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October 24, 2014

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NFL betting primer: Vegas odds, picks and preview of the AFC South

Colts or Texans? Titans and Jaguars are out of the conversation in the betting market

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker (10) lies on the field after a sack against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, in Atlanta.

Note: Talking Points finishes its team-by-team AFC betting preview with the North division. Check out the first three parts, and come back next week for the NFC.

Two AFC South teams are fixtures at the bottom of Las Vegas oddsmakers’ lists for money wagered every preseason.

No one bets on the Tennessee Titans or the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even when the two franchises had their positive moments — it might be hard to remember, but they both have — casual gamblers mostly stayed away.

Such is the curse of nondescript teams without national fanbases that will loyally, and probably foolishly, follow them to the betting window.

“They’re from small markets and it’s almost like they aren’t even in the league,” William Hill sports books Director of Trading Nick Bogdanovich said before joking, “They might be better off playing in the SEC.”

The lack of action is exacerbated in a year like 2014 when nothing is expected out of the Titans and Jaguars. Sharp bettors will gamble on any team if the price is right, but the NFL’s larger betting sector of the public ignores the perceived walkovers.

At the South Point, the Jaguars are the NFL’s longest shot to win the Super Bowl at 150-to-1. The Titans have the second-highest odds at 110-to-1. So the two teams in the conversation to win the AFC South are the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans, which have combined to take the division in each of the past five years.

It’s reflected in the betting market, where the odds calculated to account for the house’s hold give the Colts a 57 percent chance to win the division. The Texans follow at approximately 24 percent.

The Titans and Jaguars combined have less than a 1-in-5 probability.

“I think Houston is the only team that could give the Colts a shot, and a lot would have to break right for them,” Bogdanovich said. “Coming off of a two-win season, a lot of things can go right as fast as they went wrong, so maybe the stars line up for them with their defense being awfully stout.”

Find a full betting preview with odds on the four teams from the AFC South below.

    • Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, center, celebrates his sack with teammates Jadeveon Clowney (90) and Jerrell Powe (95) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz.

      Houston Texans

      2013 Against The Spread Record: 4-12 (2-14 straight up)

      CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Favorites in seven games, underdogs in five games with three pick ’ems

      Average spread: Pick ’em (biggest favorite: Week 13 minus-5 vs. Titans; biggest underdog: Week 5 plus-4.5 at Cowboys and Week 15 at Colts plus-4.5)

      Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 25-to-1

      Westgate Superbook odds to win AFC: 12-to-1

      William Hill odds to win the AFC South: plus-280 (risking $1 to win $2.80)

      South Point over/under win total: 8 (over Even, under minus-120)

      Bogdanovich’s report: “Two-way action on them. I think they are tailor-made to break out. They’ve had a lot of bad breaks over the past few years. If they could just stay healthy for one year and have a few things go their way, they could be awfully good defensively.”

      Keefer’s take: A lot of football fans have coined the Texans the turnaround team, and that extends to Las Vegas in certain measures. Gamblers, for example, bet Houston down to 25-to-1 from 40-to-1 at the Superbook. It’s reassuring to hear it hasn’t gotten the same volume on the win total or futures to win the division, because I’d typically prefer to stray from the trendy underdog pick. And I’m not straying from Houston. All signs point toward major improvements as the Texans were far better than their two-win season by point differential a year ago. A defensive line with both J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney is even more terrifying than advertised, and the rest of the defense isn’t a weakness either. While nothing special, Ryan Fitzpatrick is a decent placeholder at quarterback who’s an immediate upgrade over last year’s collection of trash.

      A bet: Texans to win the division at plus-280 Going all-in with a terrific defense and undervalued offense.

    • New York Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson (20) pulls Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) out of bounds in the first quarter of an NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J.

      Indianapolis Colts

      2013 Against The Spread Record: 11-7 (12-6 straight up)

      CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Favorites in 10 games, underdogs in five games

      Average spread: Colts minus-2 (biggest favorite: Week 12 minus-12 vs. Jaguars; biggest underdog: Week 1 plus-7 at Broncos)

      Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 20-to-1

      Westgate Superbook odds to win AFC: 8-to-1

      William Hill odds to win the AFC East: minus-175 (risking $1.75 to win $1)

      South Point over/under win total: 9.5 (over minus-125, under plus-105)

      Bogdanovich’s report: “They’re betting Indianapolis under, but I like this team. I really like (Andrew) Luck. It’s a quarterback league, and he’s awfully good. Reggie Wayne is back, they picked up Hakeem Nicks and T.Y. Hilton is as good as a playmaker as there is, so they look pretty good.”

