AFC South Predictions: Titans the Value Bet to Win Division Title

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Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

The AFC South sets up as a two-horse race in NFL betting markets between the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans, although the former has the slightest edge over the latter in early NFL futures by consensus. Which is a most interesting development, indeed. One that doesn’t bear out the division’s results of the last two years.

AFC South Odds To Win Division Courtesy of Bovada (April 29, 2021)

  • Indianapolis Colts EVEN
  • Tennessee Titans +125
  • Jacksonville Jaguars +850
  • Houston Texans +1900

The Titans are without a doubt the best team in the AFC South right now, ever since Mike Vrabel made the bold decision to bench Marcus Mariota in favour of Ryan Tannehill. They went all the way to the 2019 AFC Championship game (l. to Kansas City Chiefs), and then, a year later, they clinched the AFC South crown. 

Tannehill took over midway through the 2019 campaign and spearheaded Tennessee’s magical run into the penultimate round of the playoffs. On the way to the AFC Championship game, the Titans went on an unimaginable upset spree, stunning the No.3 seed New England Patriots in the wildcard round  (20-13) and then embarrassing the No.1 seed Baltimore Ravens (28-13) in the divisional round, the league’s so-called best regular season team. 

The 2020 NFL season saw the Titans pick up from where they left off, stringing together a solid campaign and overcoming Covid-19 challenges all the way. They won the AFC South crown behind an 11-5-0 SU mark, which marked their first divisional title since 2008. Beating Indianapolis Colts (also 11-5-0) to the title thanks to a better road record. The Titans lost in the wildcard round by a score to the Ravens (20-13). 

What the Titans bring to the table is consistency and progression, which will be key towards their title defense campaign. The 2021 season will see the Titans face off against the AFC East and NFC West. As well, dates against the Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints will feature too. It’s a daunting NFL schedule, to say the least. But with Tannehill entering his third year with the organisation, Derrick Henry looming in the backfield and two years of success against some of the league’s best teams, Mike Vrabel and the Titans can be quietly confident about their chances in a division that is undergoing a lot of change elsewhere.

The Colts, by contrast, are a bit of an enigma. For a second straight year, they’re set to debut a new quarterback. In 2020, the Colts were led by veteran signal caller Philip Rivers. It was a successful campaign by all accounts. The Colts enjoyed a double-digit winning season and made the playoffs. However, they were one and done and shortly thereafter Rivers called it quits. 

During this offseason, the Colts traded for disgruntled Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. It’s difficult to tell how Wentz will fit with the Colts, who appear to be predominantly a run-minded outfit. A lot is being made about his reunion with Frank Reich, who was one of the architects behind Philadelphia’s Super Bowl winning season. However, aside from 2017, in which Wentz impressed, he has been largely inconsistent and unpredictable and that has to be a huge concern for Indianapolis fans. 

In theory, Wentz’ move to Indy makes sense. But that in of itself is no guarantee it will work. He has no more excuses to hang his hat on though because the Colts are, on paper, widely considered a very good team. Not even a tough schedule will be an acceptable excuse if those inconsistencies crop up again. (As mentioned above, the AFC South is set to take on the AFC East and NFC West and the Colts will also take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens and the Las Vegas Raiders).

In terms of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans, there are many unknowns that quite rightly set their NFL odds adrift. The Jaguars are about to embark on a new era with a new quarterback while the Texans’ quarterback situation and entire organisation is shrouded in uncertainty and controversy. It’s impossible to expect anything significant from either team. Whichever way one slices it therefore, both the Jags and Texans are looking ahead to growing pains and more wholesale changes in the next few years. 

Thus, the NFL betting markets have it right. The AFC South is in fact a two-horse race between the Colts and Titans, but if one were to bet on it right now, the Titans rather than the Colts would appear to be the value bet. Put simply: Tannehill has proven himself in Tennessee but we’re yet to see what Wentz can do in Indianapolis, if anything at all.