NFL Predictions: AFC South Odds and Preview with Football Betting Picks
by Robert Ferringo - 8/28/2010
Looks like Southerns can play more than just college ball. Just like in the NFC South, the AFC South is the division that has produced its conferences No. 1 seed or Super Bowl representative in each of the past three seasons.
Peyton Manning continues to lead the division-favorite Colts, who have been instilled at -200 to win the AFC South. However, some books are even offering odds to win the AFC South that include a wager on the Colts at -175 or a wager on any other team at +145. Considering that Indianapolis has claimed the division crown in six of the last seven years it would be awful hard, even at plus-money, to take a stab at the other three AFC South competitors stepping up and knocking off the champs.
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Here is my NFL predictions and betting odds with my 2010 AFC South preview:
Indianapolis Colts Predictions
2009 Record: 14-2 (7-1 home, 7-1 road)
2009 Against the Spread: 11-5 ATS, 9-7 vs. Total
2009 Rankings: 9th offense (2nd pass, 32nd rush); 18th defense (14th pass, 24th rush)
2010 Odds: 6.5/1 to win SB, 3/1 to win AFC, 1/2 to win AFC South, 11.0 wins O/U
Offense: As long as Peyton Manning is running the show this will be one of the best five offenses in the NFL. Period. He has receiving weapons for days and a solid stable of running backs to work with. The Colts have had some issues on the offensive line this preseason, including a key injury to Jeff Saturday. They’ve been very sloppy this August and have been trying to mix and match with spare parts. But something tells me that they’ll be fine once the season starts. They threw the ball 63 percent of the time last year yet Manning was sacked just once every 50 drop-backs. Those numbers are insane. And even if they can’t be duplicated the Colts attack should continue to produce. They topped 30 points in seven of 16 regular season games last year and I would expect more of the same.
Defense: The Colts have perfected the bend-but-don’t-break method of playing defense. They allowed opponents to complete a stunning 66 percent of their passes but for only 9.4 yards per completion, one of the lower numbers in the league. Bob Sanders appears healthy (for now) and would give the defense another playmaker. The front four is solid in the middle with exceptional Dwight Freeney and sidekick Robert Mathis providing pressure from the outside. The linebackers are OK and the secondary is OK, but for this team it is all about the system. They’ve only been in the Top 10 in yards allowed one time in the last five years but they have been in the Top 8 in points allowed in four of those five seasons. Teams that can pound the ball on the ground or teams with a top-tier quarterback can chew this group up. And a look at this schedule shows a roster of quarterbacks – Brady, Rivers, McNabb, Manning, Palmer, Romo, Schaub – that I think will be able to exploit this group.
Skinny: In my opinion, Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in NFL history. And the fact that the Colts have beaten their Vegas wins total eight straight years – despite being one of the most public teams in the league – is further testament to how amazing he has played. The Colts have truly perfected their system and style of play. They simply play sound, fundamental football and wait for other teams to make mistakes, knowing that the opposing team will make more than Manning will. And it works. The Colts were 7-0 last year in games decided by a touchdown or less and they are 15-1 in those games in the last two seasons. Those numbers are unspeakable. Indy can just keep things close, keep things close and know that Manning will win it for them. And most times he usually does. But problems occur when they play teams that don’t make mistakes, teams that can smash the Colts in the face, and/or teams with a quarterback that is at least in the same stratosphere as Manning. If skilled opponents don’t make mistakes they beat the Colts. Period. And unless Indianapolis finds some more high-end talent on defense or until they change their philosophy to more of a go-out-and-make-a-play stance instead of just sitting back and waiting for mistakes they will continue to be a postseason underachiever.
