Posted in: NFL
With the 2018 NFL regular season fast approaching – the first game of the year kicks off on Thursday, September 6 – it’s time for bettors to take a serious look at the futures betting market.
Anything can happen in one game, but over the course of a grueling 16-game campaign, the cream tends to rise to the top in this league. With that in mind, savvy bettors can take advantage of futures betting by pouncing on divisional title odds*, Super Bowl championship prospects, and a few fun proposition wagers based on player performance.
To help you sharpen your futures betting skills, we’ll be covering all eight of the NFL’s divisions, continuing with the AFC South.
*All odds and lines included in this page were provided by online sportsbook Bovada on August 31st, 2018.
|Team||Odds to Win AFC South||Odds to Win Super Bowl 53|
In what might be the closest divisional race of them all, the Jacksonville Jaguars look to repeat as AFC South champs, but the Houston Texans are nipping right at their heels. And assuming the Tennessee Titans can keep improving on their Wild Card status, while the Indianapolis Colts welcome an old friend in quarterback Andrew Luck back to the fold, this race should remain wide open until Week 17. For full information on all four AFC South contenders, see the team capsules below:
“I ain’t got too much to say, but make sure you all bring that same energy out next week and the week after.
We are going to the Super Bowl and we are going to win that shit. We are going to win that shit.
Pardon my language, but we don’t give a fuck. We really don’t care. We knew we was going to come in here. We knew we was going to do.”
– CB Jalen Ramsey, on the Jaguars’ chances against the Patriots after securing a spot in last year’s AFC Championship game
|1||Sep. 9||@ New York Giants|
|2||Sep. 16||vs. New England Patriots|
|3||Sep. 23||vs Tennessee Titans|
|4||Sep. 30||vs New York Jets|
|5||Oct.7||@ Kansas City Chiefs|
|6||Oct. 14||@ Dallas Cowboys|
|7||Oct. 21||vs Houston Texans|
|8||Oct. 28||vs Philadelphia Eagles|
|10||Nov. 11||@ Indianapolis Colts|
|11||Nov. 18||vs Pittsburgh Steelers|
|12||Nov. 25||@Buffalo Bills|
|13||Dec. 2||vs Indianapolis Colts|
|15||Dec. 16||vs Washington Redskins|
|16||Dec. 23||@ Miami Dolphins|
|17||Dec. 30||@ Houston Texans|
*(Opponents Went 122-134 in 2017 = T-25thMost DifficultSchedule)*
Last season saw the Jaguars experience one of those improbable turnarounds that defines the NFL’s perpetual parity.
Following a 3-13 campaign in 2016, and a 5-11 run the year before, Jacksonville emerged as a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2017. Led by a ferocious defense featuring shutdown cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, the Jags just 268 points – the lowest allowed in the AFC – en route to 10-6 and the AFC South title.
And as the quote above from Ramsey makes clear, this new edition of the Jaguars has shed the franchise’s “lovable loser” label for good. Jacksonville suffocated the Bills in a 10-3 win to move out of the Wild Card round, then went toe-to-toe with the Steelers offense in a 45-42 shootout in the Divisional stage.
In the AFC Championship game, the Jags held a 20-10 lead over the vaunted Patriots with just the 4th quarter left to play. But HC Doug Marrone opted for a zone defense instead of the team’s league-best man coverage, allowing Tom Brady and Co. to escape with a 24-20 victory.
With the sting of that late collapse still fresh in the team’s mind, Jacksonville should be primed for another run at the Lombardi Trophy. Aside from the loss of wideout Allen Robinson, the Jags return most of their core from 2017, including Ramsey and Bouye in the secondary.
But while the defense rightfully gets most of the attention from media and fans, don’t sleep on Jacksonville’s offense either. With a rejuvenated Blake Bortles blossoming into a competent, capable quarterback, and rookie RB Leonard Fournette pounding the rock for over 1,000 yards, the Jaguars scored 417 points last year – second only the Patriots (458) in the AFC.
In the NFL, teams that can find the end zone consistently, while denying their opponents the same privilege, tend to experience sustained success. That’s why the Jags’ (+170) line to repeat as AFC South champs looks to be so juicy. Each of the team’s divisional rivals has definitive flaws, but Jacksonville seems to be stout and solid on both sides of the ball.
And taking a look at their 25th-most difficult schedule shows Jacksonville will have an easy path towards their second straight postseason appearance. All things considered, betting on this team to win the South – or even the Super Bowl at (+2000) – appears to offer tremendous value.
On a final note, the Jags have been tabbed with a Win Total of 9 (-130 on Over / Even on Under), with the linemakers leaning toward another 10-win season. Barring serious regression from Bortles or the defense, compiling 10 wins over one the lightest schedules in the league shouldn’t be all that difficult to accomplish – especially for a hungry team seeking redemption and validation.
