not great talent pools of late. Is this the year someone from the South knocks off the Pats and represents the South in the Super Bowl? That feat hasn’t been accomplished since 2010. Betting markets currently, point to the Colts as the most likely to pull that off although the Jags finally have a quarterback who has already demonstrated he can win the big one. The Texans were last year’s division winner while the Titans have 3 straight winning seasons. The South is a division that may be the most up-for-grabs according to current odds so let’s take a look and see how the NFL model projects the division for 2019.

All of the AFC South teams were well previewed in detail by Andrew Howard and can be found here.

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All the NFL previews examined the current spread for the 16 upcoming games for each team this season and applied the metric of expected win percentage to each of these lines to arrive at an implied wins total. This number could then be compared to the posted win total for each team. While we certainly know that a lot can (and will) change for all of these teams between late June and say a mid-December game in Week 15, it is a useful exercise to see how each team compares to one another at this stage assuming ideal circumstances for both teams.

As many readers likely know, I maintain a model for the NFL which creates a spread and total for each game that I rely on heavily in my handicapping and writing here at BTB. Therefore, for this series of articles, we thought it would be useful to apply my model spreads to the current lines and implied win totals listed at CG Technologies. As usual, some of these numbers will be in line with Vegas expectations while others will not. For each team, we’ll try to see why we agree or isolate the possible reasons for our divergence.

Tennessee Titans

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of August 1, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 @ Cleveland +5.5 .31 +2.5 .45
2 Indianapolis pk .50 +1 .49
3 @ Jacksonville (Thursday Night) +3 .41 +2 .46
4 @ Atlanta +4 .34 +4 .34
5 Buffalo -5 .68 -6.5 .72
6 @ Denver +2.5 .45 +2 .46
7 LA Chargers pk .50 +1 .49
8 Tampa Bay -5.5 .69 -6 .71
9 @ Carolina +3 .41 +4 .34
10 Kansas City +3.5 .36 +3 .41
11 BYE
12 Jacksonville -3 .59 -4.5 .67
13 @ Indianapolis +7 .25 +7 .25
14 @ Oakland pk .50 -3 .59
15 Houston -1 .51 -2.5 .55
16 New Orleans +3 .41 +3.5 .36
17 @ Houston +2 .46 +4.5 .33

Win Total (CG Technologies): 7.5 (Over -110 / Under -110)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 7.37
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 7.62

While they have won a solid 27 games over the past three seasons, it would be difficult to find an organization less dynamic and inspiring than the Tennessee Titans. Over that span, they have finished 15th (2016), 18th (2017), and 20th (2018) in total DVOA according to Football Outsiders and (unsurprisingly) have made the playoffs just once. As we can see, the hiring of former Houston DC Mike Vrable as the new head coach in Tennessee did not halt the regression of the DVOA metric last season nor did it improve the Titans Offensive DVOA which fell to a three year low of 22nd overall in 2018. What did improve was Tennessee’s Defensive DVOA (from 21st to 19th) and their Points Allowed which declined from 22.3ppg (17th) in 2017 to 18.9ppg (3rd) in 2018. This is an encouraging sign and highlights the strength of the Titans team for the year ahead however it also shines the spotlight in Tennessee’s most pressing need if they intend to take the next step this season; their quarterback.

The fact that QB Marcus Mariota is entering his 5th NFL season without a new contract nor an elevated status amongst his peers tells you all you need to know regarding the former 2nd overall draft pick. According to PFF, his grade as a quarterback has actually improved over each of the last three seasons however his score of 76.8 (the highest of his career) places him only 18th amongst all quarterbacks. Football Outsiders sees Mariota similarly OK-ish as he sits in the 20’s in important statistical categories such as Defensive-adjusted Yards Against Replacement, DVOA, and QBR. The model places the Titans signal-caller as the 21st overall or -1.25 points less than average. Mariota’s struggles to improve above replacement level quarterbacking is not necessarily due to the talent surrounding him. The Titan’s skill-position talent ranks a solid 11th according to the model and is led by the talented RB duo of Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry. While Lewis may be in decline, Henry posted the highest PFF score of his 3-year career and ranked 2nd among all running backs. The team’s high rush rate with a very good running back should have translated into better passing situations for Mariota to distribute to a quality group of receivers led by former 1st round pick Corey Davis however they still only finished 25th in Offensive Pass Efficiency according to Warren Sharp. It is equally difficult to place blame for Mariota’s woes on the offensive line as well. The model ranking them as the 14th overall unit and the only weak spot along the line looks to be G Corey Levin.

