The AFC South was easily the worst overall division in football last year as the Indianapolis Colts ran away with the title by four games and no other team finished above .500. Here's a look at each club's NFL odds for a finish of No. 1-4 in 2014.
NFL odds: first -170, second +240, third +650, fourth +1800
I've read a few things from informed sources of late that the Colts have one of the five worst rosters in the NFL. Take a good look at it and you probably will agree. But Indy has what no other division rival has: a franchise quarterback. The Colts had no right winning 11 games each of the past two seasons but have done so almost single-handedly thanks to Andrew Luck, the reincarnation of Peyton Manning. Luck will have to do it again this year because Indy didn't address its running game, the offensive line still looks bad and the defense doesn't scare anyone other than 2013 NFL sack leader Robert Mathis, who is suspended the first four games of 2014. The Colts went unbeaten inside the division a year ago and I can about guarantee that wouldn't have happened in any other division. If Luck gets hurt early in the year, this team picks in the Top 5 of next year's draft.
NFL odds: first +280, second +180, third +225, fourth +450
I don't think it's close when arguing that Houston has the most overall talent in the division. If the Texans had just an average quarterback -- shoot, even Matt Schaub back -- they would be solid value to overtake the Colts and win the South. However, Houston is banking on Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has only been good for about five games in his career during the 2011 season with Buffalo and then got some ridiculous big-money extension (and you wonder why the Bills have the longest playoff drought in football). Coach Bill O'Brien already had to answer questions about making a QB change when Fitzpatrick was terrible in a preseason opening blowout loss to Arizona. He was 6-for-14 for 55 yards with two interceptions while playing the entire first half. The Texans never came close to scoring. The problem is that O'Brien's only other options are Case Keenum and fourth-round rookie Tom Savage. It's the worst group of quarterbacks in the NFL by far. Houston will win games with Arian Foster and defense, and if Fitzpatrick can just not turn the ball over maybe .500 is doable.
NFL odds: first +550, second +220, third +150, fourth +320
Ken Whisenhunt rejuvenated quarterback Kurt Warner's career in Arizona and did the same to Philip Rivers last year in San Diego. If he can get the best out of former first-round pick Jake Locker this year as the new Titans head coach, then Tennessee could win this division. The offensive line looks very good, especially with the addition of first-round pick Taylor Lewan (and he might not even start). Kendall Wright is a rising star at receiver and the Titans got Locker another weapon in Chiefs free agent WR/RB Dexter McCluster. I'm a big fan of running back Bishop Sankey, whom I think could win Offensive Rookie of the Year -- he's +800 on NFL odds. The defense doesn't have any big-time playmakers but should be a Top-15 unit. It's all on Locker, who can't stay healthy. He was playing pretty well in 2013 before going down again. Unfortunately, the Titans' opening schedule is rough: at Chiefs, vs. Cowboys, at Bengals, at Colts. So they could be 1-3 (beating Dallas). That's never an easy hole to climb out of.
NFL odds: first +1600, second +600, third +275, fourth -175
I somewhat believe that the Jaguars are mini-punting on 2014. They don't want to use No. 3 overall pick Blake Bortles this season -- even though he looked pretty good in the preseason opener. Their starting running back is career backup Toby Gerhart. Their best receiver is suspended indefinitely (Justin Blackmon). Why not get the top pick in 2015 and land a defensive franchise player to go with Bortles moving forward? Gus Bradley will have the Jags playing hard, which they did the second half of last season. I do believe they have an above .500 ATS record this season but actual wins will again be few and far between.
NFL free picks
I am tempted to take the Titans to win the division as my NFL Futures pick here, but I can't pull the trigger. And if Houston were to somehow trade for a quarterback in the next few weeks (Kirk Cousins or Ryan Mallett?), that would change things as well. For now, however, the finish will be: Indianapolis, Tennessee, Houston and Jacksonville.