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2020 Betting Review: AFC South

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2020 Betting Review: AFC South

I wanted to do quick-hitting postmortem reports on every team since I spent so much time — and about 2000 words — breaking down all 32 franchises from a betting perspective this summer. These articles also gave me a chance to do a full accounting of all my off-season/preseason Best Bets. Here were the overall results for my NFL Futures with individual results for each NFC East team below.

NFL Futures

For a full rundown of my NFL Futures from the off-season/preseason click here.

  • OVERALL BEST BETS — 27-27 (+15.51 units)

  • Season Wins — 8-0 (+11.98 units)

  • Season Player Props — 7-8 (-2.47 units)

  • Season Futures — 4-11 (+1.91 units)

  • Draft Props — 8-7 (+4.09 units)

  • Every Team Season Wins — 20-12 (62.5%)

AFC South Reviews

*Playoff team*

1. *Tennessee Titans (11-6, 7-10 ATS)*

  • Division Odds: +180

  • Playoff Odds: -150

  • Best Bets: Over 8.5 wins (win, +2.31 units, 11-5); AFC South +180 (win +2.7 units); AFC Championship +2000 (loss, -.25 units ); Super Bowl +4000 (loss, -.25 units); Derrick Henry MVP +7500 (loss, .25 units)

  • Leans: None.

What went right

The Titans’ season ended a little earlier this season than in 2019 when they made it to the AFC Championship game, but the franchise still won the AFC South and they reached double-digit victories for the first time since 2008. Ryan Tannehill proved that he wasn’t just a one-year wonder with 33 touchdown passes, seven touchdown runs, and just seven INTs. A.J. Brown also stayed on his path to becoming one of the league’s best receivers — he’s already one of the most physically imposing WRs — after averaging 76.8 receiving yards per game with 11 scores in 14 games. I gave out one MVP bet this summer on Derrick Henry at +7500 odds, and he certainly gave it a strong run with his historic campaign. Henry became the eighth player to run for 2000 yards in a season as he became the first player to reach 2K rushing yards since Adrian Peterson did it in 2012.

What went wrong

General manager Jon Robinson had an off-season to forget after working his magic to keep Henry and Tannehill in the fold for the near future. Jack Conklin was always going to be the odd man out last March since they prioritized keeping Tannehill and Henry, but Robinson had a complete airball drafting OT Isaiah Wilson in the first round. Wilson is more likely to be out of the league or with a new organization than he is to step onto the field for a second time with the Titans because of his off-the-field behavior. Robinson also failed to get meaningful snaps out of his Day Two picks in CB Kristian Fulton and RB Darrynton Evans. The Titans also needed to significantly bolster their pass rush in the off-season but both Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney proved to be major busts. Beasley didn’t register a sack in five appearances before the team released him in early November while Clowney also didn’t record a single sack before a knee injury shut him down after eight games. To recap, the Titans handed out one-year contracts to Beasley and Clowney that were worth $22 million for zero sacks in 13 games.

The game they stole

The Titans continued to own the Ravens in their first meeting of the season in 2020 after they stunned Baltimore in last year’s Divisional Round. The Ravens owned an 11-point lead and a 91.7% win probability over the Titans midway through the third quarter in Week 11, but the Titans clawed back into the game with a pair of Stephen Gostkowski field goals and a Brown touchdown. Henry won the game on a 29-yard touchdown run in overtime to give the Titans the outright victory as six-point road underdogs. Henry finished with 133 rushing yards while Corey Davis added 113 receiving yards.

The game that got away

The Ravens got their revenge on the Titans seven weeks later in the opening round of the playoffs. The Titans jumped out to a quick 10-point lead over the Ravens in the Wild Card Round, and they had Baltimore on the ropes late in the first half before Lamar Jackson pulled a rabbit out of his hat against their leaky defense. The Ravens’ offense looked dead in the water until Lamar pulled out a superhuman 48-yard touchdown run on a third-and-9 play in which the Titans seemingly had him contained in the pocket. The Titans offense sputtered after jumping out to their lead against the Ravens. They posted season-lows in points (13) and total yards (209) while HC Mike Vrabel turtled up late in the game on a fourth-and-2 call in Baltimore’s territory in the fourth quarter.

What to look for this off-season

Can the Titans maintain their Super Bowl-caliber offense after losing offensive architect Arthur Smith to the Falcons this off-season? The Titans will still have the offensive firepower at the skill positions, but they have some decisions to make on WR Corey Davis and TE Jonnu Smith who have performed unevenly during their time in Nashville. Tennessee’s biggest issues lie on the defensive side of the ball as they gave up the fifth-most yards per game (398.4) and the ninth-most points per game (27.0). They most notably struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks with the fourth-worst sack rate (3.54%), which exposed them on the back end. The Titans need an infusion of talent at all three levels of their defense, but they need it by far the most at their EDGE positions.

