2022 Season Reviews: AFC South


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2022 Season Reviews: AFC South

I wanted to do quick-hitting postmortem reports on every team since I spent so much time this summer breaking down all 32 franchises from a betting perspective for the 2022 season. It’s a good way for me to put a bow on the season that just finished while also getting a leg up on my early research for the 2023 season.

AFC South Reviews

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Record (ATS): 9-8 (8-8-1)

  • Season Win Total: Over 6.5

  • One-possession Record: 4-6 (1-1 postseason)

  • Postseason Record: 1-1 (2-0 ATS)

  • Division Odds: +750

  • Playoff Odds: +450

  • Over/Under record: 8-9

  • PPG: 23.8 (10th)

  • PPG Allowed: 20.6 (12th)

  • Average Scoring Margin: 3.2 (7th)

  • Turnover Differential: +5 (t-7th)

Season Review

The Jaguars already had a successful season when they won five straight games to end the regular season to claim the AFC South (+750 odds), which helped them cruise past their season win total of 6.5 with a 9-8 record. They put the cherry on top of their 2022 season when they stunned the Chargers in the Wild Card Round by erasing a 27-point deficit for the third-largest comeback victory in postseason history. It was the team’s fifth comeback victory in the final quarter following another late rally to beat the Titans in the season finale to win the AFC South for the first time since 2017. Doug Pederson brought a level of professionalism and competence to the franchise after the Urban Meyer debacle, which helped the Jags to triple up their win total from 2021.

Jacksonville became just the second team to open a season with a 4-8 record to reach the postseason, following in the steps of the 2008 Chargers. The Jaguars started the year with six one-possession losses through Week 8, but their revamped offense hit its stride in the second half of the season under the direction of second-year QB Trevor Lawrence. The 2021 first-overall pick threw 12 INTs to two INTs while averaging 254.1 passing YPG and 8.2 YPA in the final seven regular season contests to lead the Jaguars to a 6-1 mark in that span. Jacksonville loaded up on offensive talent during free agency to give Lawrence a chance at success by landing the likes of Brandon Scherff, Christian Kirk, Evan Engram, and Zay Jones. GM Trent Baalke spent an NFL record $175.3 million in guaranteed money to free agents, including LB Foyesade Oluokun, who led the league in tackles (+1200). Top overall pick Travon Walker was one of the few disappointments from the season, with just 3.5 sacks as a rookie.

What to look for this off-season

The Jaguars went from being the laughingstock of the NFL under Meyer to potentially dominating the AFC South for the foreseeable future under Pederson in the span of just one season. It doesn’t hurt that the rest of the AFC South is a complete mess, with all three teams searching for their quarterbacks. Jacksonville won’t be picking inside the top 10 of the draft for just the second time since 2007, and they won’t be big spenders in free agency after opening the purse strings last March. However, their receiving corps will get better next season after shrewdly acquiring Calvin Ridley for a pair of Day Three picks at the trade deadline. Signing Engram to an extension will be a top priority after he paid off last year’s prove-it deal in a big way. They’ll also look to keep free agents Jawaan Taylor, Arden Key, and Dawuane Smoot in the mix while upgrading their secondary and offensive line this off-season.

2. Tennessee Titans

  • Record (ATS): 7-10 (9-6-2)
  • Season Win Total: Under 7
  • One-possession Record: 5-6
  • Missed Playoff Odds: -120
  • Over/Under record: 5-12
  • PPG: 17.5 (28th)
  • PPG Allowed: 21.1 (t-14th)
  • Average Scoring Margin: -3.6 (26th)
  • Turnover Differential: -3 (t-22nd)

Season Review

The Titans appeared headed toward their third consecutive AFC South title after starting the season with a 7-3 record and with their top competition, the Colts, imploding after losing to them in Week 7. However, the Titans collapsed themselves with a seven-game losing streak to end the season, the franchise’s worst losing streak since 2015, which was also the last time they had a losing record. They still had a chance to win the AFC South entering the season finale, but they blew a fourth-quarter lead to the Jaguars to miss the playoffs (-120 odds) for the first time since 2018.