“I don’t expect anybody outside to have any reason to believe that. The last two years were two very bad years. There were some dark moments in there.
But I’ve also come out the other side of it better because of some of the experiences that I had. So I’m just taking it one day at a time. I’m not going to stand here and pretend like I can tell you exactly what’s going to happen in the season or how it’s going to go. But I feel very good with where I’m at right now.
I’m not going to make any proclamations about comparing things to the past or what I’m going to do in the future, but I will say I feel very good.”
– DE J.J. Watt, on the notion that he can win an historic fourth NFL Defensive Player of the Year award after missing 24 of 32 games due to injury over the last two seasons
|1||Sep. 9||@ New England Patriots|
|2||Sep. 16||@Tennessee Titans|
|3||Sep. 23||vs New York Giants|
|4||Sep. 30||@Indianapolis Colts|
|5||Oct.7||vs Dallas Cowboys|
|6||Oct. 14||vs Buffalo Bills|
|7||Oct. 21||@Jacksonville Jaguars|
|8||Oct. 25||vs Miami Dolphins|
|9||Nov. 4||@Denver Broncos|
|11||Nov. 18||@Washington Redskins|
|12||Nov. 26||vs Tennessee Titans|
|13||Dec. 2||vs Cleveland Browns|
|14||Dec. 9||vs Indianapolis Colts|
|15||Dec. 15||@New York Jets|
|16||Dec. 23||@Philadelphia Eagles|
|17||Dec. 30||vs Jacksonville Jaguars|
*(Opponents Went 116-140 in 2017 = 32ndMost Difficult Schedule)*
For a few weeks early in 2017, it appeared as though the Texans’ age-old quarterback woes had finally been solved.
Rookie QB Deshaun Watson replaced an ineffective Tom Savage in a Week 1 loss, then game managed the team to a 13-9 win over the Bengals in Week 2. From there though, HC Bill O’Brien took the training wheels off of his new toy, unleashing Watson’s electric abilities in a 36-33 loss to the Patriots.
Watson threw for over 300 yards on that day, then proceeded to put up 57, 34, and 33 points in his next three games. In Week 8, however, disaster struck – as it tends to do when Texans’ signal-callers are concerned.
After putting on a fireworks show opposite Russell Wilson – during which each QB tossed for over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns – in a 41-38 loss in Seattle, Watson tore his ACL during practice that week. The catastrophic injury ended Watson’s season in a flash, along with Houston’s hopes in 2017.
The dreadful QB combination of Savage and T.J. Yates could only manage a single win between them in the second half, as the Texans staggered toward a 4-12. That marked the only time in O’Brien’s four-year tenure that the team failed to finish at exactly 9-7. The downgrade wasn’t solely attributable to Watson’s injury either, as superstar DE J.J. Watt broke his leg in Week 5, in the same game as OLB Whitney Mercilus went down with a season-ending torn pectoral.
Watson is back and ready to roll for 2018, along with Watt and Mercilus, so the buzz is back in Houston as the season quickly approaches.
But while the 22-year old Watson should be able to recover from his first major injury in the NFL, Watt is 29-years old and has only played eight games over the last two years. He’s intent on returning to his three-time Defensive Player of the Year form, as the quote above can attest, but Watt’s body has been ravaged by his hard-hitting style.
For bettors, correctly assessing Watt’s chances of playing elite defense again holds the key to winning or losing money on the Texans this season. At (+190) to win the South, they’re the clear favorite to challenge Jacksonville in that regard. In fact, Houston is essentially pegged at the same odds to win the division, one they claimed for two straight years before last season’s quagmire.
With Watt back to his old self, and Watson guiding the offense to big numbers, the Texans could very well experience the same revival as Jacksonville did in 2017. On the other hand, should either (or both) stars struggle to rebound, Houston simply doesn’t have the supporting cast to carry a playoff run.
But with the easiest schedule in all of football awaiting, don’t sleep on their Win Total of 8.5 (-165 on Over / +135) either. The bookies clearly expect this team to win 9 games or more, and Houston definitely has the light workload to get that done.
Just steer clear of those (+2200) odds on a Super Bowl win. O’Brien has proven consistently that he’s not a creative coach in the playoffs, going 1-2 while generally failing to take advantage of his team’s defensive prowess. Even if Houston does win the South, they’re likely doomed to lose yet another playoff game to the Patriots – who have ousted Houston from postseason play twice in the last six years.
“It’s the Patriots system, one of the greatest systems in the NFL. You can tell Mike played for Belichick because you can see some of the similarities. They’re about winning the way New England is about winning.
One thing I saw early: Mike will put you on blast. He don’t care who’s around. He’s going to say what’s right. He might be a bit looser than Bill Belichick, but they’re both great guys. A man caught a ball on me – honestly, I don’t know his name yet – but Mike let me hear about it. ‘Don’t get stuck on top of the routes like that! Make a play!’
