The retirement of Andrew Luck from the NFL over the weekend is one of the more complex stories in quite some time, especially for Houston Texans fans. On the one hand, the Texans' 2019 season just became easier, with Andrew Luck no longer on the schedule twice, although Jacoby Brissett has done just fine against the Texans in his career (3-0 against the Texans).
On the other hand, the punishment that Andrew Luck took and the circumstances under which he played in his first couple seasons in the league bear a striking resemblance to the first two seasons of Deshaun Watson's career. Both had to endure train wreck offensive lines, front office ineptitude and/or chaos, the weight of a franchise on their shoulders, and multiple injuries.
Never has something been more simultaneously invigorating and harrowing as this whole Luck situation has been for Texans fans. For purposes of this post, we will focus on the former, the positive movement in the Texans' chances at accomplishing something significant in 2019. According to betonline.ag, even amidst the smoldering ashes of wretched offensive play that we saw in the loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Texans had a good night on Saturday!
Let's start with the odds to win the AFC South, which were skewed HEAVILY in favor of the Colts before Luck's announcement. The Colts were even money (1/1 in numeric parlance) to win the division, basically a coin flip's chance. Now, according to the oddsmakers, the AFC South division title is the Texans' to lose:
Houston Texans 7/4
Jacksonville Jaguars 9/4
Tennessee Titans 3/1
Indianapolis Colts 9/2
I agree with the Texans being the favorite to win the AFC South, based almost solely on the strength of Deshaun Watson over the other three starting quarterbacks in the division (Nick Foles, Marcus Mariota, Jacoby Brissett). I disagree with the Colts being the biggest underdog at 9/2. The Colts' GM Chris Ballard has built too good an overall roster for the Colts to bottom out like they did the last time they were without Andrew Luck for a full season, when they went 4-12 in 2017. I think the Colts are still a 7-9 team, and that should be good enough to, at the very least, stay out of the cellar.
Next, here's the season win total effect of Luck's retirement:
Houston Texans o8½-120
Jacksonville Jaguars o7½-160
Tennessee Titans o7½-125
Indianapolis Colts u6½-130
The Colts had been forecasted for 9.5 wins prior to Saturday, so the oddsmakers basically see Andrew Luck as being worth three wins to the Colts, which sounds about right. None of the other three teams has seen a drastic shift in their overall win total number, but at odds of -160 on OVER 7.5 wins, the Jags appear to have a slight arrow pointed up next to their name. The Texans' number of 8.5 wins remains unchanged. The overall message here is that, with Luck's retirement, and despite the presence of Watson, the AFC South is back to being a slog of .500 teams trying to be the tallest little person.
Ok, now onto the odds for the AFC South teams to make the playoffs:
Houston Texans 4/5
Jacksonville Jaguars 3/2
Tennessee Titans 11/5
Indianapolis Colts 4/1
The big takeaway here is that the Texans are now 4/5 to make the playoffs, which means the oddsmakers have it as a better than 50/50 chance they'll be in the postseason, either as the division champ or a wild card. This should ratchet up expectations for Bill O'Brien in his sixth season as head coach. The minimum for the Texans should be a postseason appearance now, assuming Watson is healthy and with the caveat that, if Watson gets hurt because of the offensive line, then that is just as fireable an offense for O'Brien as going, say, 6-10 with a healthy Watson.
A couple of miscellaneous plays from the oddsmakers:
Will Andrew Luck play in a game in the 2019 Regular Season?
Yes +700 (7/1)
No -1500 (1/15)
Will Andrew Luck play in a game in the 2020 Regular Season?
Yes +500 (5/1)
No -1000 (1/10)
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These numbers line up with my read on Luck's mindset heading into retirement. This is not a Brett Favre situation where Luck is going to miss football in a month, or in a year, or every year for the next ten years, like Favre would. Luck has options for life after football, and he seemed committed to the next chapter in his press conference this past Saturday night.
Jacoby Brissett Total Starts 2019 Regular Season
This feels like, barring injury to Brissett, the easiest play of this whole post. I would go OVER.