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AFC South betting: Will Lawrence, Meyer turn Jags around?

The AFC South is arguably the NFL’s weakest division, with two of the league’s worst teams in the Jaguars and Texans.

“There’s a huge gap between the Titans and Colts and the Jaguars and Texans,” Red Rock Resort sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said.

Jacksonville hopes to close that gap behind No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence — one of the highest-rated quarterback prospects in league history — and rookie NFL coach Urban Meyer, one of the most successful college football coaches of all time.

They’ll try to resurrect a Jaguars franchise that went 1-15 last season and has only one winning record in the last 13 years.

Las Vegas oddsmakers expect Jacksonville to be vastly improved, with a season win total of 6½. But the Jaguars are still the 10-1 third choice at the Westgate SuperBook to win the AFC South, behind defending division champion Tennessee, the -110 favorite, and Indianapolis, the +125 second pick. Houston is a 50-1 long shot.

“Trevor Lawrence is going to be a real special player,” SuperBook vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “Some of the throws he can make are amazing and he’s a terrific runner. His running ability will change the way teams defend him.

“That division certainly looks like it’ll be a coin flip between Indianapolis and Tennessee. Jacksonville will be a much better team than they were last year. But are they ready to contend with those two? On paper, I don’t think so.”

The Jaguars are +350 to make the playoffs and 100-1 to win the Super Bowl.

Meyer has won three national titles, but Circa sportsbook manager Chris Bennett isn’t convinced he’ll succeed in the NFL.

“It’s a big mystery. The guy has never coached in the NFL. But to me, he seems like more of a college coach than an NFL coach,” he said.

Here’s a quick glance at the rest of the division:

Tennessee Titans

Season win total: 9½ (o-125)

Make playoffs (yes/no): -160/+140

Super Bowl odds: 30-1

The Titans went 11-5 last season following four straight 9-7 finishes. There’s more money on Tennessee, which added wideout Julio Jones, to go over its season win total of 9½ at the SuperBook than on any other NFL team.

“They were one of the worst teams in the league on defense last year. They won with offense,” Salmons said. “Derrick Henry was unbelievable and Ryan Tannehill played real well. They’ll need to do that again if they’re going to win the division.

“The Titans are what they are. They’ll probably compete for the division. But I don’t think they’re a threat to go to the Super Bowl.”

Indianapolis Colts

Season win total: 9 (-110)

Make playoffs (yes/no): +105/-125

Super Bowl odds: 30-1

Wiseguys were high on Indianapolis at the Westgate before QB Carson Wentz and All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson were injured in the preseason. Both are reportedly trending to start Sunday’s season opener against the Seahawks.

Wentz was an MVP candidate for the Eagles in 2017, when Colts coach Frank Reich was his offensive coordinator, before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 13.

The South Point stands to lose mid-six figures if Indianapolis, one of its largest Super Bowl liabilities, wins it all. But South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews doesn’t expect that to happen.

“I’m not too crazy about the Colts,” he said. “Even if Wentz is 100 percent, it’s still hard to get him back to the level he was at four years ago. They might. They were pretty good last year and almost beat the Bills in the playoffs. But I’m thinking that’s a stretch.”

Houston Texans

Season win total: 4 (u-130)

Make playoffs (yes/no): +900/-1,600

Super Bowl odds: 500-1

Oddsmakers don’t expect Houston QB Deshaun Watson to play this season while he’s facing 22 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct. Tyrod Taylor will start Sunday’s season opener against Jacksonville for the Texans, who have the league’s lowest win total and are the +175 favorites at Circa Sports to have the most regular-season losses.

“Obviously, Houston in that division, that’s the low bar of any team in the league,” Salmons said. “Deshaun Watson is not going to play a down this year.”

Best bet

Trevor Lawrence to win Offensive Rookie of the Year (+350 at Circa): Lawrence has dropped to the second choice at Circa behind Patriots QB Mac Jones (+325) and has three solid receivers at his disposal in Marvin Jones Jr., DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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