Nobody cares where you come from or what you make. Everyone’s equal. And you can tell from the head coach all the way down to the interns, everybody wants to win.”
– CB Malcolm Butler, on transitioning from New England to Tennessee, where Belichick disciple Mike Vrabel will enter his first year as an NFL head coach
|1||Sep. 9||@Miami Dolphins|
|2||Sep. 16||vs Houston Texans|
|3||Sep. 23||@Jacksonville Jaguars|
|4||Sep. 30||vs Philadelphia Eagles|
|6||Oct. 14||vs Baltimore Ravens|
|7||Oct. 21||@Los Angeles Chargers|
|9||Nov. 5||@Dallas Cowboys|
|10||Nov. 11||vs New England Patriots|
|11||Nov. 18||@Indianapolis Colts|
|12||Nov. 26||@Houston Texans|
|13||Dec. 2||vs New York Jets|
|14||Dec.6||vs Jacksonville Jaguars|
|15||Dec. 16||@New York Giants|
|16||Dec. 23||vs Washington Redskins|
|17||Dec. 30||vs Indianapolis Colts|
*(Opponents Went 119-137 in 2017 = 31stMost DifficultSchedule)*
If NFL teams had flavors, the Titans would definitely be vanilla. Think about it… Tennessee went 9-7 last year, and even won a playoff game – but unless you bleed blue and white, you probably don’t remember much about it.
For what it’s worth, the Titans won their Wild Card game 22-21 over the Chiefs, then rolled over and died in a 35-14 trouncing by the Patriots one week later. That ended the team’s first playoff run in nine seasons, and while breaking an eight-year drought may seem like a step forward, Tennessee proceeded to fire HC Mike Mularkey almost immediately afterward.
He’ll be replaced by former Patriots LB Mike Vrabel, who at 42-years old has no previous head coaching experience, and just a few years of apprenticeship as an assistant coach in the NFL.
Rookie head coaches have made waves in the last few years, so Vrabel might have a chance to do the same, but 9-7 seems to be this roster’s ceiling. An easy schedule makes their Win Total of 8 (-115 on Over / -115 on Under) seem attractive, but betting on them to beat both the Jags and Texans in the South seems like a tall order.
“There were one or two moments where I wondered if I am ever going to be able to do this again.
Certainly this (preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday) isn’t what I’ve been working toward the whole time, but sort of in the same vein, it is another step in this journey and one that is sort of about the next one right now.
That’s really exciting and that’s fun.”
– QB Andrew Luck, on returning to NFL action for the first time since January 1, 2017
|1||Sep.9||vs Cincinnati Bengals|
|2||Sep. 16||@Washington Redskins|
|3||Sep. 23||@Philadelphia Eagles|
|4||Sep. 30||vs Houston Texans|
|5||Oct.4||@New England Patriots|
|6||Oct. 14||@New York Jets|
|7||Oct. 21||vs Buffalo Bills|
|8||Oct. 28||@Oakland Raiders|
|10||Nov. 11||vs Jacksonville Jaguars|
|11||Nov. 18||vs Tennessee Titans|
|12||Nov. 25||vs Miami Dolphins|
|13||Dec. 2||@Jacksonville Jaguars|
|14||Dec. 9||@Houston Texans|
|15||Dec. 16||vs Dallas Cowboys|
|16||Dec. 23||vs New York Giants|
|17||Dec. 30||@Tennessee Titans|
*(Opponents Went 124-132 in 2017 = T-22ndMost DifficultSchedule)*
QB Andrew Luck holds all the cards for the Colts, who are the NFL’s greatest enigma at this point.
Luck led Indianapolis to playoff runs in each of his first three seasons, reaching later rounds each time out, but in three seasons since, he’s been a ghost. Luck’s odd assortment of injuries – including a lacerated spleen, a torn abdominal muscle, and a mysterious throwing shoulder ailment – directly led to the Colts’ decline.
That fall from grace culminated in a 4-12 run last year, while Luck sat out the season trying to repair his throwing motion.
He finally returns to NFL action for the first time since January 1 of 2017, but even if Luck recaptures his All-Pro form, it won’t be enough to rebuild a broken team.
The Colts fired head coach Jeff Pagano over the offseason, and their roster is bereft of talent on both sides of the ball. Betting on them to win the division or the Super Bowl would be a fool’s errand, but you may be able to score on their Win Total of 7.5 (-170 on Over / +140 on Under). The Colts’ schedule isn’t all that difficult, and if the Luck of old returns, an 8-8 finish wouldn’t exactly be a shocker.
The AFC South is particularly dangerous in the 2018 pre season for futures bets. Until Andrew Luck proves he’s back to a top level quarterback, it’s difficult to make accurate predictions.