Tennessee Titans Predictions
2009 Record: 8-8 (5-3 home, 3-5 road)
2009 Against the Spread: 6-10 ATS; 9-7 vs. Total
2009 Rankings: 12th offense (23rd pass, 2nd rush); 28th defense (31st pass, 11th rush)
2010 Odds: 25/1 to win SB, 12/1 to win AFC, 3.5/1 to win AFC South, 8.0 wins O/U
Offense: The Titans were one of only four teams that ran the ball on more than 50 percent of their snaps last year. Their offensive line was exceptional, paving the way for Chris Johnson’s breakout season while also only allowing a sack on just 3.1 percent of their drop backs (better than New England, New Orleans or Houston). This year it is Vince Young’s team. And even though it is unconventional his methods seem to work. He won’t put up strong numbers and he isn’t exactly a “game manager”. But Young just manages to do his thing and this group should score some points and move the ball. Johnson completely dictates the opposing defense and will help keep things open in the passing game for Young. But the issue remains the fact that they have one of the two or three worst receiving corps in the league. Without a game breaker all of the pressure remains on Young to make plays. It’s going to create a sink or swim situation, even with Johnson likely putting forth 1,800 total yards.
Defense: You think they missed Albert Haynesworth? In 2008 the Titans allowed opponents to score in just 41 percent of their red zone attempts, best in the league. Last year, sans Haynesworth, they had the sixth-worst red zone defense in the league, allowing opponents to score a touchdown 59 percent of the time. The Titans defense fell apart last year when injuries ravaged a secondary that, in 2008, had been full of Pro Bowlers. As a result, they played part of the year with two rookie corners and teams completed 67 percent of their passes against the Titans last year. They have retooled the defensive line, loading up on athletic beasts. But their skill and technique is yet to be determined and we don’t know if this team will generate a consistent pass rush. Their season could depend on it. And that will have a direct impact on the secondary, where they desperately need a bounce back year from Cortland Finnegan and the safeties, Michael Griffin and Chris Hope. They have a tight battle for the other two corner slots but I think that overall the unit will be much better.
Skinny: This is a really interesting team this season and a true wild card. Two years ago they were the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Last year they were an 8-8 underachiever. They have tried the Vince Young Experiment before and it hasn’t worked. Actually, he went batshit crazy on them. But Young seems more confident and mature, and Johnson is one of the best two or three offensive players in football. Some indicators suggest a disappointing season. But I still think that Jeff Fisher is a tremendous coach with the proper physical, aggressive attitude. They’ve been streaky with Young under center, and they have gone on some wild runs with him at quarterback. If they get hot early, they can be a player.
Houston Texans Predictions
2009 Record: 9-7 (4-4- home, 5-3 road)
2009 Against the Spread: 8-8 ATS, 5-10-1 vs. Total
2009 Rankings: 4th offense (1st pass, 30th rush); 13th overall (18th pass, 12th rush)
2010 Odds: 30/1 to win SB, 14/1 to win AFC, 3.5/1 to win AFC South, 8.0 wins O/U
Offense: This was the No. 1 passing attack in the league and the Texans have finally seemed to master Gary Kubiak’s system. But the big question is whether they can repeat the feat. If everyone stays healthy, I don’t see why not. But the problem is that all of the primaries on this offense – Matt Schaub, Owen Daniels and Andre Johnson – have injury histories. Also, this team still doesn’t have a running back that they trust to hold onto the football. That, as much as lack of attempts, contributed to Houston finishing near the bottom of the league in rushing last year. They definitely need to find more balance on this side of the ball, if for no other reason than to help relieve the pressure off their thin defense by being able to run the ball. But also, no matter how much a team throws they are going to need to dig deep and grind out some third-and-2s. Slowly and quietly the Texans have built one of the better offensive lines in the AFC. They need to keep adding quality depth.
Defense: This defense is as schizophrenic as any in football. On one hand they have built up an excellent front seven that can bang heads with the strongest offensive fronts in the game. On the other hand they have one of the worst secondaries in the league and can get shredded. Last year they were No. 13 in the league overall – a major improvement in a franchise that hadn’t been higher than No. 22 the previous six seasons – but they allowed 65 percent of red zone trips to result in a touchdown (third-worst in the league). They need to dig deep and find some more flex. Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans are two of the best in the business at their positions. But unless they can find some answers in the secondary their work up front will be wasted. The Texans are looking at a rookie and two second-year guys as their 1-2-3 cornerbacks. Not good. Bernard Pollard was a revelation last year but they need much more than that this season.