As previously mentioned, the strength of the Tennessee Titans is in its defense which the model lists as 12th in the NFL. More specifically the Titans secondary is loaded with talent as it boasts young ascending players in CB Adoree’ Jackson and S Kevin Byard as well as solid veterans such as CBs Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler. This mix of talent places them as the 6th ranked secondary group. The Front 7 added DE Cameron Wake this offseason who will play alongside interior disrupter DT Jurrell Casey however outside of Wake and Casey there is little high-quality depth on the defensive line. Likewise, 2nd-year ILB Jayon Brown improved greatly last season and is the sole standout player within the linebacking core.

With only 1 scheduled primetime game this season, the NFL seems to be implying the answer but we’ll ask it anyway. What it there to be excited about on this Titan’s team? Tennessee does have a new OC in Arthur Smith but, Smith has worked within the Titan’s organization since 2011 and to think that he will catalyze a massive improvement from Marcus Mariota in year 5 seems a bit unlikely. The team added WRs Adam Humphries and draftee AJ Brown but they are projected to play the 3rd most difficult slate of teams with regard to defensive efficiency in 2019. The defense has some nice pieces, but like the offense, they will need to overcome a step up in class as they are projected to play the 11th most difficult group of offenses this year after playing just the 27th ranked schedule of offensive units last season. All and all this points to a bearish scenario for the Titans in 2019. Unless Smith can transform Mariota into the dynamic passer the Titans envisioned when they drafted him, this is an under for me this year. It seems much more likely that the Titans will regress from the 9 win level they’ve attained each of the last 3 years then us seeing anything resembling “dynamic” out of Tennessee anytime soon.


Indianapolis Colts

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of August 1, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 @ LA Chargers +3 .41 +.5 .50
2 @ Tennessee pk .50 -1 .51
3 Atlanta -4 .66 .5 .68
4 Oakland -8 .79 -11.5 .88
5 @ Kansas City (Sunday Night) +4.5 .33 +3.5 .36
7 Houston -4 .66 -6 .71
8 Denver -7 .75 -8 .79
9 @ Pittsburgh +2.5 .45 -.5 .50
10 Miami -9.5 .81 -12.5 .89
11 Jacksonville -6.5 .72 -8 .79
12 @ Houston (Thursday Night) +2 .46 pk .50
13 Tennessee -7 .75 -7 .75
14 @ Tampa Bay -3 .59 -6.5 .72
15 @ New Orleans (Monday Night) +5 .32 +3.5 .36
16 Carolina -6 .71 -7 .75
17 @ Jacksonville -4 .66 -2.5 .55

Win Total (CG Technologies): 10 (Over +105 / Under -125)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 9.57
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 10.24

Hats off to the Indianapolis Colts for their impressive return to the NFL’s upper echelon after a series of mediocre seasons which was capped off by their 4-12 2017 Luck-less campaign. Three main reasons mark the impetus for this quick worst-to-first improvement: the return of Andrew Luck to his pre-injury form, the coaching and play calling of new HC Frank Reich, and the fruits of the past two drafts. This infusion of young, cheap talents such as LB Darius Leonard, S Malik Hooker, and G Quenton Nelson to a potentially elite quarterback/coach combination rightfully places the Colts as the team to beat in the AFC South this year and makes them a potential Super Bowl candidate. At least that’s what the betting market is telling us. Does the NFL model agree?

Let’s start with QB Andrew Luck. After a year away from the game due to shoulder surgery and rehab, Luck’s performance closely mirrored his team’s. Over the first 6 games of the season, Luck’s quarterback rating was 86.7, his completion percentage was 63.8, and his yards per pass attempt was 6.1. The Colts began 1-5. In the final 10 games of the season, Luck numbers in these same categories jumped to 109 (QB Rating)/ 70 (completion %)/ 8.1 (YPA) and the Colts went 9-1. Andrew Luck finished the season with an elite PFF grade of 91.2 (the highest of his career) and landed in the top 10 in all of Football Outsiders key metrics. With the franchise quarterback now back in form, the Indy front office made a few changes to improve upon Luck’s surrounding skill position talent. Former wide framed Panthers WR Devin Funchess was added as was Ohio St WR Parris Campbell in the 2nd round of the draft. These new pass catchers along with a healthy TY Hilton, TEs Eric Ebron, and Jack Doyle, as well as RBs Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines, provide Luck with a deep skill-position group and quality talent for the 11 and 12 personnel packages which Reich deploys at a higher rate than the NFL average. The model ranks the Colts skill position talent in the 14th spot with ample room to improve and his offensive line as 6th in the NFL. Football Outsiders graded out the Colts O-line similarly as they ranked in the top 5 in both run blocking and pass protection. On paper, the Indy offense looks to be very good.