      Keefer’s take: What were the odds Indianapolis would be in position to win a third straight divisional crown two years ago coming off of a 2-14 straight-up season? Predictably, not very high. Parlaying the Colts’ price to win the AFC South in both 2012 and 2013 — they were 10-to-1 and plus-225, respectively — translates to less than a 3 percent chance. Perhaps this is the year, when expectations are at their highest, that it evens out with disappointment. Luck and the receivers Bogdanovich raved over will score their points, but their running game is subpar at best. And the defense looks just as vulnerable.

      A bet: Colts under 9.5 wins They burned me last year, but I’ll ignore the warnings to stop playing with fire.

    • Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) passes the ball against the Detroit Lions during a preseason NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.

      Jacksonville Jaguars

      2013 Against The Spread Record: 5-10-1 (4-12 straight up)

      CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Underdogs in every game

      Average spread: Jaguars plus-7.5 (biggest underdog: Week 12 plus-12 vs. Colts)

      Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 200-to-1

      Westgate Superbook odds to win AFC: 100-to-1

      William Hill odds to win the AFC South: 18-to-1

      South Point over/under win total: 5 (over minus-130, under plus-110)

      Bogdanovich’s report: “The number on the win total was so low that we got some over money. Typically the professionals will go under the highest number and over the lowest number, and we saw that again this year. People think they will get to five somehow. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

      Keefer’s take: Here’s a (somewhat) bold prediction: Jacksonville will not be an underdog in every single game. The Jaguars ride a streak of 28 straight games taking points coming into the season, but they have enough home games against potentially plummeting teams — Cleveland, Miami, Tennessee, Houston and even Dallas — that they’ll give a point or two somewhere. They were much better in the second half of last season, going 4-4 straight up and 4-3-1 against the spread. Laugh at Jacksonville all you want for taking quarterback Blake Bortles third overall in the NFL Draft, but more power to the organization for pinpointing and selecting their guy. And Bortles’ play in the preseason has started to justify the Jaguars’ choice. Oh, you’re still chuckling at using exhibition games as optimism? Just know it’s hard to find positives in Jacksonville.

      A bet: Jaguars plus-4 vs. Dolphins in Week 8 Here’s where the Jaguars can steal one — at home against an in-state rival with just as many issues.

    • Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker (82) is restrained by tackle Michael Roos, center, and field judge Mike Weir (50) during an altercation in the second quarter of an NFL football game between the Titans and the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn.

      Tennessee Titans

      2013 Against The Spread Record: 6-7-3 (7-9 straight up)

      CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Favorites in four games, underdogs in 10 with one pick ’em

      Average spread: Titans plus-1 (biggest favorite: Week 6 minus-7 at Jaguars; biggest underdog: Week 4 plus-7.5 at Colts)

      Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 100-to-1

      Westgate Superbook odds to win AFC: 50-to-1

      William Hill odds to win the AFC South: 5-to-1

      South Point over/under win total: 7 (over minus-120, under Even)

      Bogdanovich’s report: “They’re forgotten. They are so bland, so vanilla. Jake Locker has done nothing and hasn’t stayed healthy to be able to do anything. They shipped out Chris Johnson. The wide receivers aren’t special. The defense isn’t anything special.”

      Keefer’s take: The Titans have a young offensive nucleus brimming with potential, an above-average secondary that could make the defense formidable and a new, experienced head coach who worked wonders as a coordinator last year. Add all that up and Tennessee has the look of a promising sleeper under coach Ken Whisenhunt in a weak division. But sometimes, personal experience clouds judgment and analysis. I picked Tennessee to break out two years ago, and they were atrocious to watch. Not enough has changed — injury-prone quarterback Jake Locker and a questionable running game remain — to ease my mind. Bogdanovich called the Titans vanilla, but I’d describe them as asking the ice-cream shop attendant for a random flavor. They could go 3-13 or 10-6 without surprising me.

      A bet: Houston Texans pick ’em at Tennessee Titans Week 8 I also picked the Titans to cover their Week 1 game in the AFC West preview. But one of these two rivals with Oilers ties will surprise and win the AFC South. I like Houston.

    Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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