Tennessee’s late-season dysfunction hit its crescendo when owner Amy Adams Strunk fired GM Jon Robinson in early December, with the Titans sitting at the top of the division. Robinson put himself on thin ice and stunned the league by trading A.J. Brown to the Eagles during the draft. Tennessee’s thin roster got exposed with a league-high 23 players landing on the injured reserve to end the season, including the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Harold Landry, and Taylor Lewan. It got so bad that the Titans signed Josh Dobbs from the Lions' practice squad to start the final two games of the season instead of trotting out overmatched third-round pick Malik Willis. Tennessee finished with just two 100-yard receiving performances and 16 passing TDs, and they allowed a league-high 274.8 passing YPG. Derrick Henry once again covered up a lot of their warts with a league-high 349 carries, which he turned into 1538/13 rushing in 16 games.

What to look for this off-season

The Titans enter their first off-season after a losing season since 2015, which was the same off-season they hired Robinson as general manager. Strunk tabbed Ran Carthon to lead the next turnaround and he has his hands full turning Tennessee’s deteriorating roster around. The former 49ers director of player personnel needs to infuse talent across the board outside of running back. Even then, they need to start preparing for life without Henry, who turned 29 years old in January and has 1370 carries to his name over 60 games (22.8 carries/game) in the last four seasons. Tennessee’s quarterback situation is completely up in the air with Ryan Tannehill expected to be released to free up $27 million against next year’s cap. Willis wasn’t ready for primetime as a rookie and they could be in play to select Will Levis or Anthony Richardson with the 11th overall pick, but they could be major projects as rookies. The Titans have a bottom-five cap situation as of late January, which means players like Robert Woods ($12 million relief) and Taylor Lewan ($14.8 million) could join Tannehill on the chopping block. The Titans will look to retain free agent LB David Long and OG Nate Davis if they create some cap flexibility by releasing some veterans.

3. Indianapolis Colts

  • Record (ATS): 4-12-1 (6-11)
  • Season Win Total: Under 10
  • One-possession Record: 4-6-1
  • Missed Playoff Odds: +155
  • Over/Under record: 7-10
  • PPG: 17.0 (t-30th)
  • PPG Allowed: 25.1 (t-28th)
  • Average Scoring Margin: -8.1 (32nd)
  • Turnover Differential: -13 (32nd)

Season Review

The Colts tried a new Band-Aid on the quarterback problem they’ve dealt with since Andrew Luck unexpectedly retired before the 2019 season. They traded the 82nd overall pick for Matt Ryan in the off-season to follow in the footsteps of Carson Wentz (2021), Philip Rivers (2020), and Jacoby Brissett (2019) before him. The Colts’ season got off to a rocky start with a 3-5-1 record, which included two losses to the division rival Titans, and that’s when all hell broke loose. Owner Jim Irsay fired Frank Reich after four-plus seasons, a 40-33-1 record, and two playoff appearances but no AFC South titles. Irsay then hired former Colts center and ESPN studio analyst Jeff Saturday to be the interim HC without any previous NFL coaching experience. He stunningly won his first game as an NFL coach over the Raiders but the Colts wouldn’t win again the rest of the way, closing the season on a seven-game losing streak.

Indianapolis had perhaps the most embarrassing two-game stretch in the entire NFL, and it all played out in standalone television windows. They allowed a whopping 33 points to the Cowboys in one quarter in Week 13 before blowing the biggest lead in NFL history against the Vikings in their next game, squandering a 33-point halftime lead in an overtime loss in Week 15. They officially missed the postseason (+155 odds) for the second straight season and failed to win the AFC South for the eighth straight year with a loss to the Jaguars in Week 16. Ryan looked past his prime at 37 years but Indy’s once-dominant O-line allowed the second-most sacks (60). It didn’t help that Jonathan Taylor ran into the injury bug for the first time in his entire playing career, missing six games for a lingering ankle issue.

