The Indianapolis Colts, who cruised to the 2013 AFC South title with a record of 11-5, start the new season as heavy 1/2 favorites to finish atop the division.
Led by quarterback Andrew Luck, who emerged as a legitimate big-game quarterback in just his second NFL season, the Colts posted a 6-0 record against their AFC South rivals, winning three of those games by 16 points or more. Luck matched his rookie year total of 23 touchdown passes, tossed just nine interceptions and accumulated 3,822 passing yards, finishing 13th in the NFL in that category.
Even more is expected from Luck in 2014 -- he sports odds of 12/1 to claim 2014 NFL MVP honors, placing the former No. 1 draft pick in elite company alongside superstars Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.
Luck’s emergence has also fueled the Colts’ climb into the top tier of Super Bowl favorites. The Colts have 14/1 odds to win the Super Bowl but start the season rated just 15th in the power rankings
at Odds Shark.
The Houston Texans are expected to be the Colts’ closest competition in the AFC South, with odds of 3/1 to claim the division’s top spot, which they last held in 2011 and 2012.
Against the odds: Seahawks seek repeat | Broncos driven to avenge loss
After starting the 2013 season favored to claim a third straight division title, the Texans came undone quickly, finishing the season on a 14-game losing streak after a promising 2-0 start and ending up with the league’s worst record. Quarterback Matt Schaub tossed just four touchdowns against 11 interceptions from Week 3 on and was practically run out of town before being traded to the Raiders in the offseason.
Backup Case Keenum did not fare much better after Schaub's midseason benching, although he played admirably in a pair of 27-24 losses to Indianapolis and Arizona.
The uncertainty surrounding who will run the Houston offense is a contributing factor in the Texans’ regular season win total being pegged at 7.5, although the over is favored with a money line of 2/3. There's cause for optimism in the arrival of rookie linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who was selected by the Texans with the first pick in this year’s NFL draft and is already the leading candidate to take home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
It has been six years since the Tennessee Titans
last earned an NFL postseason berth. Entering the 2014 season, the Titans are a 1/4 bet to extend their playoff drought yet another year. Tennessee is also a 7/1 long shot to win the division after finishing 7-9 in 2013, four games behind the Colts.
Aside from wide receiver Kendall Wright, a 100/1 long shot to lead the NFL in receiving yards, the Titans are absent from NFL player props betting as the season approaches and sit near the bottom of the league in Super Bowl futures betting with odds of 100/1.
The Jacksonville Jaguars tallied just four wins to finish well out of NFL playoff contention in 2013. The outlook is just as bleak in 2014 for the Jags, who sit as 14/1 long shots to win the AFC South and dead last in Super Bowl odds at 250/1.
2014 NFL division preview: AFC South
Sports Illustrated's Don Banks previews the AFC South for the 2014 NFL season.