Skinny: Houston is still, or should I say AGAIN, the Super Sexy Pick in the AFC. And again, I don’t really see it. People get so caught up with their high-flying passing game that they ignore the fact that this team can’t run the ball and can’t stop the pass, like, at all. And for a team that is prone to slow starts (they are 7-13 in their first five games over the last four years) they have a killer opening schedule. They have a home game against Indianapolis that has been built up to a must-win level. Then they go to Washington in a killer letdown-look ahead spot before hosting in-state rival Dallas. They have another letdown trip out to Oakland before a home game against the dangerous Giants. I seriously think that they will start 1-4 again and all of the warm and fuzzies will be gone. Also, the preseason buzz has bought them three primetime appearances. That’s great, but it results in three short weeks as well. And from Nov. 14 to Dec. 26 they play five of seven games on the road. I am calling for a losing season and plenty of broken hearts in Houston.
Jacksonville Jaguars Predictions
2009 Record: 7-9 (5-3 home, 2-6 road)
2009 Against the Spread: 5-11 ATS, 8-8 vs. Total
2009 Rankings: 18th offense (19th pass, 10th rush); 23rd defense (27th pass, 19th rush)
2010 Odds: 50/1 to win SB, 25/1 to win AFC, 12/1 to win AFC South, 7.0 wins O/U
Offense: Last year the Jaguars’ yards per point was nearly 19, one of the highest numbers in the league. That puts them in a range that suggests a much more efficient scoring season. But on the other hand, they were the least penalized offense in the league and converted an amazing 45 percent of their third downs. I don’t see how they can duplicate those numbers to help boost said offense. So where does that leave them? The truth is that I don’t know what to expect from this offense. David Garrard is good, but he’s not a top-level NFL quarterback. And other than the somewhat overrated Mo-Jo Drew this club has next to nothing to work with at the skill positions. Last year they threw two young linemen (Ebon Britton and Eugene Monroe) into the fire, and they played exceptionally well. If they continue to grow then that will only make average skill people look that much better. The Jags have some nice depth along the line as well and that’s a great place to have strength. But they lack big-play guys in the passing game and need to find a way to open things up. Their total of just nine plays (running and passing) of 40 or more yards was one of the lowest totals in the NFL. That needs to improve.
Defense: This team’s defensive pedigree is closer to Tennessee’s: tough, physical, and stout up front. But its talent and its performance of late is more in line with Houston’s: a solid front seven and a sieve of a secondary. The Jaguars mustered just 14 sacks last season and, predictably, the secondary suffered through a horrific season. Teams completed nearly 70 percent of their passes against the Jags and if the results from the preseason are any indication this group hasn’t improved. Jacksonville brought in veteran Aaron Kampman, who is a stud at defensive end, to help get to the quarterback. But his nine years of experience represent just about a higher total than the other three line starters AND their backups COMBINED. Seven of their 11 defensive starters have three years or less in the league, so to say this group is young is a massing understatement. There is a lot of work to do here.
Skinny: This is just an awkward team. This is supposed to be a make-or-break year for Jack Del Rio, yet the roster is loaded with young pups that need some seasons to go. The Jaguars have the second-youngest “functional” roster in the NFL heading into the season and 12 of 22 projected starters have less than three years in the NFL. I think they have a strong foundation and they definitely have talent on this team. Even though I think that they are the worst team in the division and one of the weaker teams in the AFC, I don’t see them having one of those two- or three-win disasters of a season. I think that the Jaguars are going to be feisty, just like they were last year when 10 of their games were decided by a touchdown or less. They played teams that close despite a mediocre offense and a weak defense. This team was 7-5 before a four-game slide submarined their season. On one hand they are a year older. But they overachieved to get to that point and I wonder if they can pull that off again.
Robert Ferringo is a writer and a professional sports and NFL handicapper for Doc’s Sports. Last year his NFL picks brought home +62.5 Units for his clients and he is regarded as one of the top totals players in the sport. He guarantees a winning football season this year or he will work for free until you turn a profit. You can sign up for his college football and NFL picks and get more information here.
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