One week of action has resulted in full-on upheaval in some of the 2019 NFL futures. The odds to win the AFC South, in particular, were turned onto tumble-dry high.
Before Week 1, the Tennessee Titans were a longshot to win the division crown at +400. That was third among the four teams, behind Houston (+200) and Jacksonville (+200), and only narrowly ahead of the Andrew Luck-less Colts (+450).
But after completely derailing the Cleveland Browns’ hype-train with a resounding 43-13 road win in Week 1, the Titans are now the betting favorite.
According to sportsbettingdime, Tennessee’s new division-title odds are at +175, followed by Houston (+200), Indianapolis (+350), and Jacksonville (+400).
The Titans were the only AFC South team to pick up a win in the opening week. While the losses by the Texans, Jags, and Colts were all excusable – all three were underdogs in their respective matchups – the Titans’ win was as a 5-point road underdog.
A huge reason? Marcus Mariota has targets.
For those tardy to the party: Second-round pick A.J. Brown put up numbers against the Cleveland Browns.
Brown caught three catches for 100 yards in the blowout victory.
That milestone made him the first Titan or Houston Oiler since Sid Banks in 1964 to record at least 100 yards in his first career game with the team.
“He’s done a great job throughout camp,” Mariota said after Sunday’s victory.
“Everyone talks about that transition into the NFL, but he’s done a great job buying in, listening and doing everything he can to make himself prepared. Across the board, we had an expectation for him to do well. That’s the standard. Now he has to continue to live up to that, and I think he can.”
Worth noting: During his last two seasons at Ole Miss, A.J. Brown recorded 2,572 yards and 17 touchdowns.
For those keeping score at home: The last time the Titans had a true top-tier wideout was probably the 2000s.
Remember Derrick Mason?
“I think A.J. is really starting to understand what we’re doing,” said Titans head coach, Mike Vrabel.
“The quarterbacks have begun to trust him.”
In a 16-game season, picking up just one unexpected early victory can have a dramatic impact on a team’s long-term forecast. And for Tennessee, winning one road game against quality competition is more significant than it would be for many other teams.
Last year, the Titans were very solid in Nashville, going 6-2 at home including impressive wins over the Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. They missed the playoffs and lost the division largely because they were a disappointing 3-5 on the road. Two of those losses came at the hands of the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills, both sub-.500 teams with brutal point differentials (-114 and -105, respectively).
The Titans host the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday. If Mike Vrabel’s squad is going to travel better this season, the Titans are going to be a very tough team to top in the division, and the first week of the season was a huge step in the right direction in that regard.