Overall, the model places the Indianapolis defense in the 19th spot. That appears a bit low however some of the metrics from last season are all over the map and it does still demonstrate a big jump from 2017’s numbers. Last season Indy finished up allowing 5.5 YPP (13th), 344 PPG (10th) and had a defensive DVOA of -3.4% (10th). All of these metrics are above the NFL average and improved upon the 2017 season when they ranked 30th, 29th, and 27th in these categories respectively. On the other hand, they finished 28th in Warren Sharp’s Defensive Early Down Success Rate and 20th in Passing Defense DVOA according to FO. Regardless of how they finished last season, they should continue to follow their upward trajectory in 2019. In the draft, the Colts used 7 of their first 8 selections on the defense and also added veteran OLB Justin Houston from Kansas City. Houston is entering his 9th NFL season but remains a very good player as he picked up 9 sacks last season and ranked 14th at his position according to PFF. Houston joins a Front 7 that includes 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard. OLB Jabaal Sheard and DT Marcus Hunt remain solid players within this unit which ranks 21st in the model. The Indy secondary, listed at 12th according to the model, is a young unit in which all 5 starters were listed as “above average” or better according to PFF and have between 2 and 5 years of experience.

The Indianapolis Colts rebounded back to the playoff in the 2018 season due largely to the reasons discussed above. This was an impressive feat but they were still held back by a few factors such as Andrew Luck’s re-acclimation to the NFL, the 2nd most Adjusted Games Lost in the league, and -.70 Pythagorean Wins. Assuming Luck hits the ground running from Week 1 this year, the young players continue to improve, and some of the random elements which worked against them in 2018 regress, the sky is the limit for the Colts. The model places Indy in an elite group of teams in the AFC (New England and Kansas City are the other two) which are separated by less than a point. Given the current Super Bowl odds are much shorter for the Pats and Chiefs, I like the Colts as a potential winner of Super Bowl 54 and a definite play over 10 wins, especially with the +105 price.


Jacksonville Jaguars

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of August 1, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 Kansas City +3.5 .36 +3 .41
2 @ Houston +3.5 .36 +6 .29
3 Tennessee (Thursday Night) -3 .59 -2 .54
4 Denver +3 .41 +3 .41
5 @ Carolina +3.5 .36 +5.5 .31
6 New Orleans +4 .34 +3.5 .36
7 @ Cincinnati pk .50 +1 .49
8 NY Jets -4 .64 -5 .68
9 Houston (London) pk .50 +2.5 .45
10 BYE
11 @ Indianapolis +6.5 .28 +8 .21
12 @ Tennessee +3 .41 +4.5 .33
13 Tampa Bay -4.5 .67 -6 .71
14 LA Chargers +1 .49 +1 .49
15 @ Oakland pk .50 -2 .54
16 @ Atlanta +5 .32 +5 .32
17 Indianapolis +1 .49 +2.5 .45

Win Total (CG Technologies): 7.5 (Over -115 / Under -105)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 7.22
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 7.09

People speak of Super Bowl hangovers. Whether they exist or not is debatable but, after a tough loss in the 2017 AFC Championship Game, one could almost understand a drop off early in 2018 for Jacksonville. However, that isn’t what happened. The Jags started the season 3-1 and even exacted revenge on the Patriots with a 31-20 win in Week 2. In fact, they were ranked 4th in Overall DVOA after Week 4 and seemed like the same defensive-minded Jags as they averaged only 14.0 points allowed through those first 4. Then things went South… or at least QB Blake Bortles went South, like waaaay South. Bortles was always understood to be the Achilles heel of the Jags and that was certainly the case last season as his quarterback rating dropped from a respectable 93.6 after the first 4 games to a putrid 71.6 over the final 9 contests before his Week 14 benching. A new quarterback will be at the helm in 2019 but is that the magic elixir which will return last seasons 5-11 team back to the playoffs? Or are the Jags woes deeper and the was the unexpected run in 2017 just a mirage? Let’s dig a little deeper and see.