What to look for this off-season

The Colts are set to have their sixth different Week 1 starting quarterback in as many seasons, and they’ll have a new head coach calling the shots for the first time in that span. GM Chris Ballard tried to patch together the quarterback position with veteran retreads the last three years, but they’re positioned to potentially make a run at rookie QB with the fourth overall pick. They likely will still have to trade up to get either Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud if that’s the direction they’re looking to go in. They struck gold with Peyton Manning in 1998 and Andrew Luck in 2012 with No. 1 overall picks, and they’ll look to do it again a little further down the draftboard. The Colts also need to strengthen the offense around their next quarterback by building back the depth of their offensive line and adding to their thin WR corps behind young players Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce. The Colts have a top-10 cap situation as of late January, which could be used to keep key defenders like Bobby Okereke, Yannick Ngakoue, and Rodney McLeod in the mix.

4. Houston Texans

  • Record (ATS): 3-13-1 (8-8-1)
  • Season Win Total: Under 4.5
  • One-possession Record: 3-6-1
  • Missed Playoff Odds: -5000
  • Over/Under record: 7-10
  • PPG: 17.0 (t-30th)
  • PPG Allowed: 24.7 (27th)
  • Average Scoring Margin: -7.7 (30th)
  • Turnover Differential: -1 (t-16th)

Season Review

The Texans fired David Culley for having a little too much success with four wins in 2021. It looked like GM Nick Caserio found the right man to tank in 2022, with Lovie Smith leading the Texans to one win through 14 games, which included a nine-game losing streak in Weeks 7-15. However, Houston played their best football of the season late in the year, putting scares into the Cowboys and Chiefs in Weeks 14-15 before beating the Titans and Colts in the final three weeks. They lost the top overall pick in the draft in dramatic fashion by connecting on a desperation heave into the end zone and converting a two-point conversion in the final minute to beat the Colts in the season finale.

The Texans fired Smith shortly after the improbable victory, making it three straight seasons that they fired their head coach — they fired Bill O’Brien in the 2020 season. It was also the franchise’s third straight season with double-digit losses and their first campaign without Deshaun Watson on the roster since 2017. They traded him to Cleveland in mid-March for six draft picks, which included three first-round picks in 2022-24. Houston was the first team eliminated from playoff contention (-5000 odds) for the third straight season in a Week 13 loss to the Browns, which ironically came at the hands of Watson in his first NFL action since January 2020. Houston didn’t have a single player top 700+ receiving yards, and second-year QB Davis Mills finished tied with Dak Prescott for the most interceptions thrown (+800 odds). The Texans at least found cornerstones in their secondary in rookies Derek Stingley (No. 3) and Jalen Pitre (No. 37), and Dameon Pierce was a fourth-round revelation with 1100+ scrimmage yards in 13 contests.

What to look for this off-season

The Texans may have blown their chance to decide who their quarterback of the future would be with their victory in the season finale, but they’re still in play to land either Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud at the top of the draft. The Bears will decide if they’re rolling with Justin Fields and auctioning off the top overall pick, and the Texans could use their additional first-round pick — Cleveland’s No. 12 pick — to move up one spot to No. 1 overall. The Bears could also choose to trade Fields and use the first pick on one of the top QB prospects, which would leave the Texans to select the remaining top QB prospect. The Texans hold 11 picks overall and they could add to that total if they move the disgruntled Brandin Cooks, who said at the end of the season he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild. Houston also has the sixth most cap space as of late January and they have as many holes to fill as any team in the league. The Texans could be one of the more active teams this off-season as they start to finally dig themselves out of the hole started by O’Brien after a three-year stay at rock bottom.

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at 64.3% clip last season and he owned the last undefeated team out of 3000 entries in Scott Fish Bowl 12.