Sports Betting

AFC South Battle Suddenly Loaded with Young Talent

Trevor Lawrence

I always remind people that the NFL doesn’t just stand for the National Football League; it always stands for Not For Long.

The NFL is a league of quick turnover. It constantly sees players retire at a young age due to injury, competition, and demand. However, due to the influx of college rookie talent, no other sport has team rebuilds as fast as NFL teams. From the bottom of the league to making the playoffs in a matter of one season, we see it often, and the AFC South has four teams that are all experiencing an exciting resurgence.

Jaguars

Odds to win division: +270

Last season was a tale of two halves for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Their dreams of making it back to the NFL playoffs were shattered by a dismal 3-6 finish that left them searching for explanations after a sizzling 6-2 start. Additionally, Trevor Lawrence’s growth faltered, as he was unable to build on his first-round playoff success. In contrast to other setbacks, the Jaguars aren’t starting from scratch. Lawrence is under a lot of pressure to have a successful 2024 season, with the playoffs being the obvious goal in his last year. Achieving this aim required some off-season moves, which they made.

Adding Arik Armstead essentially resolves the Jaguars’ primary defensive problem: their interior defensive line. When healthy, he is one of the NFL’s most formidable defensive linemen despite missing 13 games over the previous two seasons. With him, the Jaguars will have an interior pass rush presence, making Josh Allen and Travon Walker—edge rushers who combined for 27.5 sacks last season—even more potent.

However, I think the biggest addition was drafting wide receiver Brain Thomas Jr 23rd overall. Adding the former LSU stud gives the Jags a big play threat that will change how the team calls plays. Jacksonville Jaguars NFL Odds jumped the second they selected him, and I’m excited to see Thomas this season. Thomas is 6’ 3’’, 209 lbs, and ran a 4.33 forty-yard dash. He has a chance to be Trevor Lawrence’s breakout deep-threat target.

Texans

Odds to win division: +105

The Houston Texans have the potential to become the best team in the AFC in CJ Stroud’s second season as quarterback. Although the Kansas City Chiefs lead the league right now, Stroud’s growth and the Texans’ strengthening roster can potentially close that gap drastically. The offensive unit of the Texans features a number of outstanding playmakers. During the previous year, Nico Collins had a breakout season, where he accumulated over 1,300 receiving yards. Stefon Diggs, who is eager to recover from a difficult conclusion to his tenure with the Buffalo Bills, brings an additional layer of power to the receiving corps. In addition, Tank Dell, Joe Mixon, and Dalton Schultz contribute depth and diversity to the attacking unit, which results in a powerful and well-rounded offensive unit.

Although the Texans’ defense may be called into question by some naysayers, the addition of Danielle Hunter is a big improvement to the team’s defense. Hunter, who finished the previous season with the Minnesota Vikings with 16.5 sacks, is a formidable presence on the defensive line throughout the current season. His capacity to exert pressure on quarterbacks and disrupt plays will be absolutely necessary for the Texans to succeed on defense.

Colts

Odds to win division: +330

Following a year in which the Indianapolis Colts finished with a record of 4-12-1 and ranked dead last in the NFL in DVOA, the Colts unexpectedly competed for a playoff spot in 2023, finishing with a record of 9-8.

The Colts defense moved from being ranked thirteenth in DVOA to twenty-first, while their offense went from being ranked dead last to thirteenth. The most important factor in their turnaround was their offense. The quarterback position was a significant issue for the Colts in 2022, as they ranked 29th in team QB rating at 79.2. This led to the Colts drafting quarterback Anthony Richardson as the fourth overall choice in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, the Colts’ turnaround in the previous season was not due to Richardson’s presence.

Despite the fact that Indianapolis required further assistance at cornerback, safety, and wide receiver, Chris Ballard was unable to pass up the opportunity to choose Laiatu Latu from UCLA at the fifteenth overall pick. After suffering a neck injury that came dangerously close to ruining his career, Latu was able to conclude his tenure at UCLA as if the incident had never occurred.

Off the defensive line, he had 13.0 sacks, 49 tackles (21.5 for loss), and two interceptions in 2023. He also had two defensive interceptions. Not only is Latu effective at rushing quarterbacks (he is tied for third in FBS with 64 pressures), but he also fits in wonderfully with other edge rushers for the Colts, such as Kwity Paye, Dayo Odeyingbo, and Samson Ebukam. To compliment a defense that is poised to improve in terms of pass pressure, Indianapolis scored a home run by acquiring a player who has the ability to transform the game at the edge.

Titans

Odds to win division: +800

The Titans are long shots to win the AFC South but are growing in the right direction. The new era begins with quarterback Will Levis and head coach Brian Callahan.

Following a second consecutive season in which the Titans failed to qualify for the playoffs, the team decided to dismiss longstanding head coach Mike Vrabel and replace him with Brian Callahan, who had previously served as the offensive coordinator for the Bengals. Derrick Henry, a reliable member of the franchise, is also gone. In 2023, the Titans decided to bench Tannehill in order to focus on the future and on Will Levis, who was already a rookie quarterback. With a total of 1,381 yards and 12 touchdowns from scrimmage, Henry continued his outstanding performance by being selected for the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in the past five seasons. However, his eighth season with the Titans was the final season of his career with the team.

Through free agency, the Titans were able to acquire playmaking players like Tony Pollard and Calvin Ridley. They executed a significant transaction to acquire L’Jarius Sneed on the perimeter. During the draft, general manager Ran Carthon focused on the trenches, and he picked up Latham to anchor his offensive line alongside Peter Skoronski, who was selected in the first round the previous year. On the other hand, Sweat is a contentious choice because he was arrested in April for driving while intoxicated.

The Titans drafted OT JC Latham 7th overall at the NFL Draft. He is a two-year starter inside Alabama’s run-heavy (64-36 run-pass split), multiple-run scheme with 23 career starts at right tackle. Latham has a broad frame and thick, well-rounded build with very little if any bad weight at 360 pounds. He is light on his feet at his size with good quickness.

 

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