Houston hoping to hold onto AFC South crown

The new NFL season is nearly here and we continue to look ahead to the action by previewing the AFC South Division.

In perhaps one of the more open Divisions in the NFL, last year’s champions of the AFC South are the favourites at 11/8 to repeat the feat. The Houston Texans did come unstuck against a divisional rival in the play-offs, losing to Indianapolis in the wildcard round, but the Colts have been hit hard ahead of the season opener and may not be up to the challenge this time around.

It is hardly the most fearsome of divisions and Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans will both hold early hope, with the Texans the side with a target on their backs

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins remains probably Houston’s most important player and went through the whole of last year without a single drop.

Safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Kareem Jackson have both departed, while quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was the most sacked QB last season, will be hoping for more protection this season.

Duke Johnson has come in as Lamar Miller’s likely replacement and they do look like they could justify favouritism as the strongest side in the AFC South.

Indianpolis (11/2 – AFC South Winners) may have problems this year, reflected in the betting, due to the untimely retirement of QB Andrew Luck which will have thrown some plans into disarray in preseason.

With Jacoby Brissett set to come in for the All-Star Luck, there appear to be more questions than answers but Frank Reich’s side have wisely added Justin Houston from Kansas and will expect to challenge at the top end and, hopefully, in the postseason again this year.

The Jaguars (23/10 – AFC South Winners) are also being tipped to enjoy an improved 2019 after largely flattering to deceive last season. Previous first-round pick Blake Bortles has moved on, with Nick Foles, a Super Bowl winner with Philadelphia, coming in as his replacement.

There are outstanding issues to be resolved at Jacksonville but if coach Doug Marrone can marry everything together, we may just see them get back to somewhere near the form they showed in the 2017 campaign, when they ended up top of the AFC South pile.

Finally, Tennessee (7/2 to win AFC South) appear to have recruited well in the draft and Ryan Tannehill and Adam Humphries are potentially difference-makers this year, with the former expected to challenge Marcus Mariota for the first-choice QB role.

Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan have moved on, though, and will be missed with the Titans facing a difficult task of usurping the Texans.

Read our expert AFC North preview here

Read our expert AFC East preview here

Read our expert AFC West preview here

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