Limping To The Finish: Ugly AFC South Playoff Race A Sight For Sore Eyes

Dan O'Shea

The goal of every NFL team is to get to the postseason. As Herm Edwards famously once shouted during a press conference, “You play to win the game.”  As long as you make the playoffs, anything can happen. Just having the right to play a 17th game justifies at least some level of success for your team. 

That goal is more realistic for some than others, but all paths lead in the same direction. For most, that path is littered with team success and an overwhelming amount of confidence in your team based on their achievements. Then, there is the path taken by the AFC South division champion. They may make it to the big dance, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t destined to be the ugliest bell of the ball. Out of the four teams in this division, one is going to receive the prize as the best franchise in a truly disgusting race to the postseason. 

Considering yourself a playoff team makes you sound like you’re actually productive at football. It doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to make that assumption. With only 12 of the 32 teams getting the chance to play an extra game each season, it’s not something that’s exactly easy. That is, unless you’re in the NFL’s version of the minor league, otherwise known as the AFC South.

This isn’t breaking news that should shock anyone by any means. Heading into the season, none of these teams have looked like they were contenders. They simply look like the mediocre team at best that somehow crawls into the playoffs. Over the past two seasons, the Texans managed to slide into the playoffs with a 9-7 record twice. Both of those years, five out of the nine victories came against teams within the division. For those of you mathematicians at home that are reaching for your calculator, that’s a win percentage of 36% against teams outside the AFC South. That’s not exactly frightening.

Plus, they usually only send one team to the postseason, which also isn’t a shock. The AFC South has only sent one team to the playoffs over the past four years. One team does mediocre, while the others pretty much flat out suck. That’s been the recipe for success for that division.

Sending a team to the playoffs every year isn’t a new fad as it’s been happening for years, but just looking at the makeup of these teams still has to leave you shocked that they can be considered worthy of competing for a Lombardi Trophy.

It’s hard to decipher what exactly makes it so hard to believe that these teams are worthy of a playoff spot- the fact that they’re just bad, or the fact that they’re so bad that the Colts have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. Sure, they’ve dug themselves a hole with their latest loss at the hands of the Jaguars, but they’re still only two games back. With more games inside the division to help them climb the ladder within the AFC South, a Jacoby Brissett-led team still has a shot to sneak into the postseason. Please take a moment to let that sink in, and then shower to get the stink of that truth off of your body.

He’s not just acting like an overly optimistic coach who is trying to dose the flames burning below his hot seat. Coach Pagano is actually correct. What a wild world we live in.

There are some strong points with some of these teams, as the Titans and Texans have decent defenses while the Jaguars even lead the league in sacks. Yet everyone knows the name of the game is scoring, and it’s hard to believe these teams have competent offenses behind their current quarterbacks.

This is even one thing people overestimate about quarterbacks within this division. No one gives Blake Bortles credit, deservedly so, and Jacoby Brissett is viewed as a stand-in for Andrew Luck, not an actual starter. It’s Marcus Mariota and DeShaun Watson that have been getting an incredible amount of credit, even though their numbers don’t exactly jump out at you. Mariota has been dealing with an injury and Watson is only a rookie who has lit up the scoreboard over the past few weeks, but the stats speak for themselves.

They’ve both been serviceable to say the least, while Bortles, the quarterback on the AFC South-leading Jaguars hasn’t been,

The man can’t eclipse a completion percentage of 60, throws pick-sixes like it’s his actual job, and almost lost his job to Chad Henne of all people, and has a chance to play in the first playoff game of his career this season. Again, what a world we live in.

Many people haven’t realized just how bad these teams are because they simply don’t care. As the saying goes, if a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? Well in this situation, the saying has to be altered slightly. If two unwatchable teams in the AFC South get together to play an awful football game and no one views it, does the game even occur?

The records of these teams say the games did occur, but if it wasn’t for fantasy stats, no one would even know or care.

There’s no way to really fix this issue unless the NFL abolishes divisions altogether and just sends the best eight teams, but it’s unfair to teams who are actually good at the sport they play that will end up sitting on their couches at home watching the Jaguars, Colts, Titans, or Texans compete against a clearly superior team. Instead of watching the best teams in the league go to battle come January, we’ll have to find other things to do during the postseason to fill the void that any game with a member of the AFC South will create.