Eagles Super Bowl hero and Philly legend Nick Foles signing with the Jaguars may have been the most obvious arranged NFL marriage we’ve seen in recent times. The beloved leader and scrappy quarterback’s first order of business should be to mend the locker room tension between the offense and defense which boiled over last season after a Week 7 loss to the Texans. Foles’ Super Bowl cache alone should help in that department however his play on the field will ultimately go a lot further. But that’s where it gets a bit cloudy as Foles has undoubtedly had an unconventional career. BDN posted a ridiculous 27 TD – 2 INT season under HC Chip Kelly in 2013 and his playoff performances the past two seasons needs little elaboration, however, his play the following season under Kelly was much less impressive and he was benched after 11 games the following season with the Rams. The common thread here seems to be coaching. If we write off his 2013 season as a product of the league acclimating to the unusual tempo scheme of Chip Kelly, then Foles has performed his best under good coaching from the likes of Andy Ried, Doug Peterson, and Frank Reich. While they will not be in Jacksonville, Foles will be reunited with his quarterbacks coach from his Super Bowl year in Philly, John DeFilippo. Foles had a very good rapport with DeFilippo and generally knows the offense and terminology which should be a benefit. Unknown here is how Foles performs with a head coach in Doug Marrone who has done little with QBs EJ Manuel, Kyle Orten, and the aforementioned Blake Bortles previously in his career. The floor for Foles in 2019 is certainly above what we saw from Bortles yet, his ceiling may not reach the level we most recently saw of him in Philly. This is largely due to his surrounding talent. As an Eagle Foles had the luxury of playing with skill personnel and an offensive line that both rank in the top 10 according to the model while in Jacksonville those position groups are bottom 10 units coming in at 32rd and 25th respectively. Some nice pieces such as WRs Dede Westbrook and Marquis Lee as well as RB Leonard Fournette exist in the offense and the hope is that better quarterback play and should improve the offense in 2019. Yet, outside of C Brandon Linder the O-line is shaky at best although 2nd round draft capital was used to select T Jawaan Taylor to help protect Foles.

The defense was what clearly propelled the Jags to the Championship game in 2017 and while it dropped off a bit last season it was still very good. Ranking 6th in Rush Defense DVOA, 7th in Pass Defense DVOA, 4th in Points Allowed and 5th in Yards Per Play Allowed there is little reason to believe that an improved offense and locker room environment can’t propel the Jags back to having the #1 overall defense. The model also agrees as it ranks the Jacksonville defense as 4th overall entering 2019. The Front 7 sits in the 6th spot and boasts elite players across the D-line and linebacking positions. Jacksonville was also fortunate to have the highly touted DE Josh Allen fall to them at the 7th pick in the draft to provide further upside to this group. The Jags unexpected did lose former Pro-Bowl LB Telvin Smith to retirement this offseason but replaced him with Jake Ryan who played well (75.7 PFF grade) in 2017 with Green Bay but lost all of last season due to injury. Given the familiar names in the Jacksonville secondary, it’s somewhat surprising that the model places them in the 14th spot. Corners AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey are very good players however both saw their PFF scores decline last season from an “elite” level. Additionally, the Jags safety positions may be a bit of a weakness as Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church moved on this offseason.

In 2017 the Jaguars won 10 games on the strength of the defense despite Blake Bortles at the reigns on the offense. Last season, with an even worse version of Bortles, they still were able to collect 5 wins while playing a 1st place schedule and having the 6th most Adjusted Games Lost due to injury. As they enter 2019, the Jaguars should have a renewed air of positivity, better injury luck, and a quarterback who has proven he can do improbable things all while playing a 4th place schedule. Drawing the AFC West and NFC South is certainly a concern and the likely reason the model is more down on the Jags then the market but we only need an improvement of 3 games to win the bet. Don’t expect a division or even a playoff berth from this year’s Jags but do expect a bounce-back performance this season as the “Foles magic” hits South Florida to boost the Jaguars over 7.5 wins this season.


Houston Texans

(Lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
(Personal NFL model lines based on expected starting Week 1 lineup as of August 1, 2019)

Week Opponent CG Tech. Line Expected Wins NFL Model Line Expected Wins
1 @ New Orleans (Monday Night) +7 .25 +7 .25
2 Jacksonville -3.5 .64 -6 .71
3 @ LA Chargers +5.5 .31 +3.5 .36
4 Carolina -4.5 .67 -4.5 .67
5 Atlanta -3.5 .64 -2.5 .55
6 @ Kansas City +7 .25 +6.5 .28
7 @ Indianapolis +4 .34 +6 .29
8 Oakland -7 .75 -9.5 .81
9 @ Jacksonville (London) pk .50 -2.5 .55
10 BYE
11 @ Baltimore +2.5 .45 pk .50
12 Indianapolis (Thursday Night) -2 .54 pk .50
13 New England (Sunday Night) +3 .41 +.5 .50
14 Denver -5.5 .69 -6 .71
15 @ Tennessee +1 .41 +2.5 .45
16 @ Tampa Bay -2 .54 -3.5 .64
17 Tennessee -2 .54 -4.5 .67

