Welcome to Bet Labs 2017 NFL preview series where we will look at all eight of the league’s divisions.  As part of the preview, we will highlight each team’s chances of winning their respective division and take a look at their season win total.

To create our projections, we simulated the 2017 NFL season 10,000 times using team projections and adjusting for Strength of Schedule.

Previous division previews: NFC East, AFC East, NFC North, AFC North, NFC West, AFC West, NFC South and today the AFC South.

Tennessee Titans

2016 Record: 9-7

Home Games: DET, SD, CHI, KC, PIT

Away Games: DEN, GB, NYJ, MIN, OAK

The Titans took a big step forward last year winning nine games, it was the team’s first winning season since 2011. Tennessee finished the year 13th in DVOA, well ahead of its division rivals (IND 24th, JAX 26th, HOU 29th) but lost the AFC South crown to the Texans on a tiebreaker.

Tennessee hasn’t won the division since 2008 but that ends this year. Marcus Mariota should continue to improve in his third year in the league. The team used a first round pick on receiver Corey Davis to give their young quarterback a much-needed No. 1 target. The Titans then used their second 1st Round selection to take corner Adoree’ Jackson. Jackson, plus the signing of Logan Ryan should bolster the team’s maligned secondary.

It’ll be a tight race but after 10,000 simulations the Titans win the AFC South 37.0% of the time. The team’s most likely record is 9-7. The season win total for Mike Mularkey’s team is 8.5. There is a 54.9% chance the team wins 9 or more games and a 45.1% chance it finishes 8-8 or worse. There is no value betting the team’s over/under.

Indianapolis Colts

2016 Record: 8-8

Home Games: AZ, CLE, SF, PIT, DEN

Away Games: LAR, SEA, CIN, BUF, BAL

2016 was another wasted season for the Colts who missed the playoffs for a second straight year, the first time that had happened since 1997-98. The only positive was the return to form of Andrew Luck. The star quarterback rebounded after an injury filled 2015 campaign to complete 63.5% of his passes for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns. Unfortunately for Luck he got little support from his teammates.

The defense was 4th worst by DVOA and allowed 382.9 yards per game. New GM Chris Ballard has spent much of the offseason including draft picks and free agent signings to improve his defensive unit. The moves might work out but the team has some ways to go to be competent. Another issue that could slow the Colts down is the offensive line. Luck was the second most sacked quarterback in the league and according to Pro Football Focus was pressured on 44.4% of his dropbacks, third most in the NFL.

Luck will likely be brilliant once again this fall but without an offensive line to protect him and a defense that can keep other teams off the field, Indy’s upside is limited. The Colts are projected to finish 8-8 for a third straight year.

The team’s win total is set at 8.5 games. There is a 52.0% chance Luck and crew win 8 or fewer games. At +105 odds there is value betting the UNDER.

Houston Texans

2016 Record: 9-7

Home Games: KC, CLE, AZ, SF, PIT

Away Games: CIN, NE, SEA, LAR, BAL

The Texans finished 2016 with a 9-7 record for a third year in a row but that was good enough to repeat as division champs. Houston also swept Indy for the first time and managed to do so with poor quarterback play (15 TDs, 16 INTs) and with superstar J.J. Watt out for most of the year.

The Texans were able to jettison Brock Osweiler before the draft and then traded up to take Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. You can criticize the front office for what it gave up getting Watson but he should be an upgrade over Osweiler. The return of Watt is a bonus for a defense that ranked 7th in DVOA.

The defense will be one of the best in the league once again but a question mark at the quarterback makes it hard to project the team for big things. Houston also went 8-2 in games decided by seven points or less, a stat that tends to regress to the mean from season to season.

The season win total for the squad is 8.5, just like the Titans and Colts. Houston’s most likely record in our simulations is 8-8. There is a 61.3% chance the Texans wins 8 or fewer games giving value to the UNDER (+100).

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Jacksonville Jaguars

2016 Record: 3-13

Home Games: BAL, LAR, CIN, LAC, SEA

Away Games: NYJ, PIT, CLE, AZ, SF

Expectations were high for Jacksonville entering the 2016 season. In his second year Blake Bortles threw for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns. The team was stacked with young talent and an improving defense. The defense took a step forward finishing 13th in DVOA but Bortles regressed and the offense averaged 19.9 points per game (25th in the NFL). The team won five or fewer games for a sixth straight year.

The front office doubled down on improving the defense by signing Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye and Barry Church, this has the makings of a top 5 unit. The downside, the offensive line is a question mark and the team spent the fourth pick on Leonard Fournette who, like the rest of the offense, could struggle if the o-line doesn’t hold up.

The Jags haven’t had a winning season or made the playoffs since 2007, that trend will continue in 2017. Jacksonville’s win total is listed at 6.5 but there is a 57.8% chance they win seven or more games. The team’s most likely record is 7-9 and there is value betting the OVER (-120).

AFC South Division Odds

Tennessee, Indy and Houston all have win totals of 8.5. The oddsmakers aren’t sure who will win this division. The simulations are close as well but the Titans come out on top. There is value backing Mariota and crew +215.

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