The Texans are on the precipice of winning their fourth AFC South title in five years after beating the Titans 24-21 in Tennessee on Sunday. That victory moved Houston to 9-5, giving the Texans a one-game lead over the Titans in the division race. Houston is now a sizable favorite to win the AFC South by the NFL futures odds following the win, and Tennessee’s best hope to make the playoffs is by edging out Pittsburgh for the final wild-card spot.
Texans now -700 favorites to win the AFC South
Prior to Sunday’s result, Houston was a slight favorite to win the division over Tennessee. The Texans and Titans were seen as relatively evenly matched sides by oddsmakers, and the two teams were set to meet twice in the last three weeks of the season. However, Houston has a much easier third game than Tennessee. While the Texans will travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers this week, the Titans host the Saints.
Houston is favored by two points over Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon, and New Orleans opened as a 3-point favorite over Tennessee in Nashville on Sunday.
Next week’s clash with Tampa Bay won’t be an easy one for Houston, though. The Buccaneers have won four straight games, and Jameis Winston is a human lottery ticket at this point. When Winston is on, he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, able to make any throw look pedestrian. He leads the league in passing yards with 4,573 yards through the air this season, but he has thrown a league-high 24 interceptions as well. Winston has thrown six more picks than any other quarterback in the NFL, and he has thrown multiple interceptions in half his starts.
Tennessee is an underdog against New Orleans, as the Saints are playing for home field advantage throughout the postseason. New Orleans is 11-3 coming into its game with Indianapolis, tied with Green Bay, Seattle and San Francisco.
The Saints have the best chance of claiming the top spot in the conference, though, as their final two games are against Tennessee and Carolina. San Francisco and Seattle will meet in Week 17 with the winner likely winning the NFC West, while Green Bay must get past Minnesota this week.
That means the Saints won’t be resting anyone against the Titans since the three 11-3 teams in the NFC play outdoors, and the Saints desperately want to play indoors during the postseason.
Titans' wild-card chances
The Titans will have the tiebreaker edge over the Steelers provided these two teams finish with the same conference record. Currently, Pittsburgh is a half-game up on Tennessee in this regard, but that’s because the Titans have played one more divisional game.
Pittsburgh will close its season out with two road games, boosting Tennessee’s hopes. However, the Steelers are expected to be favored to win both games. They are favored by a field goal over the Jets this week, and they will likely be favored on the road against Baltimore next week. As long as the Ravens go on the road and beat the Browns in Cleveland this week, they will have nothing to play for in Week 17.
Baltimore is a double-digit favorite against Cleveland, and the Ravens would almost certainly sit all their stars in the season finale against Pittsburgh with home field advantage locked up. Robert Griffin III isn’t nearly the same talent as the heavy favorite to win the 2019 NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson, so Pittsburgh would have a golden opportunity to steal a victory provided Baltimore takes care of business this week.
Meanwhile, Tennessee will likely be an underdog against New Orleans and could be an underdog to Houston. If the Texans lose to the Buccaneers, they will need to beat the Titans to win the division, and they will be favored in that game by three to four points assuming they are relatively healthy. A Houston win and a Tennessee loss next week would give the Texans the division though, making the Titans a road favorite over the Texans in Week 17 as A.J. McCarron would get the start over Deshaun Watson.
The oddsmakers believe Tennessee will sneak into the playoffs over Pittsburgh, giving the Titans shorter AFC championship odds than the Steelers. Tennessee would most likely be the No. 6 seed and have to face Kansas City in the first round, and the Titans are likely to be a touchdown underdog in that game.