Power Rankings. They’re such a silly, arbitrary, guessing-game of a thing. Most are just a Frankenstein mish-mash of opinions and stats used to compile a pecking order of sorts.
Of course, the power ranking articles are still coming hot and heavy in the offseason since everyone still seems to love them. This latest one is from NFL.com, focusing on the divisions instead of individual teams. For the past several years, many have planted the AFC South firmly at the bottom of these lists.
Not this year! The AFC South has gone from “TEH suck” to “supremely mediocre” in Gregg Rosenthal’s learned opinion. Here’s what Rosenthal had to say:
It’s refreshing to put a division too often forgotten this high. All four teams have legitimate playoff hopes and could be Super Bowl contenders with a few breaks. Don’t let television ratings that don’t impact your life impact your enjoyment of the game. These squads are all eminently watchable, unpredictable and have enough playmakers to end this division’s recent lack of playoff success (one conference title game appearance in the last four years).
While this analysis seems completely devoid of stats to back the play, Rosenthal does make some sound points. The AFC South currently has Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck, Nick Foles, J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, DeAndre Hopkins, Jalen Ramsey and T.Y. Hilton, among others. Last season, the South lead the entire conference with a combined total of 35 wins; the West had 34, the North 32, and the East only 28. Additionally, the South was the only division to boast three teams with winning records in the Texans, Colts, and Titans.
This season, the schedule is tougher for Houston, but easier for the Colts.
The Texans probably should have waited until January 2020 to fire their general manager. They might be looking for a scapegoat to fire if things go badly in 2019, and things might go badly based on how difficult their schedule is this year.
According to our scheduling formula, not only do the Texans have the most difficult schedule in the AFC South this season, but they also have the fourth most difficult schedule in the entire NFL.
First, we looked at Super Bowl odds from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. Since the oddsmakers in Vegas seem to know what they’re doing, we incorporated their odds into our formula, which is a big reason why the Texans’ season could turn into a nightmare.
If you look at Houston’s schedule, the Texans have to play five games against the teams that Vegas views as the top-five contenders this year (Colts twice, at Saints, at Chiefs, Patriots), and three of those will be on the road. On the other hand, a team like the Colts only has to play two games against top-five contenders (at Chiefs, at Saints), and that’s because Indy doesn’t have to play the Patriots.
Meanwhile, in Indy:
Andrew Luck has never lost to the Titans in his career, so making the Titans a part of the Colts’ easiest stretch was a no-brainer. The easiest part of Indy’s schedule starts in Week 10, when the Colts get to play three homes games in four weeks against the Dolphins (Week 10), Jaguars (Week 11) and Titans (Week 13). Luck is 11-0 all-time against the Titans, and it’s getting to the point that no one out there actually believes that Tennessee will ever be able to beat him.
Since this is still the offseason, we can dream a little longer and bask in the glow of the latest AFC South crown, one that now shines a little brighter with the move up from the basement in 2017.
Will the AFC South house a legit Super Bowl contender this season? Did the schedule makers hose Houston in 2019? Any clue why the Texans haven’t moved to the AFC East since they seem to have to play the Patriots every year anyway?