2022 AFC South, NFC South Division Odds and Win Totals

afc south division odds nfc south division odds

The 2022 NFL season is less than two weeks away, and the team at BeerLife Sports is gearing up to help you make money. In this article, The Professor will look at season-long outlooks for the AFC and NFC South alongside the Division Odds and Win Totals available on DraftKings. The preview for the AFC and NFC East will be available tomorrow, and The Professor covered the AFC/NFC West and AFC/NFC North earlier this week.

Remember, if you haven’t signed up to get the Oracle’s picks this season, be sure to sign up today! The Oracle hammered the NFL in 2021 (Up +65 units), so you’ll want to get his picks texted directly to your phone starting Week 1!

Please note that The Professor’s model produces two key numbers to consider: Games Favored and Model Expected Wins, which is based on the Pythagorean Expectation for each team’s projected points for and points against. This helps to pull down some extremes and is a reminder that a team favored to win all seventeen games is not projected to go undefeated.

AFC South Outlook

TeamPFPAFavoredModel Expected WinsDK Win TotalDK Division Odds

The AFC South is arguably the weakest division in the NFL, a common theme in recent years. To give you an idea of how the model views these teams, all four come in behind the four AFC West teams in the model’s expected wins metric.

Indianapolis tops the group; the addition of quarterback Matt Ryan should be a boost on offense, and if second-round draft pick Alec Pierce pans out as a capable receiving complement to Michael Pittman, the Colts should have enough to get by at receiver given the run-heavy nature of this Jonathan Taylor-focused attack. Left tackle remains a problem spot after Eric Fisher failed to work out last season, leaving journeyman Matt Pryor to man the spot to start the season, but Indianapolis was productive on the ground despite that in 2021, and head coach Frank Reich can scheme around the issue to some degree.

The big question on defense is what the Colts will get out of cornerback Stephon Gilmore; if the veteran can play at an above-average level in one of the outside cornerback roles, Indianapolis could be a top-ten defense. The Colts have an outstanding front seven, particularly if you count slot corner Kenny Moore in that group, but that won’t matter much if the outside cornerbacks can’t keep opposing receivers in check.

The Titans should be solid in that regard, as rookie cornerback Roger McCreary has pushed last year’s first-round pick, Caleb Farley, in a competition for the spot opposite Kristian Fulton. With potential All-Pro Jeffery Simmons leading the way on the defensive line, the Titans could be the best defense in the division, but there are questions about whether the offense can keep up. Stud receiver A.J. Brown was traded to the Eagles, and the components of the run game are deteriorating, with an aging offensive line and the carries piling up on Derrick Henry. Ryan Tannehill thrived at quarterback when everything was clicking around him, but he struggled when the offense was short-handed last year, and that could be the situation more often this year.

The Titans aren’t likely to be down for long under head coach Mike Vrabel, but if they take a dip in 2022, it opens up an opportunity for the Jaguars to pounce. Jacksonville’s 2021 was a disaster, but the Jags now have a legitimate NFL coach in Doug Pederson, and the early returns are positive. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s development appears to be back on track, and the defense has the potential to bring legit juice off the edge in the form of Josh Allen and first overall pick Travon Walker.

Jacksonville isn’t the only team that could benefit if Tennessee declines as expected; Houston’s defensive talent (or lack thereof) makes them a longer shot than the Jags, who have been far more active in free agency on that side of the ball, but the Texans’ offense has a chance to surprise with Davis Mills at quarterback. The Texans drafted Kenyon Green in the first round to man the left guard spot next to tackle Laremy Tunsil, and Brandin Cooks is arguably the best receiver in the division, so as long as Mills continues to build on the things he did well in 2021, the Texans have a chance to be at least average on offense, and that could mean something in this division.

The Professor’s Favorite AFC South Plays

Tennessee’s offensive line issues are a significant concern, and this passing offense wasn’t particularly effective when Tannehill didn’t have A.J. Brown’s talents available. Rookie Treylon Burks has had issues acclimating to the NFL and doesn’t appear poised to immediately replace Burks, while fellow receiver Robert Woods is coming off a torn ACL. The Titans should be good on defense, and Coach Vrabel has done a phenomenal job turning his tenure, but the model has them projected at 7.27 expected wins and only has them favored in 7 of 17 games against a first-place schedule. I’ll the Titans to go under 9 wins at -115.

The AFC South odds are interesting; as the model’s projection indicates, the Colts should be the favorite, but I think the Jaguars and Texans are undervalued. Their quarterbacks, Trevor Lawrence and Davis Mills, have a chance to develop into solid starters in the NFL, and in a division this vulnerable, that’s worth a roll of the dice if you’re trying to piece together some long shots.

Jacksonville’s break-even on +750 is 11.8%, and Houston’s break-even on +3000 is 3.2%. To make the math easy, I think if this division played out 20 times, things go according to plan for Indianapolis about half the time, and of the 10 remaining runs where chaos ensues, the Titans would win 5 (25%) times, the Jaguars 4 (20%), and the Texans 1 (5%), and that would indicate the Jags and Texans are reasonable long shots at these odds.

