It’s time to cash some of those future bets — and forget about some others. With the 2021 NFL regular season in the books, we look back at the highs and lows of betting action in the AFC South against the NFL odds that were trading with BetUS sportsbook this season.
Tennessee Titans: Oh (No), Henry!
The Tennessee Titans clinched a second straight AFC South crown on the heels of a 34-3 win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 17. It marked the first time in the Titans era that the team won back-to-back division titles, and it saw the Titans come through as one of the top two betting favorites to clinch the AFC South crown.
From the start of the season, it was a two-horse race in betting online markets between the Titans and the Indianapolis Colts, with the odds tighter than an accountant’s purse. The Titans opened on even odds while the Colts nipped at their heels at +115.
During the season, the market’s favor oscillated between the Titans and Colts as it became clear the rest of the field was utterly useless and that this pair would decide who would ultimately have the division’s bragging rights.
Although the Titans opened the season with a 38-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, they righted the ship immediately after and never looked back again. Books projected the Titans on 9 1/2 wins, but they smashed that regular-season win total comfortably.
Better than that, the Titans finished the season with an AFC-leading 12-5 record that delivered the top seed for the playoffs. The Titans leapfrogged ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs, who lost to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17. (The Titans had the tiebreaker over the Chiefs).
Star running back Derrick Henry was long ago established as Tennessee’s best player, the beating heart of the offense and an X-factor on any given Sunday. So, when Henry went down with a season-ending ankle injury, the reaction was brutal and swift. The idea that the Titans could win without Henry wasn’t even entertained properly. It was anathema to the punditocracy, who wrote Tennessee’s obituary faster than you could say Jack Robinson.
And yet, somehow, without their best player, the Titans kept winning. They stunned the Los Angeles Rams in Week 9 to come through as the seven-point road underdogs. And they carried that momentum down the stretch, winning six of their last nine games.
Overall, the 12-5 Titans capped off the season with a 10-7-0 record against the spread (ATS) that included a 3.8 winning margin on average and a +2.9 differential versus the spread. They didn’t win the style points, but they got the job done.
Indianapolis Colts: Carson Went Off
When Carson Wentz left the City of Brotherly Love in a strop after taking issue with his treatment by former head coach Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles organization as a whole, one didn’t even need a crystal ball to figure out his next destination. Most people worth their salt in the NFL knew he would jump at the chance to work with Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich again. Reich had managed Wentz in his early years in Philly, charting his course to his career best season in 2017.
It’s easy to forgive those who might have gone all in with the Colts in 2021, getting swayed by the reunion story and its seductive promise of another banner season for Wentz and, simultaneously, a playoff run by the Colts. Bookmakers were on board, too. The Colts were the -200 favorites to make the playoffs and amongst the top favorites for Super Bowl 56 at +2200. Heck, they had better odds than the Titans to win SB 56. Go figure!
The problem with the reunion story is that it came four years too late. A lot has happened since Reich and Went both parted ways in 2017. Wentz isn’t the quarterback he was before he got injured in 2017 and then was forced to watch from the sidelines as Nick Foles led the Eagles to Super Bowl glory in his place. The last few seasons in Philly, Wentz went off entirely. He struggled to get the offense moving, his passing was errant, his decision-making questionable and the turnovers extreme.
The Colts had an up-and-down 2022 campaign. They went 1-4 in their first five games, They seemed to turn things around in October and embarked on an 8-2 run that was spearheaded largely by running back Jonathan Taylor assuming the weight of the team’s offensive output. Going into Week 17, the Colts were on the cusp of a playoff spot with a 9-6 record. They were so close.
Tale told, the Colts lost to the Las Vegas Raiders 23-20 and then, to the shock of all and sundry, to the Jacksonville Jaguars 26-11 – a game that was firmly cornered in their camp as the 8½-point road chalk for NFL picks against the spread.
— Pro Football Culture (@proftblculture) January 9, 2022
Wentz’s performance in the final game of the season may have sealed his fate with the Colts. All Wentz had to do was win the game. Instead, he had a pair of second-half turnovers and was largely nowhere to be seen as he was swallowed up by the Jaguars.
Houston Texans: Houston, We’ve Got a Problem!
The Texans were priced as the league’s quintessential longshot bet alongside the Detroit Lions at +15000 apiece to win Super Bowl 56. There were no other teams priced larger than the Texans and Lions in NFL futures betting markets.
The inference from the overarching market: the Texans were never expected to factor this season at all. Not in the broad spectrum of the league or at the divisional level, where they were priced at +650 to win the AFC South. The preseason drama with Deshaun Watson, the lack of depth on the roster, turmoil and upheaval within the organization all set a negative tone that the markets were quick to pick up on.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Urban Myth
If the NFL had lower leagues similar to European soccer leagues, the Jacksonville Jaguars would have been without question relegated into second-tier obscurity. Forced to earn their way back into football’s top-flight league the next year, after subjecting fans weekly to a cringe-worthy product fielded, turning the team into the league’s laughingstock and tranishing the franchise with embarrassing off-field antics.
The Jaguars were amongst the league’s outsiders in every betting category, but with the No.1 draft pick Trevor Lawrence as the signal caller, there was an undercurrent of quiet optimism. Lawrence was priced as the top bet to win the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award at the start of the season. And high expectations preceded first-time NFL head coach Urban Meyer, whose legacy in college football preceded him.
Alas, Lawrence didn’t live up to the hype that preceded him, Meyer was an embarrassment to the organization, prompting his midseason firing, and the Jaguars went on to finish with a 3-14 record that went under the projected season win total (4). They finished at the bottom of the division table, behind the Texans (4-13). On the bright side, the Jaguars get the top NFL draft pick in 2022.