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2008-2009 AFC SOUTH - PREVIEW - ODDS - PREDICTIONS

The AFC South could very well be one of the most competitive divisions in football. At the top recently, you have the Colts, off a 13-3 year, 21-0 in September and October since 2005, Peyton Manning, etc. But right on their tail you have two more playoff teams from a year ago, in the Titans and Jaguars. These are not "rebuilding teams". These are teams which believe they are a move or two away from the Super Bowl, and their off season actions confirm that. Rounding out the 4 team division is the Houston Texans, off an 8-8 year in which QB Matt Schaub was injured. At the very least, they are a competitive team. Of the 4, the Jags look to be the likely contender. Who could forget last years thrilling upset of the Steelers in the playoffs. Though at 6-1 Odds, the Titans may present the best value on the board. Let's take a closer look at each of these AFC South teams.

 

Odds quoted below are courtesy of the largest sportsbook in the world - Sportsbook.com

 

Jacksonville Jaguars: Odds +200

Head Coach: Jack Del Rio (6th year)

Off. Coord: Dirk Koetter; Def. Coord: Gregg Williams

2007 Record: SUR 12-6, Pointspread Record 12-6, O-U 14-4

The management made very intelligent acquisitions in the off-season to win this division and probably to knock off New England for the American Football Conference title.

A huge pair of moves will make their offense much more dangerous. They acquired 2 wide receivers in ex-Viking Troy Williamson and disgruntled ex-Raider Jerry Porter, searching for the deep threat the offense has lacked for years. The offensive line is deep and talented, the running game is set with Taylor and Jones-Drew. Garrard posted the league’s 3rd highest QB rating at 102.2 and threw 18 TDs vs. only 3 INTs. In just 12 games he threw for 2,509 yards, which projects to a healthy 3,345 over 16 games.

The club made a huge splash by trading up to get Florida DE Derrick Harvey at No. 8 overall, then picked DE/OLB Quentin Groves with a second-round pick. Both selections were designed with an improved pass rush in mind, and both Harvey and Groves should pad the sack totals for the Jags. The club did lose DT Marcus Stroud, defensive coordinator Mike Smith, SS Sammy Knight and DE Bobby McCray, but the re-load at DE should be solid.

 

Indianapolis Colts: Odds -160

Head Coach: Tony Dungy (7th yr. in Indy)

Off. Coord: Tom Moore; Def. Coord: Ron Meeks

2007 Record: SUR 13-4, Pointspread Record 9-8, O-U 8-9

Indianapolis has lost a lot of its’ panache the last 2 seasons for various reasons, but mostly due to lack of depth on offense, injuries and the aging factor at key positions. It looks like this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.

Due to a medical procedure, Peyton Manning might miss the first game of the season. Joseph Addai posted four 100-yards games in his first 7 weeks and scored 15 times in 15 games. There were injury concerns – just like in his rookie year – with upper body injuries, and Kenton Keith played extensively in 5 games. As a rookie Addai had wrist, neck, and ankle injuries. At least he’s never had knee problems (knock on wood) as a pro. His right knee was a problem when he got out of high school. We noticed Addai didn’t hit the second level for huge gains as often in 2007 (4.1 per carry to 4.8 as a rookie) but that might have something to do with Marvin Harrison’s absence allowing defenses to cheat a little. Rookie G/C Mike Pollack was a great pick in the 2nd round. Losing RG Jake Scott (to the Titans) was a bummer. Saturday is the AFC's most underrated center. Ugoh is headed to Honolulu. Marvin Harrison’s health issues will impact this season in some form or another.

Freeney is expected to be OK for 2008, and the defense is coming back in tact.

 

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Tennessee Titans: Odds +600

Head Coach: Jeff Fisher (14th year)

Off. Coord: Mike Heimerdinger; Def. Coord: Jim Schwartz

2007 Record: SUR 10-7, Pointspread Record 8-8-1, O-U 6-10-1

Scattered talent is the problem for this team. Their draft was not that beneficial at all. Fisher made a coach-on-the-hot-seat sort of move by dismissing o.c. Norm Chow after January’s wild card loss at San Diego, replacing him with Mike Heimerdinger, now on his second tour of duty in Nashville.

Although helmsman Vince Young took his team to the playoffs by improving his passing percentage by 10 percent, his ratio from throwing touchdowns to interceptions was a college like 9 to 17. His scrambling ability has definitely interrupted his throwing motion. LenDale White faced 8-man fronts all year. And now we find out he played with a torn meniscus in his left knee for at least 7 weeks. Impressive. White totally outplayed his USC teammate, Reggie Bush, which many don’t realize he often did in college too. In 13 games his senior year White rumbled for 1,302 yards (on less than 200 carries!) and scored 24 TDs. The Titans drafted East Carolina RB Chris Johnson 24th overall and plan to use him as a change-of-pace back. We don’t foresee a 50/50 time share because Jeff Fisher likes to control the clock. White is his 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust-guy. It’s not sexy, but it lets the defense suck down some Gatorade and recharge for the next series – the key to the Titans’ success. Besides, there’s plenty of carries to go around in this offense. Plenty. They lost talented guard Jacob Bell to the Rams but replaced him with equally talented Jake Scott from the Colts. This is a run orientated offense, which White should take advantage of.

A well-coached unit, the Titans will need another strong year from Haynesworth to meet last year's production. However, Haynesworth is embattled in a contract dispute after being franchised and might not be well prepared for the start of the season. On the plus side, the Titans brought back DE Jevon Kearse and added KR Chris Carr to help their kick-return game.

 

Houston Texans: Odds +1000

Head Coach: Gary Kubiak (3rd year)

Off. Coord: Kyle Shanahan; Def. Coord: Richard Smith

2007 Record: SUR 8-8, Pointspread Record 8-8, O-U 9-6-1

This team has question marks on both sides of the ball as well as potential. Injuries plaque the Texans all of last season, but Houston still finished at 8 and 8 and everybody is reported to be healthy now. If everybody stays healthy, this team be over the five hundred mark.

Matt Schaub started off with efficiency and rhythm last year, making the Texans brass look like geniuses for giving up two 2nd-round picks to Atlanta. Schaub averaged 251 yards and threw 5 TD passes in the first 4 games – two of them wins over Carolina & Kansas City. Then Andre Johnson got hurt and everything went south. Schaub started holding the football, dancing around, and defenders started nailing him. The Falcons tagged his thigh in week 4, the Titans smashed his back and ankle in week 7, and somewhere in there he got a nasty hip bruise too. Sage Rosenfels took over as Schaub only made 3 appearances after Halloween. In the offseason he had surgery to repair his dislocated non-throwing shoulder. He’s reportedly fine as of May. There were rumblings that Rosenfels, who made the Texans offense pretty explosive at times, would duel Schaub for the starting job but those are false reports. Schaub is their $48 million man. Inking Chris Myers from Denver was nice (same playbook). Salaam keeps the seat warm for 1st-rd OT Duane Brown. The coaches have grown weary of Weary. Houston has a speedy group of wide outs headed by Andre Johnson. Expect their ground game to be 3-headed.

Defensively, the club's front seven is solid, and the addition of FS Nick Ferguson should aid in their secondary's growth (even with CB Dunta Robinson hurt). Moreover, Andre Davis and Jacoby Jones working on special teams are always threats to return touchdowns (four special-teams TDs for Houston last year).

 

 

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