AFC SOUTH PREVIEW
It’s no surprise that Vegas has given the Superbowl favorite role to the defending AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts (+700 - +650). In my follow up in depth analysis of each NFL division I decided to stay in the South and swap Conferences. Again I will be bringing you my breakdown of each team in the Division that my give you some insight to your NFL Future wagers.
The AFC South over the past few years has been on the mend, and I look for this to be one of the more competitive Divisions in the League. Jack Del Rio will need to make major strides, while Kubiak is on the hot seat too. The Titans seem revitalized as V. Young seems to be able to manage in a more straight forward offense, with stallion Chris Johnson. While the Colts haven’t missed a beat and may be a bit over-valued are certainly not worth betting against.
Things are about to get hot in Houston, being a local to the Texans I understand first hand the pressure that Gary Kubiak faces this season. Now I am no Houston Texan insider, but if they fail to make the playoffs this season, it may be adios amigo. Personally I think it would be a mistake, this team is maturing into a competitive playoff team that will compete in years to come. I just don’t know if this will be the year, because they have the most difficult schedule(#1) on tap and a few holes to fill. If they make the playoffs win or lose they will have earned it this season.
Last season Matt Schaub showed his toughness and was a major payoff from the David Carr era. You can’t knock any team for being 1st in Passing and 4th in Total Offense. The linebacking corps is young, fast and aggressive while the play from Bernard Pollard down the stretch is an obvious fit into the overall plan of beating the Colts.
The missing elements to a very good football team exist in their running game, defensive secondary and a real pass rusher. Honestly their special teams cost them dearly last season and were on the verge of finally beating the Colts only to lose late and let a few others get away late. Not to sound too Madden-esque but you aren’t going to win every game so you better win the games you are supposed to because when you lose those it becomes more difficult to come away with a winning season. That is how I wrap up the Texans and I look for those growing pains to turn the final page and possibly gather a Wild Card spot.
Oddsmakers have given the Texans (Week 7 Off) a slight advantage over the Titans as the second best team in the South and installed them as (+300 / +400) favorite to take the division. Interestingly the Texans are an O/U 8 (-140 / +120) for wins on the season, and I agree with that number. Prediction 9 Wins; Key Wins Wk 1 Indianapolis, @ Jacksonville Wk 10, and @Denver Wk 16. Key Losses San Diego Wk 9, Baltimore Wk 14 and @Tennessee Wk 15.
When I look at breaking down the Colts, 11th toughest in schedule strength, it is very hard to find anything wrong with this team except the second half of the Superbowl. I can only imagine that Field General Manning is ready to get back into action. As mentioned above, the preseason favorite to win the Superbowl (+900 / +650), also makes them the clear team to beat in the South ( -240 / -160). Last season they just seemed to work through their schedule like Peyton does secondaries.
Digging into the roster no real losses to free agency. They did a real good job signing the players needed to keep their core effectiveness in tact. They’ll get a healthy Gonzalez back and Bob Sanders will be 100% again as well. Now it is very difficult to string together a 13 win season let alone do it back to back so they’re in for a challenge. It is possible that a few teams will look at managing a way to keep Manning and this offense off the field. I see possibly three to four inter-conference losses this year.
The oddsmakers have set the Colts (Week 7 Off) Win total at 11 O/U (+105 / -125) this numbers looks right to me, I can’t see them dropping 6 games, though a few key injuries and it may happen. They get the benefit of San Diego and Dallas at home, while traveling to New England and Denver. If this line moves any further it may be a real look for me to go over the total at 10.5. Prediction 11 Wins; Key Wins @Denver Wk 3 and Houston Wk 8. Key Losses Houston Wk 1, @New England Wk 11 and @Tennessee Wk 14.
With off-season rumors of moves and hemorrhaging of money, the Jaguars ’08 thru ’09 results went in the complete opposite direction and it makes you scratch your head as what to expect this season. My thoughts are this, as goes David Garrard and the defense so go the Jaguars. A no name defense that has no direction to go but up. The Jaguar defense has dwindled each of the past two years from their ’07 playoff appearance. The offense has been equally unimpressive and truly need an additional threat at wide out.
While Garrard has had times of brilliance I see major inconsistency with a career rating of 84.7. He’ll need to be in the mid to upper 90’s this season, something he is capable of, to play the role of sleeper. The defense has the signature of Jack Del Rio, as mentioned, and they’ll need to make further strides to break the top half of the league. Facing one of the tougher schedules in the league, 5th overall, due to the division they face off against twice each year. Clint Ingram departed during FA to New Orleans but the offensive line remained in tact for Pro Bowler Jones-Drew.
The Vegas book has placed a season O/U total Wins at 7 (+110 / -130) and I have to agree with the slight movement of odds toward the Under here. They’ll have to travel to San Diego, Kansas City, Dallas and New York (N). The Jags are a distant 4th in the run for the South in the eyes of bookmakers as they have a hefty (+1000 / +1800) price tag. Too much at task for this team as I see the Del Rio era coming to an end. Prediction 6 Wins; Key Wins Wk 1 Denver, Wk 3 Philadelphia and Wk 5 Buffalo. Key Losses Wk 7 @Kansas City, Wk 10 Houston, and Wk 16 Washington.
The first thing that comes to my mind when looking at Tennessee is that one of the best things to happen to Vince Young was the departure of Norm Chow and his offense. Not because Chow isn’t a mastermind, but it’s because he is a mastermind. When Vince is allowed to be his best making plays the Titans win football games. It will be very interesting to see how he continues to shine. The Titans are tied with Division foe Houston for toughest schedule and yet are slightly higher number to win the South (+350 / +450).
I find it further interesting that the bookmakers have the Titans as a half game higher than Houston at Total Wins 8.5 O/U (+120 / -140), but they are slightly less favored to win the South. The Titans departure from winning the South a year prior, got off to a terrible start under Collins clipping to a 0-6 start only to breeze through the final 10 games under the direction of Young.
The concerns in Nashville aren’t with the Offense, I felt that when Jim Schwartz departed that Fisher would have no problem in that loss. However, I believe it effected this unit more than advertised. Then when I look at the victories under Young I am concerned that the wins are misleading, four of those 8 wins were verse very weak teams. While the 2 lone losses were against top tier play off teams and they didn’t look good. So from my perspective the Titans may be a bit over advertised. However, streaks are contagious and they could roll out quickly on the schedule they face, and I expect this defense to return to form. Prediction 8 Wins; Key Wins Pittsburgh Wk 2, Indianapolis Wk 14 and Houston Wk 15. Key Losses @ San Diego Wk 8 and @ Miami Wk 10.