Picks to win the AFC South

Picks to win the AFC South: Titans, Colts will battle again

The Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts were far and away the two best teams in the AFC South Division last year, and that most likely will be the case again in 2021 as they are essentially even on the NFL odds to win it.

Picks to win the NFL AFC South 2021

  • Titans to win South: +100
  • Colts to win South: +110
  • Jaguars to win South: +700
  • Texans to win South: +2000

Both the Titans and Colts finished with 11 wins last year, with Tennessee winning the tiebreaker. The Titans made one big splash this offseason in trading for Falcons receiver and future Hall of Famer Julio Jones to give QB Ryan Tannehill some amazing weapons alongside WR AJ Brown and two-time rushing champion Derrick Henry.

Despite missing seven games with hamstring issues last season, Jones still posted good numbers. His 11.2 yards per target was the best in the league, and he paced for nearly 1,400 yards over a 16-game slate. Nearly 32% of his receptions went for 20 or more yards.

No player in the NFL has more rushing attempts (896), rushing yards (4,626), and rushing touchdowns (45) since 2018 than Henry — who also leads the league with 98.4 rushing yards per game during that span. If Henry repeats as rushing champion, he will become just the fifth player in NFL history to win the rushing title for three straight seasons.

The Titans do have some defensive issues Tennessee’s defense was 30th in sacks, opponents’ red zone touchdown percentage, and three-and-out percentage last year. Tennessee had the worst third-down defense (51.9%) since 1972 in a non-strike season.

The Colts’ big move was trading for QB Carson Wentz from Philadelphia to replace the retired Philip Rivers. Wentz was awful in Philly last season. He completed 57.4 percent of his passes and tied for the league lead with 15 picks before losing the starting job. However, he has a lot more talent around him with Indy.

Wentz was a star when Colts head coach Frank Reich was his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. He completed 60.2% of his passes for 3,296 yards, 33 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a 101.9 passer rating in 13 games in the 2017 season — his last with Reich as his coach.

The offense has ample skill-position talent and one of the league’s best lines. Then-rookie running back Jonathan Taylor broke out over the final six games of 2020, finishing second among all backs with 741 rushing yards over that time frame. The defense ranked inside the top 10 in both yards and points allowed.

Jacksonville ended the 2020 regular season on a franchise-record 15-game winning streak, but that earned the Jags the No. 1 overall pick and the chance to take Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence threw for 10,098 yards and 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, completed 66.6% of his passes, and ran for 943 yards and 18 more touchdowns in three seasons at Clemson.

And getting Lawrence helped lure coach Urban Meyer out of retirement. Lawrence underwent surgery on his non-throwing shoulder prior to the draft, which has partially held him back throughout offseason workouts along with a hamstring injury. But he’ll be fully ready when camp opens on July 27.

As for Houston … well, it’s an utter mess thanks to horrible trades and contracts and the Deshaun Watson off-the-field issues. The Texans may not be favored in a game all season. Watson is currently accused of sexual misconduct by over 20 women and both the NFL and Houston police are investigating the claims. For now, Watson should be expected to sit out the 2021 season.

Expert picks
  • Colts, Titans, Jaguars, Texans order of finish

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