AFC South betting preview: Colts are ready to rise
Michael Pittman should be Matt Ryan's top target for the Colts in 2022. Photo by Michael Conroy/AP.

The AFC South is the favourite to have the fewest combined wins this season (+150), which should give you some indication of the state of the division entering the fall.

The latest: Due to some notable personnel changes, the Titans — last year's top seed in the AFC — are no longer the favourites to win the division. It's instead the Colts, who'll roll with yet another veteran quarterback looking for a fresh start.

Here's our AFC South betting preview.

AFC South betting preview

Indianapolis Colts

To win Super Bowl+2,500
To win AFC Championship+1,200
To win AFC South-125
Win Total (10)Over (-106) or Under (-118)
To make playoffs-182

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Odds as of 4:35 p.m. on 08/16/2022.

Best team bet: Opponent for team's first loss — Kansas City Chiefs (+220)

There's no shame in losing to the Chiefs, who've won a dozen or more games in all four seasons with Patrick Mahomes under centre. And we see some nice plus-money value to pick this Week 3 matchup as the Colts' first loss, so why not jump on it?

Read more: Odds to win the AFC South

Indianapolis opens its season with a pair of road games against its less fearsome divisional foes: the Texans and the Jaguars. If the Colts can take care of those matchups, for which they are -385 and -200 favourites, respectively, they'd be set up to fall against the seemingly superior Chiefs.

Indianapolis will be at home against Kansas City, but home field didn't serve as an advantage last year. The Colts went 4-5, with three wins against bottom-five teams (Jaguars, Texans, Jets).

Best player bet: Michael Pittman over 1025.5 receiving yards (-112)

Bringing in Matt Ryan to replace Carson Wentz at quarterback is exciting news for the Colts' offence — especially Michael Pittman.

After hauling in 1,082 yards last year, Pittman is the undisputed top receiver for the Colts again this season. And Ryan has a track record of feeding his top target.

During his 14-year tenure with the Falcons, Ryan helped 15 pass catchers clear Pittman's 2022 yardage line.

Sure, Julio Jones accounted for several of those performances, but the point remains: Ryan will find his No. 1 guy frequently, and that guy is Pittman.

O/U win total prediction: If you believe the Colts are justified as the division favourites, you have to believe they'll hit a double-digit win total.

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With the division's best player (Jonathan Taylor), best linebacker (Shaquille Leonard) and most proven quarterback (Ryan), Indianapolis has what it takes to come out on top.

Last season, a Carson Wentz meltdown cost the Colts their 10th win in Week 18 against the hapless Jaguars. We don't see Ryan cutting it that close this time.

Pick: Over 10 wins (-106)

Tennessee Titans

To win Super Bowl+4,000
To win AFC Championship+2,000
To win AFC South+170
Win Total (9)Over (-112) or Under (-112)
To make playoffs-110

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Odds as of 4:35 p.m. on 08/16/2022.

Best team betTo miss the playoffs (-121)

In a few years, the question of "Which team was the AFC's top seed in 2021" could make for a decent bit of bar trivia. Somehow, it was the Titans.

This puzzling team beat the Rams, Chiefs and Bills but lost to the Jaguars, Jets and Texans. In even more puzzling news, the headliner of Tennessee's offseason was trading away top receiver A.J. Brown on draft night.

Even so, this pick is largely a comment on the overall strength of the AFC.

We've seen the rise of the Bengals, the Patriots should be back in the hunt and the Ravens are a real threat if they stay healthy. And of course, the AFC West is a gauntlet unto itself.

Best player bet: Derrick Henry over 1350.5 rushing yards (-106)

The ouster of Brown gives us added hope in cashing this yards prop for Henry, who has been the most unstoppable back — when healthy — over the past three seasons.

The health caveat is key given that Henry missed the final nine games of the season (plus playoffs) with a foot injury.

Prior to that, he was averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game for the third straight season and was on his way to a third straight rushing title.

Read more: NFL Comeback Player of the Year odds

Henry had missed only two games over five seasons prior to 2021, so we're not looking at an injury-prone player here. He'd need to average just south of 80 yards per game over a full season to clear this line, and that's well within his powers.

O/U win total prediction: By winning the AFC South last year, the Titans have set themselves up for a tough schedule, with interdivisional matchups against the Bills, Chiefs, Bengals, Packers and Cowboys.

