2019 AFC SOUTH PREVIEW
By Marc Lawrence
Welcome to the 2019 AFC South division preview, with excerpts from the 2019 PLAYBOOK Football Preview Guide magazine.
In addition to the previews outlined below, these interesting scheduling statistical notes merit consideration, compliments of the 2019 MTI Regular Season NFL Win Report:
Houston – Texans will face zero opponents coming off a Thursday or a Monday night game this season … +13 net turnovers in 2018 regular season.
Indianapolis – Colts had 6 double-digit and wire-to-wire wins last season … +3 net turnover in 2018 regular season.
Jacksonville – Jaguars have played ‘under their regular-season win total 7 of the last 8 years, and suffered 7 double-digit losses, and had zero victories by 1-3 points, last season … -12 net turnovers in 2018 regular season.
Tennessee – Titans had 4 double-digit victories and 4 double-digit losses last season… -1 net turnover in 2018 regular season.
TEAM THEME: GUARDING THE MINT
Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 8.5 (under -140)
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 137
The Texans know where their bread is buttered and used the draft to bolster the offensive line with OT Tytus Howard in the first round and OT Max Scharping in the second round. It’s music to the ears of QB Deshaun Watson, who at times resembled a human piñata last season. “We have to have guys that can be bodyguards for Watson, man, and you’re going to be that guy,” head coach Bill O’Brien told Howard. Keeping Watson upright and out of harm’s way will give the talented QB time to survey the field. The added return of star WR Will Fuller (ACL) is critical, too, as the speedster is the perfect complement to DeAndre Hopkins. The 25-year-old Fuller has missed 17 regular-season games in his career. With J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney healthy and anchoring the defense, Houston hopes to get back to 2015 and 2016 standards when they were ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in overall team defense in the league. The confidence factor for this team is there, as they became the first team since the 1970 NY Giants to reel off six consecutive wins after opening the season 0-3 last year. If O’Brien can maintain his ways against losing teams (20-4 SU in his career) and stay even against winning opposition, his troops could be playoff-bound again in 2019.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Houston is 8-0 ATS when favored versus foes coming off a double-digit loss under O’Brien.
PLAY ON: at Indianapolis (10/20)
INSIDE THE STATS: The Texans are 8-15 SU and 7-13-3 ATS in games after committing zero turnovers.
TEAM THEME: LUCK LIVES HERE
SuperBook Season Win Total: 9.5 (over -140)
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 129.5
With three of the first 59 picks in the draft and six of the first 135, the Colts slayed the NFL draft this season. Coupled with a 2018 draft class that was headlined by two first-team All-Pros going into this season, it’s a precursor of what’s to come in Naptown these days. A healthy Andrew Luck, for the first time in three off-season’s, underscores the strength of what’s being built in Indy – a group that should be the strongest surrounding Luck since he came out of Stanford in 2012. The 2018 Colts won nine of their last 10 regular-season games, then a playoff game before falling to the Chiefs and league MVP Patrick Mahomes in the divisional round of the playoffs. Adding elusive Ohio State WR Parris Campbell gives Luck a true home run threat. Paired with T.Y. Hilton and TE Eric Ebron, the passing game suddenly becomes lethal. Better yet, Frank Reich capitalized on an exceptionally strong defensive draft with 7 of his first eight selections. It’s no coincidence that Reich has made six appearances in the Super Bowl, both as a player and a coach. Indy also struck gold in the Free Agent market when they landed former All-Pro LB Justin Houston from Kansas City. Yes, it’s safe to say the future in Indianapolis looks bright.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: All four Super Bowls the Colts franchise has played in – 1968, 1970, 2006 and 2009 – have taken place in Miami, Florida, site of Super Bowl LIV this season.
PLAY ON: at Kansas City (10/6)
INSIDE THE STATS: The Colts are 40-12 SU and 38-14 ATS in games in which they outyarded foes behind Andrew Luck.
TEAM THEME: ENDANGERED SPECIES
Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 8 (under -130)
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 132
Get used to not seeing much of the Jaguars this season. Despite the fact that Super Bowl-winning QB Nick Foles will be behind center for Jacksonville in 2019, the only prime-time games for the Jags this season occurs in Week Three at home against Tennessee (unless, of course, they are flexed during the second half of the season). It’s what happens when you fall off the radar in the NFL after going from 12 wins in 2017 to 5 wins last year. And speaking of the schedule, for only the seventh time in the franchise’s 25-year history, the Jags will get a home game to finish the season. FYI: they are 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS in these games. In a scheduling quirk, the Jaguars will have a 34-day stretch between home games sandwiched between October 27 and December 1. Plus, in addition to adding Foles to the roster, Jacksonville struck gold in the first two rounds of the draft with DE Josh Allen and OT Jawaan Taylor, both expected to be immediate impact players. If Foles can resurrect an offense that fell 11 points and 58 yards per game last season, the Jags always-reliable defense will have a chance to shine. Remember, Foles is 15-6 SU and 12-8-1 ATS as a favorite of 6 or fewer points, as well as 13-5 SU from Game Thirteen out. His reunion with former Eagles OC John DeFilippo should pay huge dividends. Play accordingly.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Jacksonville is 1-7 SUATS against teams from the NFC South since 2011.
PLAY ON: vs. Kansas City (9/8)
INSIDE THE STATS: After going 16-6 at home ITS the previous 3 years, the Jaguars went 2-5 last year.
TEAM THEME: LET IT RIDE
Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 8 (under -130)
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 134
Mike Vrabel’s rookie season with the Titans paralleled that of QB Marcus Mariota. A third-straight 9-7 season last year was enough to keep the wolves off Vrabel, but in Mariota’s case, it’s time to let it ride with Tennessee picking up the $20 million-dollar fifth-year option of his rookie contract as the No. 2-overall selection in 2015. The Titans hedged that bet when they traded for Ryan Tannehill, a 2012 first-round pick who failed to materialize with Miami. Hence, should Mariota fail to deliver the goods, you can look for Tennessee to do what the Dolphins did with Tannehill and cut the cord. According to NFL analyst Charlie Casserly, Tennessee’s wide receiver additions of Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown (2nd round selection), along with former 1st round WR Corey Davis, can take the offense to another level. We like quality quarterbacks in contract years and with it look for Mariota to turn loose this season. On the other side of the ball, expect veteran TE Cam Wake to make an immediate difference. He was the glue to the Miami defense and with his athleticism and desire (he’s a ‘young 37’ who made an immediate impact in summer OTA’s). He’s also a mentor who considers it a responsibility to pass on knowledge to younger teammates. Look for these Nashville cats to once again be in the AFC South hunt.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Tennessee is 11-5 SUATS all-time versus NFC South opponents, including 8-0 SU and 7-1 ATS versus .500 or fewer foes.
PLAY ON: vs. Indianapolis Colts (9/15)
INSIDE THE STATS: The Titans have gone only 15-25 ITS at home the L5Y.
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