It’s time for NFL fans to stop sleeping on the AFC South.
For years, people will start the season talking about how the division is one of the worst in the league, only to see a sleeper emerge most times. This year, it was the Tennessee Titans turning heads, winning two straight games on the road as a huge underdog to make the AFC championship game.
Two years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars pulled off a similar feat, though they benefitted from a home game after winning the division. Still, nobody thought the Jaguars would go on the road and beat Big Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, nor taking a 10-point lead in Foxboro in the AFC championship before Tom Brady pulled off some late magic.
Between those two surprising runs to the AFC championship game, the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts made the playoffs in 2018. The Texans repeated the feat this season, even winning their first game in the wild-card round.
There’s no other NFL division which can boast all four of its teams have played in the playoffs in the last three years. And only a few – driven mostly by singular teams (the Patriots and Chiefs) led by magnificent quarterbacks (Brady and Pat Mahomes) – have had the amount of playoff success the AFC South has the last few years.
Maybe it’s easy to overlook the division. After all, the Titans, Jags, Colts and Texans aren’t exactly exciting or in big markets. How the Titans and Jags got to the conference title wasn’t pretty either.
Derrick Henry picked up the Titans and carried them on his broad shoulders for over a month, including in two stunning road wins over New England and Baltimore. Those teams represented the No. 1 defense (Patriots) and No. 1 offense (Ravens) in the league this year, but Henry pounded both into dust.
Two years ago, the Jaguars somehow found a way to work around QB Blake Bortles to beat the Bills and Steelers. If Myles Jack wasn’t ruled down on a fourth-quarter fumble return, Jacksonville may have even played for a Super Bowl.
Maybe it’s easy to look over a division which could start Deshaun Watson (a bonafide star), Ryan Tannehill, Gardner Minshew and Jacoby Brissett at QB next year. If people do though, there’s a good chance they’ll just be restarting the cycle.
Sleep on the AFC South at your own peril. They’ll make sure to wake people up next December too.