It's feasible that the Titans begin 1-3 with an opening schedule that looks like this:

  • Week 1: vs. Giants
  • Week 2: @ Bills
  • Week 3: vs. Raiders
  • Week 4: @ Colts

The pressure would be cranked up from there. Tennessee has finished with exactly nine wins in four of the past six seasons, so a wash is possible here, but we're siding with the under.

Pick: Under 9 wins (-112)

Jacksonville Jaguars

To win Super Bowl+12,500
To win AFC Championship+6,000
To win AFC South+700
Win Total (6.5)Over (+110) or Under (-134)
To make playoffs+420

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Odds as of 4:35 p.m. on 08/16/2022.

Best team bet: Division finishing position — Third (-106)

We definitely expect some improvements from the Jaguars on both sides of the ball — because how much worse could it get? — but that should only allow them to leapfrog the Texans in this division.

The Colts and Titans are much further along in terms of depth and experience, while second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence will try to learn a new offence under a new coaching staff.

Read more: Odds to win NFL MVP

Lawrence ranked 36th among 38 qualified passers in QB rating (71.9) and completion rate above expectation (-5.4%) last year. But he has more help now, with Travis Etienne returning from injury and Christian Kirk and Zay Jones rounding out the receivers' room.

Best player bet: Travis Etienne under 5.5 rushing touchdowns (-130)

We just mentioned Etienne in a positive way, but now it's time to sprinkle some negativity in there.

The former Clemson standout is not technically a rookie, but this year will be his first on an NFL field — coming off a serious foot injury.

James Robinson is expected back from his Achilles injury later this month and is reportedly viewed as the top running back, which won't help Etienne here.

Then there's rookie running back Snoop Conner, who will likely steal goal-line touches. According to Dane Brugler of The Athletic, Conner scored 19 of his 26 collegiate touchdowns inside the five-yard line.

O/U win total prediction: The distraction of Urban Meyer is gone and the middle of the defence should be invigorated by a pair of exciting first-round picks. But we're still not willing to talk ourselves into seven-plus wins for Jacksonville.

Adjusting to the pro game takes time. Having the guidance of coach Doug Pederson, a Super Bowl winner, will help.

But the reality is that two running backs coming off major injuries, plus a second-year signal-caller who struggled as a rookie, plus a defence with a ton of youngsters, is not a recipe for success.

Pick: Under 6.5 wins (-134)

Houston Texans

To win Super Bowl+30,000
To win AFC Championship+12,500
To win AFC South+2,800
Win Total (4.5)Over (-110) or Under (-110)
To make playoffs+1,250

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Odds as of 4:35 p.m. on 08/16/2022.

Best team bet: Opponent for team's first win — Chicago Bears (+275) 

Most positive-leaning picks on the 2022 Texans are going to feel like long shots, but we think this market is reasonable for one sophomore quarterback facing another.

You wouldn't have guessed it based off their draft position, but Davis Mills easily outplayed Justin Fields last year:

  • Mills: 13 games, 66.8% completion rate, 16 TD, 204.9 yards/game, 88.8 QB rating
  • Fields: 12 games, 58.9% completion rate, 7 TD, 155.8 yards/game, 73.2 QB rating

The Texans start their season at home against the division-favourite Colts, and then they hit the road against Broncos. Houston will face Chicago in Week 3, and that feels like a prime opportunity to notch win No. 1.

Best player bet: Derek Stingley over 1.5 interceptions (-125)

Despite his high draft price (No. 3 overall), Stingley will likely be targeted a lot in his rookie season as quarterbacks aim to capitalize on his inexperience. Assuming a high volume of targets is headed his way, Stingley should be able to snag a couple of picks.

The last time Stingley was a newcomer, in his freshman year at LSU, he had six interceptions over 15 games. He didn't have any interceptions over his next two seasons — battling injuries and playing just 10 total games — but teams also weren't looking his way as much.

Now, the opportunities should increase again. And so should the INT numbers.

Read more: Super Bowl odds

O/U win total prediction: The past two seasons have already been pretty bleak for the Texans, but we think things will get worse before they get better.

Brandin Cooks is the only proven weapon on offence, and we can't be sure that Mills is a legit starting-calibre quarterback. Also, the league's 31st-ranked total defence isn't likely to get better overnight — especially with zero notable additions to the front seven.

Pick: Under 4.5 wins (-110)

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