2. *Indianapolis Colts (11-6, 9-8 ATS)*

  • Playoff Odds: -175
  • Best Bets: T.Y. Hilton under 1050.5 receiving yards (win, +.91 units, 762 yards); Marlon Mack under 700.5 rushing yards (win, +.91 units, 26 yards)
  • Leans: Under nine wins (loss)

What went right

I faded the Colts a bit this summer because I had major doubts that Philip Rivers would be a significant upgrade over Jacoby Brissett this season. The Colts did face arguably the league’s easiest schedule this season, but Rivers continued to play at a high level and he cut back on the turnovers that dogged his final years with the Chargers. The Colts also secured one of the league’s top backs for years to come with the 34th overall pick last spring. Jonathan Taylor got out of the gates slow, but he ended the year with a flourish, totaling 741/7 rushing in his final six games of the season — he ranked as the RB3 in Weeks 11-17. Michael Pittman also showed some flashes on in-breaking routes as a rookie, and he has the chance to take a big step next season if he can win more on the perimeter with a quarterback who can consistently throw to the perimeter. The Colts tied the Packers with an NFL-best four first-team All-Pro selections with LG Quenton Nelson, LB Darius Leonard, DT DeForest Buckner, and special teamer George Odum receiving the honors.

What went wrong

Indianapolis left a lot of meat on the bone this season despite what most would categorize as a successful season. The Colts played from behind the eight-ball all season long by losing as touchdown road favorites to the lowly Jaguars in the season opener. They also lost five regular-season games despite being an underdog just once all season — they were one-point road underdogs to the Browns in Week 5. The Colts’ defense also turned leaky in the back half of the year. They gave up 300+ passing yards in six of their final eight games of the season (playoffs included) after giving up 300+ passing yards just three times in their first nine contests. Rivers also lacked a true difference-making receiver outside of a couple of T.Y. Hilton blow-up games late in the season. Hilton’s best days are behind him at 31 years old and it will be interesting to see if the Colts have any interest in bringing him back in 2021.

The game they stole

The Colts trailed by 14 points and they owned a 10.3% win probability against the Packers in Week 11 before coming back to win in epic fashion. Indianapolis erased a 14-point halftime deficit against the NFC’s best regular-season team by limiting Aaron Rodgers and company to just three points in the final 33 minutes. Rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship iced the game with his fourth field goal of the game to help the Colts pull out a 34-1 overtime victory.

The game that got away

The Colts owned a 14-point lead and a 91.2% win probability against the Steelers in Week 16 before their epic collapse — they outgained the Steelers 206-28 in the first half. Ben Roethlisberger completed 23/29 passes for 243 yards (8.4 YPA) and three TDs in the second half while the Colts mustered just three points in the final 30 minutes in their 28-24 loss. The loss proved costly to the Colts as they failed to win the AFC South, which forced them to go on the road to Buffalo in the opening round of the playoffs.

What to look for this off-season

The Colts are back at a crossroads at the quarterback position once again this off-season with Rivers entering free agency. Rivers needs to decide if he wants to play another or if he wants to become a full-time high school head coach in Alabama. The Colts have their own decisions to make at the position. Rivers played above expectations in 2020 but do the Colts want to tie their wagon to a 39-year-old QB who is likely to regress soon or do they want to look for a younger, more permanent solution at the position. The Colts also need to address two key pieces for whoever plays quarterback next season. T.Y. Hilton will be a free agent this off-season and he’s clearly no longer a #1 WR. The Colts would love for Michael Pittman to take the next step in his development next year, but they should bring in more help at the position since Parris Campbell can’t be trusted to stay healthy. They also have a major hole at left tackle with their anchor of their O-line, Anthony Castonzo, retiring after 10 seasons. The Colts are already thinking about kicking Nelson to Castonzo’s old spot, but they’ll still need to bring in more help for one of the league’s best O-lines.

3. Houston Texans (4-12, 6-10 ATS)

  • Best Bets: None
  • Leans: Over 7.5 wins (loss); Deshaun Watson MVP +2500 (loss)

What went right

There’s not a whole lot of positives to pick from for the Texans, but Houston did get some strong performances from Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller, and David Johnson. Watson posted career-highs in passing yards (4823), completion percentage (70.2%), and in YPA (8.9) despite Bill O’Brien trading away his best receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. Fuller assumed Nuk’s role as the #1 receiver and he showed he was more than capable of being Watson’s go-to receiver before he got busted for using PEDs. He averaged 79.9 receiving yards per game with eight touchdowns and, potentially most remarkably, he stayed healthy enough to play in all 11 games he was eligible to play in. Johnson was the key player the Texans received in the Hopkins trade, so his performance was always going to be graded on a scale this season. He surpassed my low expectations in 2020 by averaging a career-best 4.7 YPC while still doing his thing as a receiver with 33 catches for 314 yards in 12 games.

What went wrong

Everything. It all started in the off-season when O’Brien traded away Hopkins — their best player not named Deshaun Watson — to the Cardinals for 10 cents on the dollar. They then opened the season 0-4 against one of the toughest opening schedules in the league, which earned B.O.B. his pink slip. Houston’s best passing-game weapon, Fuller, and their best passing-game defender, Bradley Roby, were suspended for the final five games for taking PEDs just when this time started to find a bit of a footing this season. And to top it all off, their defense played like one of the league’s worst units as they allowed the sixth-most points per game (29.0) and the third-most yards per game (416.8).

