No NFL team in 2013 won its division by a more significant margin than the Colts, whose 11 regular-season victories were nearly as many as the combined total of 13 compiled by the other three teams in their division. On the surface, a seven-win Titans squad that didn’t noticeably improve this offseason shouldn’t pose a real threat to Indianapolis in 2014, and the 4-12 Jaguars and 2-14 Texans would both have to pull off massive turnarounds to challenge for the division crown.
Still, as betting site Bovada.lv shows, although the Colts head into 2014 as the frontrunners to win the AFC South again, they’re not massive favorites. Vegas’ oddsmakers appreciated the work done by the Texans this winter and spring — while the team didn’t make many substantial free agent additions, it added No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to a defensive line that already featured J.J. Watt. It’s safe to say Andrew Luck and other quarterbacks around the division aren’t looking forward to seeing those two fearsome pass rushers on the other side of the ball twice a season. This is also a Houston club that’s only a year removed from an 11-win season and seems poised for at least a moderate bounce back — the performance of new signal-caller Ryan Fitzpatrick may determine exactly how far the Texans can go.
The Titans, meanwhile, shouldn’t be overlooked, even though I think they’ll be hard-pressed to match even last year’s win total. A younger, more diverse backfield could easily be more productive than Chris Johnson was in his last season in Tennessee, and new coach Ken Whisenhunt has done good work with quarterbacks in the past — perhaps his influence will help Jake Locker exceed expectations in a contract year.
As for the Jags, they’re probably at least a year or two from making any real noise in the South, but the team made some nice, under-the-radar veteran additions in the offseason, including defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, guard Zane Beadles, linebacker Dekoda Watson, defensive lineman Ziggy Hood, and running back Toby Gerhart. Like so many other teams, their fortunes will likely come down to quarterback play. While Chad Henne‘s upside is limited, No. 3 pick Blake Bortles could put more pressure on defenses if he gets a chance to play in his rookie year.
What do you think? Do any of the division’s other squads have a chance to unseat Indianapolis at the top of the AFC South this year, or will Luck and the Colts repeat?