This year’s AFC South division features three teams on the rise and one trying to stay on top. Can the Titans hold off the Colts, who have their fourth new starting QB in the four years since Andrew Luck’s retirement? Will the Jaguars capitalize on an improved backfield and receiving corps? Are the Texans on the march or in the marsh? Here are the NFL betting lines heading into 2022, as well as which team is most likely to claim the title.
AFC South divisional winner prediction for 2022
The following analysis is based on DraftKings‘ “Team Futures” betting lines, including the odds as of Aug. 24, 2022. These odds could change during the preseason and assuredly will change in-season. For now, they are based on each team’s most likely win-loss record, beginning with the team with the worst odds.
Houston Texans (+3000)
The Texans had the third-worst point differential last season (-172). Although Houston finished one game ahead of Jacksonville, their odds of finishing last in 2022 are quite high.
While their defense has almost nowhere to go but up, they’ll be playing from behind too often and without the playmakers to keep pace.
Brandin Cooks was the biggest offensive bright spot, and he’ll continue to anchor a receiving corps that includes minor breakout candidate Nico Collins. Rookie RB Dameon Pierce could be a significant improvement over last year’s league-worst committee.
But there are too many holes to fill. “Overachieving” would translate to seven wins. I think 3-4 is more realistic for a team that remains at least two (if not three) years away from assembling a competitive squad. Steer clear of the Texans at +3000, +4000, and even +10000 if it comes to that.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+750)
If Indianapolis had a sure-fire bottom-10 QB, the Jaguars might be a trendy pick to finish No. 2 in the AFC South and even challenge for No. 1 if Tennessee’s passing attack is as abysmal as I fear it will be. As it stands, Jacksonville is probably a year away from making a strong push, assuming they add more defensive upgrades next offseason.
On offense, Trevor Lawrence will be great. Maybe this year, or maybe not until 2023. But he has all the tools to be an exceptional NFL QB. Christian Kirk and a healthy Travis Etienne should give this struggling offense a jolt. Improved tertiary options like Zay Jones and Evan Engram will be a bonus if either meets expectations. And Marvin Jones remains one of the league’s most underappreciated wideouts.
Remember, this team lost five games last year by a touchdown or less and had more signature wins (one against the Colts and Bills) than most non-playoff teams. Jumping from three victories to seven or eight isn’t a stretch. Can they win the division? Yeah, that’s still a stretch. But pencil them in for next season as a potentially fantastic upside play.
Tennessee Titans (+175)
If rookie Treylon Burks were healthy and playing up to his first-round pedigree, I’d strongly consider betting on them to repeat as divisional champs. Signing Robert Woods was savvy and necessary. Adding Austin Hooper should improve an underwhelming TE attack. And most importantly, Derrick Henry is healthy and poised to remind NFL fans that he’s still one of the league’s best backs.
Along with a capable defense, this team would have everything they absolutely need to hold off Indianapolis. They went 12-5 last year and claimed the No. 1 seed in the AFC despite missing Henry for nine games and A.J. Brown for four. The Julio Jones reclamation project was a disaster. The next most targeted receivers were Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Chester Rogers, Anthony Firkser, and Geoff Swaim.
So yeah, this team overachieved by a mile. All credit goes to the coaching staff and personnel for overcoming incredible adversity. And yet, their receiving corps is not objectively “better,” Henry is a year older, and calls to replace Ryan Tannehill might come as soon as early October. Three of their first four contests are against the Bills, Raiders, and Colts. Later road games against the Chiefs, Packers, Eagles, and Chargers could do Tennessee in.
I wouldn’t bet on the Titans to win the division. It’s not just the non-lucrative +175 line. It’s also the belief that this team has to play even better than they did last year against stiffer competition and with slightly lesser key personnel. It adds up to around 8-9 wins.
Indianapolis Colts (-130)
The Colts are the fourth of eight divisional favorites I’m betting on to win their respective division. The other three are the Bills, Bucs, and Packers. What do all four have in common? They’re relatively complete teams with strong offenses and defenses. They can all run the ball, and they all possess great quarterbacks.
Well, is Matt Ryan “great?” It’s a big assumption if we’re betting on them to dethrone the Titans. Relative to the last three Colt QBs (Carson Wentz, old-man Philip Rivers, and Jacoby Brissett), then yeah, Ryan is great. Last year, the 37-year-old made lemonade out of freeze-dried lemons in an offense that had no business rising to the level of “middling.” Joining a team with a much better running game and defense, Ryan and the Colts are primed to win the division.
I recommend betting on them at their -130 line. Although the payoff is relatively nominal, the probability is too good to pass up.