The game they stole

The Texans didn’t give me many great options with just four victories all season, two of which came against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, who finished 1-15. Houston’s other two victories came in a blowout victory over the Lions on Thanksgiving Day and a fairly comfortable 27-20 victory over a bad Patriots squad. The Texans entered their Week 11 showdown with the Patriots with a 2-7 record, but they’re beleaguered front seven managed to limit New England’s running game to just 86 yards on 24 carries (3.6 YPC). Watson, of course, did the rest by throwing for 344 yards and two touchdowns while adding 36/1 rushing in the victory.

The game that got away

The Texans’ season was doomed from the start with their 0-4 start against the Chiefs, the Ravens, the Steelers, and the Vikings. They did have a sliver of hope to turn their season around and to climb back into contention in the AFC South with back-to-back wins in Weeks 5-6. The Texans had the eventual AFC South champions on the ropes in Week 6 after beating the Jaguars by 16 points the week prior. Houston took a seven-point lead with a touchdown in the final two minutes, and newly christened interim HC Romeo Crennel went for the kill by going for a two-point conversion. Watson failed to connect with Randall Cobb on the try, which would’ve made the game a two-score contest. The Titans went right down the field to tie the game with four seconds left before Derrick Henry won the game with a touchdown run in overtime. The devastating loss crushed any hopes that the Texans would right the ship in the final three months of the season.

What to look for this off-season

Will the Texans continue to head down a path to the bottom of the league after an embarrassing 2020 campaign? This franchise has quickly become one of the laughingstocks of the league after they let O’Brien run the team into the ground, and they’ll further hurt their image if they can’t quickly repair their relationship with Watson, whom they just handed a four-year, $156 million contract extension before the start of the season. Outside of mending fences with their disgruntled franchise quarterback, the Texans desperately need to rebuild a defense that cratered this season. Houston has a quarterback that is ready to win now but they have a roster that’s going to take years to rebuild, especially since they don’t have a draft pick in the first two rounds this spring.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15, 7-9 ATS)

  • Best Bets: Fourth-place AFC South (win, +.89 units); Leonard Fournette under 1200.5 rushing and receiving yards (win, +.91 units)
  • Leans: Under five wins (win)

What went right

It might be difficult for some to comprehend but the Jaguars had one of the most productive seasons of any franchise in the league. They won their first game of the season before proceeding to lose their final 15 games to lock in Trevor Lawrence as their quarterback for the extended future. The Jags needed some help from the Jets at the end of the season, but Jacksonville will land the most coveted quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2020. Jacksonville essentially benched Gardner Minshew in the second half of the season to ensure they didn’t win any more games at the end of the year. The Jaguars also found a gem in James Robinson who finished with the most scrimmage yards (1414) ever by an undrafted free agent.

What went wrong

Did anything go wrong for the Jaguars if the franchise was actively trying to lose to set up its future? Jacksonville wanted to lose in 2020 but a 15-game losing streak to end the season was pretty impressive. The Jaguars didn’t see nearly enough development out of some of their young stud defenders in CB C.J. Henderson and DE Josh Allen because of lingering injuries, and 2020 first-round pick K’Lavon Chaisson flopped in his first season — he at least showed some signs in the final games of the season. D.J. Chark also had a disappointing third campaign with just 53/706/5 receiving as he continued to deal with ankle injuries and with poor quarterback play.

The game they stole

Well, the Jaguars didn’t exactly give me many options to choose from since they won one game all season. Their lone victory came all the way back at the beginning of September against the Colts in the season opener, which ended up helping the Titans to win the AFC South. The league was ready for the second chapter of Minshew Mania after he threw three touchdown passes to knock off the Colts as the biggest home underdogs of Week 1. The Jaguars stunned the league by winning in the season opener after tanking was the predominant talk surrounding the franchise all off-season long — they obviously got around to tanking in the rest of the season.

The game that got away

The Jaguars actually had a chance to open the season in first place in the AFC South with a perfect 2-0 record. They had the eventual AFC South champions on the ropes in Week 2 until Tennessee’s Stephen Gostkowski kicked the game-winning field goal from 49 yards away in the final two minutes. Minshew couldn’t work his magic on the final drive as he threw an interception with 51 seconds left near midfield. The Jaguars had limited chances to win a second game after Week 2, which ended up being for the best for the franchise.

What to look for this off-season

The Jaguars have already answered two of their biggest off-season questions. They landed the #1 overall pick so we know Lawrence will be their quarterback in 2021 and beyond. Owner Shad Khan then went big-game hunting to bring in Urban Meyer to be the next head coach. The Jaguars will next hire a GM to work closely with Meyer before they use their league-best cap space to start their quick turnaround. The Jaguars still have some good young players to build around this off-season so they could quickly go from being the worst team in the league to the playoffs in the near future. I think the top priority for this off-season is to build the offensive line around Lawrence since they already have some talented weapons at his disposal in Laviska Shenault, D.J. Chark, and James Robinson.

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 is coming off his best season picking games against the spread, with his Best Bets winning at 61.5% in 2019.