Win Total (CG Technologies): 8 (Over -110 / Under -110)
Expected Wins (CG Technologies): 7.93
Expected Wins (Personal NFL Model): 8.44

I can recall listening to a podcast at the end of the 2017 season featuring Football Outsiders, Aaron Schatz where he noted the Houston Texans as a team likely to rebound in 2018. This made sense as the Texans lost rookie QB Deshaun Watson in Week 8, JJ Watt in Week 5 and a host of other players as they finished 4th in FO’s Adjusted Games Lost due to injury. In 2018, the Texans experienced greater health and played the easiest schedule in the league according to Warren Sharp. After losing their first 3 games, the Texans righted the ship, winning 11 of the next 13, and parlayed their injury and schedule luck into a division title. As we look to 2019, the script flips for the Texans as they play one of the more difficult schedules in the NFL. So are they really an 11 win team or was last year’s division-winning squad a paper tiger and a product of fortunate circumstances?

With elite players like DEs JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney (currently a holdout), it is little surprise that the strength of the Texans defense lies along their Front 7. The NFL model supports this assertion as it lists the Houston D-line and linebackers as the 4th most talented group. The Texans Front 7 was especially good at stopping the run where they were the #1 overall team in Yards Allowed per Run, 4th in Rush Defense DVOA, and 1st in Adjusted Line Yards Allowed. With nearly the entire Front 7 likely to return there is little reason to believe that the Texan’s run-stuffing abilities will precipitously decline in 2019. The concern with the Houston defense is in the secondary as the splits between their run and pass defense is concerning as we look ahead. The model sees the Texans secondary as the 18th unit and that may be a bit high as they were 19th in both Pass Defense DVOA and Net Passing Yards Allowed per Play. More worrisome for this below-average pass defense are the teams that they accrued these rankings against as Warren Sharp finds the 2018 Houston Texans played the easiest schedule of opponents’ passing offenses in the last four years! The list of quarterbacks they opposed in last season’s schedule included Blake Bortles, Brock Osweiler, Blaine Gabbert, Cody Kessler, Colt McCoy, Case Keenum, Nathan Peterman, and Eli Manning…yikes. When we flip to 2019 we see a much more difficult slate of QBs including names such as Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Pat Mahomes, and Tom Brady (not to mention Luck twice and a Foles led Jags team this season). The model places the overall Houston defense in the 8th spot. This seems justified given the talent however it is certainly fair to assume some regression in 2019 given the offenses they will face.

If indeed the defense allows more points in 2019, the offense will be called upon to offset the differential and having dual-threat QB Deshaun Watson is a good start to address this need. Returning from injury, the 2nd year quarterback improved in a number of statistical categories such as Defensive-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, DVOA, and PFF grade. Relying more on Watson’s throwing talents may be in order as the Texans were the 6th most run-heavy team last season. With a quality running back in Pro Bowler Lamar Miller this is somewhat understandable yet he was only the 24th ranked RB according to PFF and also in the 20’s in many of Football Outsiders’ stats as well. With an excellent set of WRs lead by DeAndre Hopkins and supported by outside threat Will Fuller and slot-man Keke Coutee, Watson has plenty of talented receiving options which would justify increased use of the pass this season. Together this skill position group ranks 8th according to the model. Perhaps the reason Houston was so run reliant in 2018 was due to the inefficiency along their offensive line. Ranked 31st according to the model this year, the Texans O-line was the worst-ranked Pass Protecting line in the NFL last season. Houston did address this issue by drafting T Tytus Howard in the 1st round and G Max Scharping in the 2nd however this line remains a significant weakness entering the new season.

The Houston Texans appear to be a mixed bag in 2019 with notable strengths (QB, WR, Front 7) and notable weaknesses (Secondary, O-line, RB). They will be taking a step up in class with regard to a 1st place schedule which includes a far greater number of elite quarterbacks and they roster an offensive line which is terrible at supporting Watson’s ability to go toe-to-toe with these passers. Given these facts, we have to look to the under here. Additionally, facing the Saints, Chargers, Falcons, Chiefs, and Colts in 5 of their first 7 games presents a rocky path to begin the season and may make HC Bill O’Brien the 1st coach fired prop to be worth a look as well.

(Editor’s note: As the division previews get posted throughout the week, we’ll link to them at the bottom of the page. Read Danny’s thoughts on the AFC EAST, AFC NORTH, AFC WEST, NFC EAST, NFC NORTHNFC SOUTH, and NFC WEST by clicking the appropriate link.)


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