Premium Picks: None

Solid Value: Titans under 9, -115

Reasonable Long Shots: Jacksonville Jaguars, AFC South Champs, +750; Houston Texans, AFC South Champs, +3000

NFC South

TeamPFPAFavoredModel Expected WinsDK Win TotalDK Division Odds

For a brief moment, the NFC South appeared to be wide open, but then Tom Brady returned to Tampa, and the Bucs jumped back to the top of the Division Odds.

Tampa Bay has faced some early adversity on the offensive line, but the Bucs have young players ready to step into vacancies created by injuries to center Ryan Jensen and presumptive left guard Aaron Stinnie. If replacements Luke Goedeke and Robert Hainsey fail to fill their shoes, Tampa may look for help near the trade deadline, but the young guys should get the first crack. In the meantime, Brady can alleviate some of the pressure by working out of empty with a 10-personnel group that will feature Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Julio Jones, and Russell Gage as the four receivers.

Tampa’s depth and talent at the skill positions is mirrored on defense, where free-agent addition Akiem Hicks and second-year edge rusher will fill the spots vacated by Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul. The defensive line will get an additional boost from second-round pick Logan Hall, and the Bucs added versatile cornerback/safety Logan Ryan to help avoid the injury situation in the secondary that plagued this unit last year. As it stands, Tampa is well-equipped to give New Orleans a run as the best defense in the NFC South.

That Saints’ defense will look different at safety, but outside of swapping out Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye for Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins, most of this dominant unit is back for 2022. There is the lingering question of who will fill Williams’s old role as the center fielder in single-high coverages, but given the talent he has across this unit, newly promoted head coach Dennis Allen should be able to find a way to get this defense going.

The offense is more of a question; quarterback Jameis Winston made his return from an ACL injury in the third preseason game, but rookie left tackle Trevor Penning is out for an extended period with a foot injury, scrapping any hopes that Penning could replace the departed Terron Armstead without a hitch. If Winston makes decisions the way he did in 2021, that could be manageable, but if pressure affects him the way it did in his Tampa days, the left tackle spot could be an issue.

Questions about Winston aside, the Saints have a deep, talented cast of skill players, a feeling the Carolina Panthers evidently don’t quite share based on their acquisition of receiver Laviska Shenault from the Jaguars on Monday. Shenault brings a lot of pop on contact and has some juice, but he’s primarily contributed in short areas and struggled to fit into Jacksonville’s offense. The acquisition doesn’t reflect well on players such as Robbie Anderson, Terrace Marshall Jr., and Tommy Tremble, who are all supposed to contribute as depth pass catchers in this offense. It’s hard to see where Shenault fits in, particularly as offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo isn’t exactly renowned for his creativity outside of his contributions to the Mark Davis Hair Club, so perhaps the Shenault move falls under the header of the “throw s*#! at the wall and hope it sticks” approach the Panthers have employed over the past two seasons. At least quarterback Baker Mayfield has running back Christian McCaffrey and receiver D.J. Moore, because there might not be much support behind that star duo.

In retrospect, Carolina’s mid-season acquisition of C.J. Henderson from Jacksonville last year seems to have been made in the “throw s*#!” line of thinking; the Panthers went on to acquire Stephon Gilmore to gear up to contend for…well, nothing, and Henderson had a limited role for a former top-10 pick Carolina was “salvaging” from the Urban Meyer mess. Now the Panthers have to hope Henderson makes a significant jump headed into his third year, and that Jaycee Horn stays healthy across from veteran Donte Jackson, or this cornerback group will undermine whatever edge rusher Brian Burns accomplishes up front.

During the Matt Rhule era, Carolina has spent more on mediocre/incompetent quarterbacks in terms of salary and draft capital than any regime in recent memory, but at least Rhule can point to the Falcons and say he’s not doing a worse job than general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith, who wound up trading Matt Ryan for pennies on the dollar when they waited until the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes to decide Ryan wasn’t the guy to build their program around. Fontenot and Smith will now head into the second year of their rebuild with the duo of Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder at quarterback; given the dismal results Smith and Mariota achieved together with a far more talented offense in Tennessee, it’s hard to find reasons for optimism in what should account to a reset year for the Falcons. At least Kyle Pitts and A.J. Terrell will be fun to watch.

The Professor’s Favorite NFC South Plays

The under on Carolina’s win total was more attractive when Sam Darnold was slated to start at quarterback, but a healthy Baker Mayfield changes the picture. With a low number to play on a bad Atlanta team and a wide variance on what happens to New Orleans based on which Jameis shows up, I’ll stick to an over bet on Tampa Bay’s win total, which is priced at +115 on DraftKings. The model’s projected wins number for Tampa ends up at 11.09, but the Buccaneers are favored in all 17 games, and the +115 helps alleviate any concerns on the Pythagorean expected wins coming in a bit low. In a weak division in a watered-down NFC, the Bucs are primed to take advantage.

Premium Picks: None

Solid Value: Tampa Bay over 11.5, +115

Reasonable Long Shots: None

Wrap Up

This article broke down the AFC South and NFC South ahead of the 2022 NFL Season; be sure to look out for the Professor’s AFC/NFC breakdowns for the East tomorrow, and to check out the AFC/NFC West and AFC/NFC North previews on BeerLife Sports.

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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.